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What is an Acoustic Tube Earpiece?

Laura M. Sands
Updated May 16, 2024
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An acoustic tube earpiece is a special type of listening device that features a thin tube that helps transmit sound, which often fits behind the ear and is attached to an earbud placed inside of the ear. Such devices allow for hands-free operation of a two-way radio or may be used in mobile communications or television broadcasting. Sometimes referred to as a radio headset or a tactical earpiece, some also refer to this device as a surveillance earpiece.

This particular type of radio accessory is commonly used by security personnel and may feature an earpiece that includes a hidden microphone, making it highly useful for two-way communication. The earpiece does not have to include a microphone, however. Most are constructed so the tubing fits discreetly and comfortably behind the ear, which makes it useful for covert surveillance.

Though commonly used in security and covert operations, some also prefer an acoustic tube earpiece for mobile civilian devices, which include personal audio devices and mobile phones. Television broadcasters are also known to wear these earpieces, as they allow for communication between producers and broadcasters without being visible to viewers. Most are comfortable to wear and efficiently reduce background noise. They are also known to be particularly useful in noisy environments, as quality models make it easy for users to comfortably listen to incoming audio despite high environmental noise. Depending on the manufacturer, some may also feature volume control buttons on the cord.

Aside from a covert design and a high sound quality, one of the primary benefits of an acoustic tube earpiece is its durability. The sturdiness of some of these earpieces is often preferred over earpieces that feature exposed wiring, as well as certain wireless earpiece devices. Sturdy tubing protects delicate wiring crucial to the device’s operation, which is particularly useful in occupations where the person wearing an earpiece may be required to engage in rigorous physical activity while wearing it. Such earpieces are also known to outlast other wired devices.

In order for an acoustic tube earpiece to work, it must be plugged into a wireless receiver, which is usually hidden beneath a person’s clothing. Some are also accompanied by microphones, which are covertly placed on the user’s shoulder or at the wrist.

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Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands , Former Writer
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By anon943968 — On Apr 04, 2014

Is the music quality good if you use an acoustic tube earpiece with a smartphone?

By VivAnne — On Jul 01, 2011

@aishia - Hi there! Your question fits right into the conversation malmal and I are having about tactical throat mics. As they said in their post, soldiers in the Cold War tended to wear throat mics.

They did this for all of the reasons that I listed in my other post, and also for the fact you've just brought up: acoustic tube earpieces, such as the character Naked Snake's tactical throat mic, are extremely tough.

Since these acoustic tube earpieces were likely originally designed for military use, I have no doubt that there are waterproof models made. Soldiers are able to use these under any and all conditions -- including the pouring rain, I've imagine, which can get a lot heavier than the shower water stream, especially in rainforest areas.

Whether you can find a waterproof model that isn't military issue is another question. If you're having trouble finding a civilian earpiece, maybe you should check out some military surplus stores and web sites to see if they have used earpieces for sale that would work with your own wireless devices or MP3 player.

By aishia — On Jun 30, 2011

The article says that these acoustic tube earpieces hold up better than other earpiece types because the wiring is protected by the tubing. I was wondering, are they waterproof? Even if the average one isn't, is there a type that is?

My friend told me a story about some people being so crazy about their MP3 players that they got waterproof earpieces and players so that they didn't have to stop listening while in the shower, and I wondered if there was any truth to that.

I'm not nuts enough to listen to my MP3 player while in the shower, but maybe while soaking in a nice hot bath it would be nice.

By VivAnne — On Jun 30, 2011

@malmal - An acoustic tube earpiece is great to use as a covert earpiece for a few reasons.

The first, as you noted, is that it is a hands free device. This is very useful for soldiers, who may have their hands full of guns or other equipment, or in covert operations they may be busy crawling through the jungle somewhere. You never know, and it's good to have an earpiece that can handle those kinds of conditions.

Secondly, as the article points out, the acoustic tube earpiece cancels most background noise. If a soldier is communicating from a noisy battlefield, or in the case of covert operations, if they have to speak very quietly, this ensures that they will still be heard by the person listening on the other end of the line.

Last but not least, this kind of earpiece is very discreet and easily hidden. Most of the tubing and everything is behind the ear. This makes it great for more covert operations and even undercover cops, because at a glance somebody can't really tell you're wearing the earpiece unless they're really looking for it.

By malmal — On Jun 29, 2011

This reminds me a lot of a tactical throat mic. I learned about these from an amusing source that most certainly never involved any actual military interaction.

See, my brother likes to dress up like video game characters when he attends conventions (it's called cosplay, for "costume play", apparently), and last year he ended up "cosplaying" a Cold War-era character called Naked Snake from the video game series Metal Gear Solid.

Apparently Naked Snake wears a throat mic, which is an acoustic tube earpiece with a little tube that touches your throat as well. I assume this is to help your voice pick up better when you talk into the mic. At any rate, it has a distinctive look, and my brother just needed a prop for his costume, so I made one out of some rubber tubing and an old cell phone earpiece of mine that I no longer used.

Why is this more useful for a soldier to use than a regular mic? Is it because it's hands free or what?

Laura M. Sands

Laura M. Sands

Former Writer

Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
Learn more
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