I decided to take a multi-layered approach to your question. I polled
several people that I know regarding their headset use, and I also
sifted through many Internet searches to see if there was any
information out there about why people would not use a headset.
First the poll. I asked three people about their headset use:
1) The first is a manager in a large company who spends much time on
the phone. Many companies these days have curtailed business travel,
and the result is often long hours spent on phone meetings. He does
use a headset, on occasion. When he does not, he uses a speakerphone,
for the following reasons:
--Unless you have a wireless headset (and many companies do not
provide them because of cost) you are tethered. On a long call, you
cannot stand up and stretch or walk about.
--Long use of a headset makes your ears uncomfortably warm.
--With a speakerphone, you can just hit a button to take the call.
With a headset, you have to lift the receiver and put it on your desk
or the headset is not enabled.
--Some headsets do not have mute buttons.
2) The second is an administrative person, who spends a good deal of
time on the phone, mainly on calls of shorter duration. She does not
use a headset, for the following reasons:
--It is easy to forget which is activated, the receiver or the
--It messes up your hair. (Okay, you had to know that this one would
3) The third person works in an office surrounded by others in
cubicles. He does use a headset, but I have included him for the
comment that he made regarding those who dont. He said that people in
his environment who do not use a headset (but instead use the
speakerphone extensively) must certainly be oblivious to the fact that
they speak loudly on the speakerphone and disturb those around them.
Making those people aware of their effect on their co-workers could be
a possible marketing strategy.
Next, I went to the Internet for some research. An article in CNET may
explain some reluctance to use cell phone headsets:
Until recently, the underlying safety of cell phone headsets was not
really a cause for concern. The common wisdom was that if you were
worried about cell phone radiation and its potential health hazards,
the best way to talk safely was to get a headset. But that all changed
a few months ago when Which, a British consumer magazine, published a
study that suggested that headsets or hands-free kits actually
increased the level of radiation inside the head by up to three
Are Cell Phone Headsets Safe
November 15, 2000
In an article on the SpeakOut.com website, one user explains his
difficulty in getting used to using the headset on his cell phone.
The first thing I realized: Headsets don't make cell-phone use fully
hands-free. Though I no longer had to chat with the phone in my hand,
I often had to hold one to dial or answer a call. The distraction is
comparable to changing the radio station, yet I still had to look away
from the road for a second or two.
In addition, I was surprised by how awkward the headsets were to use
initially. With many, I felt as though I was talking into the air. It
took time to get used to making calls without cradling something next
to my head.
I also felt the overall sound wasn't great on most of the devices
tested. People I called complained of a terrible echo or asked if I
were in a wind-tunnel. The sound was best when I closed all of the
car's windows and sunroof and turned the radio off.
Cellphone Heasdets Gain Popularity
by Rachel Beck, AP Writer
A study entitled Ears and Hair: What Headsets Will People Wear?
offers a wealth of information on a variety of headset styles and what
participants did or did not like about them.
We asked 5 women and 3 men from the Xerox PARC community to test the
headsets. Most participants were between 40-60 years of age, the
majority wore glasses during the experiment, and all had normal
hearing. We chose participants according to demographics that were
appropriate for our target application, although we believe the
end-user values that emerged are quite general.
Some of the aspects of headset use studied were:
Comfort and Creepiness
Public Humiliation and Conspicuousness
I think that you will find this very interesting reading.
This is a PDF file, and requires Adobe Acrobat to read. If you do not
have a copy, it may be downloaded free of charge here:
I ran across a number of comments that applied to a particular
headset, or to headsets in general, complaining of discomfort. Some
referred to earbud headsets, some to over the ear models, and some to
discomfort from the clamping of the headset, leading me to believe
that style of headset is a very personal decision. I would imagine
that some companies just provide a standard headset, and do not offer
And finally, I found this:
In general, hygiene is a concern when headsets are shared.
Next I took a look at Google Groups, to see if anyone was talking
about headsets. Most of what I found had to do with the aviation,
bicycle or stagecraft groups and use of headsets in those pursuits,
but I found a thread with the heading,, Pro & Cons on Cordless
Telephone Headsets???? Here are some excerpts from that thread:
Hello everyone....I hate to intrude but I'm doing some research on
the cordless telephone headset. Would you all please take a moment
and reply with some pros and cons on cordless telephone headset?
L & K
The biggest pro is you don't have to learn the code to operate it.
The cons is it range is very limited, seem to run FM only
Happy New Year
The pros are the obvious freedom of a cordless headset.
The cons are great, in my opinion.
1) You can be listened to by other cordless phones, scanners, baby
monitors and other devices. This results in no privacy.
2) If you live in an appartment or densely populated community, you
can hear other handsets or headsets using the same frequency or
channel you are on.
3) The batteries in the cordless unit can die with little or no
Nicad batteries have a fast "drop-off" and the time spent off the
charger is limited.
