An earpiece headset is a set of headphones that fits into the ear of the wearer. The term can be applied to any set of headphones where the tiny speaker fits in the ear rather than being held in place by a band over the head. It is usually recognized as a hands free accessory for mobile phones, but earpiece headsets are useful with a variety of technologies.
Most earpiece headsets are very small, usually less than 2 inches (5 cm) long and less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. Some earpiece headsets come with a loop that hooks over the ear so the device can stay in place easier. Most rely on the shape and size of the in-ear speaker to hold the earpiece headset in place, however.
There are two basic types of in-ear speakers for earpiece headsets. First are ear buds, which are usually round, hard plastic speakers with a foam cover to make them more comfortable. Ear buds perch in the ear just outside the ear canal. The other type of in-ear speaker is the ear canal speaker, often called the canalphone. Earpiece headsets with canalphones have a pliable plastic speaker cover that nestles into the ear canal itself.
Earpiece headsets vary in their available options. They can have in-ear speakers for one ear or both, be either mono or stereo, have a microphone or not, and be wired or wireless. The options the earpiece headset has depend on how it is designed to be used.
Most mobile phone earpiece headsets are single ear buds for one ear, and have an onboard microphone. In many early earpiece headsets for mobile phones, the microphone was attached to the cable leading to the headset jack. More recent technology allows the microphone to be located on the ear bud.
The cable connecting the earpiece to the phone is no longer necessary for many headsets. Short-range wireless transmission technologies such as Bluetooth® make it possible for the headset to be completely wireless. This can make earpiece headsets more flexible and user friendly.
Portable music players, such as MP3 players, also use earpiece headsets. For the most part, these headsets consist of two ear pieces attached by a cable to the player, and many offer stereo sound. They usually do not have an onboard microphone.
If a user wants to access Internet telephony services such as Skype™, he or she may want to attach an earpiece headset with an onboard microphone to the computer. This will help the user avoid having separate devices for listening and speaking. Many computers come with short range wireless transmission technology, so a wireless earpiece headset with an onboard microphone may be used with a computer as well as a mobile phone.