Choosing the Right Telephone Headset

As little as 10 years ago, the choices of telephone headsets for your home or office were few, and vendors were limited. Now with the advent of new technology and the internet, the choices are great, and suppliers are plentiful. Choosing the best headset for your application, and finding a company that knows and understands the product with the ability to support your needs before and after the sale has become essential. Choosing the appropriate headset can be accomplished by considering the grade, model, and style of the headset and by selecting an experienced and reputable supplier.

Consumer vs Professional Grade Headsets:
The potential headset buyer first needs to recognize the difference between two distinct grades of headsets. Local office supply stores stock and sell telephone headsets priced from $50-$75. These are consumer-grade headsets, which are considered entry-level headsets. These headsets supply hands-free communication and provide an excellent solution for 15-20 minute calls while talking to friends and family. The units usually include a single-ear headband or an ear-model headset with an amplifier. The amplifier is required to make the headset compatible with most telephones. Speaker/microphone volume controls are limited, and the headset plugs into a telephone’s handset port. There is typically no compatibility settings on the amplifier, therefore the system may or may not function properly, depending on the telephone it is connected to. The quality is typically equal to or below that of your telephone handset.  Comfort will also be sacrificed as manufacturers are forced to cut corners while reducing costs.

For the professional, commercial-grade headsets offer many upgrades with additional choices in a price range from $85-$150, including an amplifier or bottom cable. The quality is much improved over a telephone handset, and the durability will provide for 24-hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week use and abuse for years to come. There are generally 10-15 bottom cables or amplifier to choose from, which guarantee compatibility and ease of use with individual phone systems. In addition, a quick-disconnect connection built into the cord allows the user to disconnect and walk away from the telephone without removing the headset.  With professional models, the sound quality will be significantly better, allowing you to hear your caller easily without the need for information to be repeated.  With noise-canceling models, your caller will hear your voice above any background noise or other conversations which would normally be very distracting.  When choosing the right headset, one of the more popular models is the Plantronics HW510 headset, which fits over your head with a speaker on one ear.  It’s lightweight and comfortable for all-day use with a soft foam cushion against your ear.

How Your Environment Dictates What Headset You Use:
When choosing a particular model of headset, the first thing to consider is the environment in which it will be used. Most commercial-grade headsets are available in two models. Voice-tube models are well used in standard-to-quiet environments, such as private offices or areas with less than 10 employees. Noise-canceling models work well in medium-to-loud environments with 10 or more employees in a common area. The noise-canceling microphone dampens background noise, allowing the user’s voice to be clearer to the other party. Noise-canceling models typically cost $10-$20 more, but in loud environments, they are a worthwhile investment.  When choosing the right headset, the Plantronics HW510V headset is an excellent choice for a quieter environment.  The voice tube is low profile and will transmit your voice crisply and clearly to your caller.  The headset is lightweight for all-day wearing comfort.  When paired with a compatible bottom cable or amplifier, you will have a great headset solution for years to come.

Headset Wearing Styles:
The next consideration in choosing a headset is the wearing style. Telephone headsets come in two styles: over the head or over the ear. The traditional and most popular headsets are monaural and consist of a headband over the head with a speaker on one ear. Headband models provide a snug fit, with an ear cushion resting gently against the ear. They provide excellent sound transmission and quality along with a comfortable fit. For those who want a lower-profile headset that doesn’t interfere with various hair styles, an over-the-ear model is a good choice. Lightweight and hardly noticeable, an ear model rests gently on and against your ear. An ear model, however, can be awkward to fit with eyeglasses and can feel less stable.

For use in an extremely loud environment, or for those desiring uninterrupted focus when on a call, binaural headsets are the optimal choice. These headsets are styled as headband over the head with speakers covering both ears to block out background noise and other distractions.  When choosing a headset for loud environments, the Plantronics HW520 will block out noise around you, allowing you to hear your caller without distractions.  You can also upgrade to circumnaural ear cushions, which snap onto the speaker and encompass your entire ear.  Circumnaural ear cushions use a soft leather ear cushion that creates a seal to eliminate most of your background noise while still being comfortable for extended wearing.

Relatively new in the industry are convertible headsets. First-time headset users may want to consider these because they provide multiple wearing styles, which allow the user to find the most comfortable fit. They typically include a headband for over-the-head use, as well as an ear piece for over-the-ear usage.

How To Choose The Best Vendor To Meet Your Needs:
The last decision involved in the purchase of a headset is choosing a vendor. If a reputable and experienced vendor is found, the product knowledge, after sale support and full manufacturer warranty they provide, will be invaluable. Finding a reputable vendor to supply headsets is easy when you know what to look for. First, only consider vendors that are authorized headset suppliers. Speak with their agents and take note of their ability, or lack thereof, to direct their attention to your specific needs. In addition, ask questions about the warranties supplied, return policies, length of time in business, and their relationship with the manufacturer. Beware, many on-line and auction-based companies sell headsets “as is” with no warranties or returns, and many times they ship incorrect items or products with missing parts. Simply put, most of those deals are too good to be true for a reason.

Doing some initial research and choosing the right headset vendor will result in a pleasant experience that will provide numerous benefits to the user. In addition to comfort and convenience, studies have shown that efficiency can increase as much as 43% with the use of a headset, and that neck and shoulder pain can be reduced up to 41%.


About the author: Wayne Baumgartner is the President of Headsets Direct, Inc., an authorized Plantronics distributor. Mr. Baumgartner is the founder of Headsets Direct, which was started in 1996. Further information on telephone headsets may be obtained at or by calling Headsets Direct at 1-800-914-7996.

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