4) In some cases other handsets or headsets can capture your base
unit's dial tone and dial out on your line. This problem has been
resolved with the newer models using security codes.
These problems become more evident in apartment dwellings where the
chances of other having a cordless close to yours is strong.
I hope this helps you with your concerns.
And another comment revealed the following:
OK I just got an Ameritech Cordless. It appears without looking at
the box that its a slightly modified VTech VT-1930c. I would like to
get a headset. But I hate most of the headsets which are intended for
use with these phones. They fit only over one ear and the ear which
is uncovered is not comfortable. What can I say...I have sensitive
While researching your question, I found several interesting articles
which may provide you with some ideas for marketing to people who are
not using headsets, for whatever reason. I include excerpts of them
here in case they should be of use to you.
Last year, we had the opportunity to conduct a detailed investigation
of the impact of headset use amongst people who use the telephone and
computer intermittently through out the day in four different
organisations in Central London. The research revealed a number of
interesting findings and showed very clearly that headset use can
reduce posture problems, especially for mixed telephone, keyboard and
Telephone Headsets, Posture and Musculoskeletal Symptoms
I found an interesting item regarding the recommendation to those
employing telemarketers to give all of their employees headsets.
Get your telemarketers to use headsets for 30 consecutive days and
they'll never want to work without them again. Headsets boost energy
and the ability to listen. They reduce stress. One test shows that
outbound callers using headsets produced 22% more call activity.
Why Telemarketers Underperform
by David Yoho
And lastly, I found a fascinating article that explained why
increasingly people DO walk around in public wearing cell phone
Yes folks, with my keen sense of journalistic integrity and a hint of
ESP, I have figured out that people use these headsets to morph
themselves into someone else. Years and years of TV shows and movies
depicting people talking into things attached to their heads has given
people the illusion that it is cool to talk into things attached to
The article goes on to point out, with photos, cool people like FBI
agents and rock stars wearing headsets.
Cell Phones and Role Playing
I hope, Mike, that you will find some ideas here that will be useful
to you. I know that the entire group of researchers is working on a
poll for your aggregate question. I have also asked for comments from
anyone on this question. From Missy, I have received the following
A bazillion years ago, working as inside help at the campus area
Domino's franchise, I pushed hard for headsets so the phone girls
could answer calls and still do the other things required of us -
write out the slips, stock boxes, assist on the make-line, tend oven
and expedite - without getting a crick in the neck.
Several of the girls balked. In addition to messing up their hair,
reasons cited were:
--earpad gets too sweaty
--can't hear as well with the headset
--too tight/loose fit
--microphone in the face made 'em feel self conscious
If I should receive any additional comments from my fellow
researchers, I will pass them on to you. Should you need any
clarification on any of the above, please do not hesitate to ask.
headsets OR headset use why not
why people don't use headsets
"don't use headsets because" OR "don't use a headset because"
Clarification of Answer by
29 Sep 2002 05:36 PDT
Hi again, Mike,
Thanks for all of those twinkly stars and the very nice words in your
comment, but I'm not quite finished yet...
A number of researchers have now weighed in on the headsets issue. If
they did not use headsets, I asked them to provide a brief comment
explaining why not. Here are some of the reasons.
--One researcher mentioned being claustrophobic, and disliking
anything around his head. As well as headsets, he does not wear hats
--Deafness in one ear and therefore the desire to keep the other ear
as open to outside sounds as possible, was mentioned by another
colleague as his reason for avoiding headsets.
--And one of the researchers who did wear a headset when working in a
doctors office, commented that it was so difficult to get it properly
and comfortably arranged, that once she had it on, she never took it
The hygiene issue that I ran across in my research was discussed by
the group. One of my colleagues, Journalist, kindly provided some
citations on the issue, which I am including for you here. Thank you,
"We need to also watch our hearing. DJ's are at risk for sinus
problems. This is because if you wear an earcup headphone a lot, the
rate of bacterial growth in the ear increases. Bacterial reproduction
increases by roughly 700 times per hour when the ears are covered."
Disc Jockey 101: Tip of the Month
(DJ Health: Interview with Dr. Majera T. Majidi, D.C., CSCS)
TERM: bacteria ears headphones
"The union handed out copies of its study at 20 airports around the
country. It said tests found linens and headsets contaminated with
bacteria that included E. coli, which can cause meningitis and other
ABCNEWS.com : Union Claims Blankets and Headsets Carry Germs
TERM: bacteria headsets
And on long-time use of headsets:
The decision to develop AgION imbedded headsets came after
understanding that AgION technology will suppress the growth of a
broad spectrum of damaging bacteria, mold and mildew on the headset.
states William Morgan, chief executive officer of HATIS [Hearing Aid
Telephone Interconnect System] Corporation, and HATIS user.
HATIS® - Company :: Press Releases
TERM: bacteria headsets
I hope you are finding these researcher observations helpful, Mike.
Should any additional comments come my way, I will pass them on to