How Electronic Hookswitch cables and Handset Lifters Compare for remote call answering.

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Here at Merritt Communications, we commonly get questions from customers and prospective customers about remote call answering devices. Specifically, Handset Lifters and Electronic Hookswitch Cables (EHS Cables). A lot of the questions center around whether they’re required when using a wireless headset and also, what they do exactly.

This blog is intended to touch lightly on this subject by giving the reader a general overview of these products and their uses. Hopefully by doing this, it will help to clear up any confusion that might exist about EHS cables and lifters.

Let’s Dive in.

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  1. Is a Handset Lifter or Electronic Hookswitch Cable (EHS Cable) required when using a wireless headset?

graphic with three men with megaphones saying no and no in other languages

No. You can use a wireless headset without a Handset Lifter or EHS Cable and it will work perfectly on 98% of all types of phones no matter the make or model. Should you find a need for remote call answering at a later date, you can always purchase this optional accessory later on. In other words, it’s not required at the time you’re buying the wireless headset.

2. What does a Handset Lifter do?

A Handset Lifter attached to a desk phone raises the handset out of the cradle when the on/off – answer/end button on the headset has been pressed. See the image below for an example of what this looks like when attached and activated.

Handset Lifter accessory attached to a desk phone

Besides activating the lifter arm to raise the handset out of the phone cradle, the lifter puts a discreet beep tone into the earpiece of the headset. This alerts the wearer that they have an incoming call. The headset wearer can then take the call by pressing the on/off button on the headset earpiece, or, the wearer can ignore the call and let it route to voicemail or however the call would be handled when not taken. Lifters and Hookswitch cables eliminate the need to manually remove the handset from the cradle when you want to make a call or take a call. They also allow you to take calls when away from your desk. Click here to read more on the subject of lifters.

3. Is an EHS cable different from a lifter and why would I use one over the other?

Electronic Hookswitch Cable and Handset Lifter

The function of an EHS cable is the same as the Handset Lifter. That is, both put a quiet beep tone into your headset earpiece when an incoming call is detected. Both allow you to take a call when away from your desk and also end the call. The biggest difference between these two products is how they connect.

The Handset Lifter, as illustrated by the picture above, adheres to the surface of the phone and physically lifts the handset out of the cradle. The EHS cable, by contrast, doesn’t adhere to the phone nor does it raise the handset. It operates electronically rather than electro mechanically. No motion or movement required as it electronically carries out its function.  With this in mind, you need a compatible phone that’s matched up to the corresponding compatible cable. Many of the popular phone models are compatible but some phones aren’t. Those not compatible are required to use a Handset Lifter if remote call answering is desired.

4. How can I tell which I need?  Hookswitch Cable or Handset Lifter?

If answering phone calls when away from your desk is what you want, start by taking inventory of what make and model of phone you use. From there, you can learn about compatibility in a number of ways such as:

  • Contact your headset vendor and ask if your phone is compatible with an Electronic Hookswitch Cable.
  • Contact your phone vendor and ask the same question.
  • Refer to your user guides as the information might be noted here.
  • Visit your vendor website as they might have the information posted.
  • Visit the manufacturer’s website as this information may be available here too. 
  • Contact Merritt Communications here and we’ll be glad to help you out.

In general, most Cisco, Avaya, Polycom and ShoreTel iP phones are compatible though other brands can accommodate EHS cables as well. If your phone is EHS compatible, you’ll definitely want to purchase a cable rather than a lifter.

Anyone who wants to answer phone calls when away from their desk needs an Electronic Hookswitch Cable or Handset Lifter to go with their wireless headset. Both items will do a good job but the decision which to buy starts with your phone and whether it’s EHS compatible or not.


IS IT TIME TO UPDATE YOUR HEADSETS? If so, why not trade in your old headsets for credit that can be applied towards new ones? You’ll save money, reduce clutter and help the environment.  We’ll even cover the shipping to send the old headsets to us. Click below for a free trade in quote today.

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