Here, we break down customer concerns to help you choose the best in-ear headset for you.

1. Comfort

Comfort is always the top concern when it comes to gear you’ll be wearing, especially on your head. You want a headset that is lightweight and does not interfere with your helmet or eyewear. This is where in-ear solutions really shine.

2. Clear communications

Clear communication is the reason you have the radio, and your headset should be an accessory that enhances this important tool. In-ear headsets deliver the sound directly to the ear canal, which reduces interference from ambient noise and provides both clarity and confidentiality. This also requires lower audio volume and less battery use.

3. Hearing protection

Hearing protection is a more recent concern for cops, triggered by the rising frequency of hearing loss and related disability claims among SWAT and military veterans. Law enforcement agencies are now looking for a headset that provides both communications and hearing protection for officers.

Hearing loss is cumulative and non-reversible, and loud noises are a danger of the job. Furthermore, hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline, so even minor hearing loss can have a major impact down the line. You never know when you’ll be required to fire your weapon, and that burst of noise from your own weapon may well be the noise that does the damage.

4. Situational awareness

A headset is meant to keep your hands free and your focus on the action. A common misperception is that, like a smartphone earbud, once you put an earplug in your ear, you can’t hear the noises in your surroundings. Cops can’t sacrifice their situational awareness, and it’s imperative that your headset allow you to hear outside sounds in order to stay engaged with your surroundings.

5. Durability for rugged use

Like any other technology you use in the field, you need your headset to be rugged and durable. Make sure you select a solution designed and tested for the rough use of a SWAT officer or soldier.

Look for a manufacturer with experience supplying the military and products that meet MIL-STD-810 specs, which indicate that a product has been designed to withstand dirt, water, shock, extreme temperatures, etc. Many military-grade materials are also developed specifically to be lightweight.

6. Ease of use

Ease of use is a key factor as well – you don’t have time to fumble with on/off switches and push-to-talk buttons when you’re on the move. Your headset should fit seamlessly into your actions without a second thought. Consider the ergonomic and operational features of various headsets. For example, the push-to-talk button needs to be the right size and in the right place so you can find it when your adrenaline is pumping.

7. Modularity and compatibility

Modularity is another consideration. Look for a system you can customize for your specific needs. With all the options now available, you can pick and choose what you want with your headset, from the simplest system at the lowest price that connects to a specific radio to a radio-agnostic solution with a variety of accessories, including wireless push-to-talk accessories or a covert system for plainclothes officers.

8. Affordability

Five years ago, in-ear radio headsets were a fairly new option on the pricey end of the spectrum, nearing $1,500-$2,000 per officer. As the technology has matured, some manufacturers have worked diligently to provide the same level of quality and same functionality and performance at an average cost closer to $500-$600 for a complete system. Various options are now available for any price point and configuration of needs, whether you are looking to purchase a headset for yourself or make a departmental purchase on behalf of your agency.