If you’re like millions of people across the country who spend their working day on the phone, having a comfortable great sounding headset is extremely important. Throughout this post, I’m going to offer some views and opinions on the noise cancelling aspect of headsets in the workplace. Hopefully this will be of value to you if shopping for new headsets or feeling confused about the many choices available.
First off, I need to make a distinction between noise cancellation as it relates to reducing the noise you hear in your work environment and reducing the noise your callers hear.
Secondly, it’s important to bring up the subject of active noise cancellation vs. passive noise cancellation as the two are related for sure, but different in their approach and effectiveness. All of this will be covered later in this blog post.
Headsets, as everyone knows, are available in a variety of wearing styles. Most typically, over the ear, over the head covering one ear and over the head covering two ears. For the sake of this post, I’ll use an over the head, double ear model as the headset type to be discussed, but first, what are the main reasons why you might want a noise canceling headset if you work in a noisy office?
3 reasons why having a noise cancelling headset make sense
- Reason 1: If there’s too much background noise, it can prevent your caller from hearing you well, especially if your caller has any degree of hearing loss or impairment. This can result in you needing to repeat yourself until your message can be heard or understood. This can not only be a drag on worker productivity, but encourages frustration and fatigue. Having a good quality headset with noise cancelling microphone can help minimize if not fully eliminate these issues.
- Reason 2: If your organization wants to be perceived in the most professional manner possible, having good quality is a big first step in that direction. You know what they say about first impressions, right? Anyone who’s received a call during dinner and heard all the chatter and noise in the background knows what an unprofessional call sounds like. Both parties should be easily and clearly heard and having a good quality headset with an efficient NC microphone will go a long way to getting your call off to a good start.
- Reason 3: Better focus, better concentration. If you’re distracted by your office background noise, it can many times lead to loss of focus and concentration. This too lowers worker productivity and leads to a higher level of worker fatigue and frustration due to having to constantly fight your way through the competing noise in your environment. Having a headset with Active Noise Cancellation is a huge help in ridding you of unwanted ambient room noise allowing you to keep focused and on point. At day’s end, you’ll leave work feeling more energetic and less stressed which can have an effect on worker satisfaction, turnover, absenteeism and more.
Like to learn more?
If you’d like to know more about the different ways in which noise is reduced when using an office headset, the information below may be of interest.
Most would agree that when on a phone call, you want to be able to hear the caller and you also want the caller to be able to hear you clearly as well. Yet, some of the headsets that we all use simply aren’t up for the challenge. Instead, they allow noise from your work environment to find its way into your ear in spite of the fact that you’re wearing the type of headset that covers them. Why is this happening? In many cases the ear cushions don’t fully encircle the ear leaving it exposed and vulnerable to outside noise intrusions. Additionally, the material that the ear cushions are made of, typically foam, are porous which also allows sound to filter its way into your ear. The result? You get distracted from the noise stemming from your environment which stifles productivity by encouraging you to lose focus. Not ideal.
The material an ear cushion is made from, can make a sound difference
Foam or Leatherette?…..Ear cushions are commonly made of either foam or a synthetic leather like material (leatherette). Between these two materials, leatherette is significantly less porous which means it provides a better shield against penetrating sound. So, if you’re concerned about the removal of background noise in your workspace, start with leatherette ear cushions as you may not need anything else. For those who need something more, you might need to move from passive noise cancellation, in this case, ear cushions, to active noise cancellation to get the job done.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) What is it?
Noise and Electronics with ANC…..Okay, you replaced your foam ear cushions with leatherette and that didn’t cut it. You’re still being distracted by all the ambient room noise and you’re sure you need something more stout. Welcome to the world of active noise cancellation (ANC). The sole purpose of this technology is to shred background noise to the point that it’s no longer bothersome or perhaps not even heard at all. To many, this might sound like a dream come true, especially if you work in a noisy office or call center. Essentially, what ANC does is to allow the headset wearer to flip a small button that engages the ANC technology. Once activated, background noise is significantly reduced if not completely eliminated. The ANC feature is available on certain over the head, double ear (binaural) headset models. Plantronics, for example, offers the Focus model which features ANC. Jabra also offers ANC headsets in their Evolve line, with the Evolve 80 being the best in class for noise reduction.
Passive noise cancellation for the sound YOU hear is aided by the use of leatherette ear cushions. Active noise cancellation, an electronic feature, is currently available on a few models of headsets and limited to an over the head wearing style. If you work in a private office or one that’s quiet, you wouldn’t need either of these solutions.
This now brings us to the subject of reducing background noise for your callers. That is, making what THEY hear as good as it can be without bothersome distractions from what’s occurring in your office surroundings. As before, there are things that can be done to passively or actively reduce this unwanted background noise.
The different microphones and attachments
All microphones are not created equal. Voice Tubes, SoundTubes, Noise Cancelling, Ultra Noise Canceling, Wind Screens, Background Noise Suppressors and more. All these devices have their place in the hierarchy of headset microphones and each serves its own purpose and differs in the ability to remove unwanted office noise.
Below is a quick explanation of each:
- Voice Tube: This product was created by Plantronics. It’s a clear plastic tube (pictured above) with a bend in it and a silver tip at the end. This tube slides over the elongated headset microphone found on certain models of Plantronics headsets. The purpose of this Voice Tube is to protect the microphone as well as to direct your speech into the tube and on to the microphone. These Voice Tube styled headsets are NON-noise cancelling, meaning they’re not designed to remove any background noise.
- SoundTube: This term was coined by Jabra. SoundTube headsets have a brushed metal elongated tube with a bend in the end. It also has a black replaceable tip on the end and like the Voice Tube headsets, SoundTube headsets are NON-noise cancelling.
- Noise Cancelling. Most headset manufacturers offer noise canceling headsets. These headsets typically have a microphone boom arm that’s bendable and has a black colored tip on the end. Though they don’t remove all the background noise, they do remove much of it. The exact amount of noise reduction does vary by model so this is something to keep in mind as you’re exploring your options.
- Ultra Noise Cancelling. Some manufacturers offer headsets deemed “ultra noise cancelling” or UNC which means they remove a higher level of background noise when compared to standard NC headsets. So, if you work in an extremely noisy environment, then a UNC headset would be a type you’ll want to consider.
- Wind Screens. Wind screens are foam covers designed to be placed over the headset microphone. These can be used to remove wind noise, such as the sound produced by an office fan or in the case of mobile headsets, breezy wind sound. When used in conjunction with a non-noise cancelling headset, wind screens represent a passive approach to noise reduction and can be helpful in some instances but generally aren’t the best solution for eliminating room noise.
- Background Noise Suppressors. This is a small rubbery, cup-shaped piece designed to be slid over the end of a Voice Tube. Its purpose is to deflect ambient sound that would otherwise enter into the voice tube. Like wind screens, Background Noise Suppressors are a passive approach to reducing background noise and when compared to a true noise canceling microphone, these products normally comes up short and in most cases, a band-aid at best. If your interest is to eliminate background noise from your phone conversations, you’ll want to steer clear of any voice tube or SoundTube headsets.
If you’re in the market for a new headset for yourself or your team, begin by asking yourself what kind of environment you have. Is it quiet? Is it semi-quiet? Is it noisy? Once you decide, it’s then a matter of matching the type of headset needed for your specific work environment. Beyond that, there would of course be questions needing to be answered such as wearing style, preferred features and more.
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