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What is a Covert Earpiece?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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A covert earpiece is a miniature earpiece worn by an individual while being effectively hidden from plain view. It operates as a radio accessory in times when a user does not want other people to know she or he is communicating with others using radio earbuds. Also known as an invisible earpiece or a surveillance earpiece, a covert earpiece is often worn by government agents, corporate security personnel, undercover law enforcement officers and corporate as well as government spies.

While many occupations require the use of a radio headset for communication, a covert earpiece is primarily used in instances where communication is of an extremely private and sensitive nature. This is common in cases of private security details and surveillance projects. Sometimes people also use a covert earpiece to defraud businesses and others. Examples of such instances would include someone using an invisible earpiece to cheat on an exam or to defraud a casino by receiving remote information while playing a game.

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On-air television personalities may also use a covert earpiece, which is not distracting to viewers, but allows the person to hear relevant feedback from producers and engineers in order to make sure a taping or live appearance flows smoothly. Individuals may also wear a covert earpiece when making a public speech. By doing so, the speaker can receive important cues or changes in a speech without the audience even being aware that communication is taking place between someone located behind the scenes and the individual delivering the speech.

Some covert earpieces are accompanied by a discreet microphone, which enables two-way communication. These are commonly used by security forces with a need for such communication, particularly during surveillance operations. These types of accessories are not only convenient because they feature hands-free operation, but also because they allow undercover security forces to blend in with crowds without having to use a visible walkie-talkie system of communication.

A covert earpiece does not contain any visible wires and is designed to fit inside the ear without being noticeable to the general public. Some devices are even designed to fit on a pair of eyeglasses while amplifying sound inside a person’s ear. An inductive wire is sometimes worn around the person’s neck, but is covered by clothing so as not to be discovered by onlookers. This wire is not connected to the covert earpiece, but connects to a separate radio device that helps modulate sound.

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anon289167
Post 8

The perfect covert earpiece is almost invisible when it's placed in the ear. Many include the use of underclothing transmitters to be used with mobile phones.

These kinds of earpieces are becoming more and more popular with people looking to make a public speech or presentation and who need to receive some help in real time from perhaps a team in the background. This can be achieved with a covert earpiece.

Some people record a speech onto an mp3 player and play it back to themselves via the covert earpiece during the speech. It makes wedding speeches a lot less daunting, don't you think! Beats cue cards, anyway.

Azuza
Post 7

@SZapper - People in spy movies do always end up at elegant parties, don't they? Maybe I should become a spy. I never get to go to any elegant parties!

I personally think it must be distracting for television personalities to have people talking in their ear while they're trying to film. Imagine doing your job (if you interact with people) while someone was in your ear telling you how to do it. I don't think I could listen to an earpiece and the customer at the same time!

SZapper
Post 6

It's interesting that these earpieces can be use for everything from spying to television. I've never seen any television personalities using these (why would I, they're covert, right?)

But I've definitely seen these in spy movies. I always find it funny how the characters usually use these in combination with hidden microphones to talk to one another when they're at elegant parties. Like no one is going to notice that!

But seriously, what a versatile piece of technology. I find it amazing they can make technology small enough to fit in your ear that's actually effective. Amazing...and a little bit scary.

hamje32
Post 5

@everetra - I work at a software company and I remember a funny incident that happened when I first started working there.

I saw one of our technical support people walking around the area. She had a wireless earpiece on, but I only saw the side of her head that didn’t have the earpiece, and the microphone was off to the side. So I didn't know she was wearing it.

She was talking to a customer and I thought she was talking to herself and I approached her to see if she was okay! She then turned aside, acknowledged my presence while she was talking, and I had to chuckle.

Later I explained to her what had happened and she laughed. It wasn’t a covert earpiece as such, but it certainly seemed that way to me.

everetra
Post 4

I can’t imagine anyone getting away with using a covert radio earpiece to cheat in a casino. Casinos monitor everything that goes on. If one player seems to be beating the odds to a large extent, then he gets extra scrutiny.

Casino honchos monitor what's going on using monitors and screens. It would be easy to pick up on someone using an earpiece; these are, after all, electronic devices. I’m pretty sure that the casinos would have some way of intercepting these transmissions, or at least training the dealers to inspect those lucky players and see if they seem to be listening in on something.

You’d get busted in a hurry. The only way to cheat in a casino, in my opinion, is to have psychic powers or something. That can’t be detected through radio waves, although I’m sure they’d still usher you out if you got too lucky.

Oceana
Post 3

So that's how TV show hosts know when to cut to a commercial! I always wondered if maybe the cameraman motioned to them with a gesture to cut it short, but they are probably wearing covert earpieces instead of relying on hand signals.

I have been watching news before when an anchorman suddenly holds his hand up to his ear and says something like, “Hold on, we are getting an update...” Then, he is able to tell the public what he just learned.

Covert earpieces let you literally listen to the voices in your head. The best part is that no one thinks you are crazy for doing it!

whiteplane
Post 2

Where I would I go to buy a covert earpiece and how much should I expect to pay? Honestly, I'm not sure what I would ever use one for but it seems like it would be cool to have.

I think you could pull a lot of great pranks with one of these. If you had someone wearing one and then someone else feeding them words. It could be hilarious!

truman12
Post 1

I used to work as a private investigator and sometimes I would work with a team of other investigators. In those cases we would wear covert earpieces and have a walkie talkie feature that we could keep concealed in the cuff of our jackets. Most readers will probably be familiar with this set up from watching spy movies.

The reason we had this was so that we could keep in touch covertly while tracking people often in very public places. It worked pretty well and we very rarely got found out. Its kind of a creepy idea, but if you were being followed you probably wouldn't even know it.

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