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What Is a Tactical Headset?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Image By: Commander, U.s. 7Th Fleet
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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A tactical headset is a communications headset worn by members of law enforcement, military, and similar organizations for tactical operations. Such devices need to be able to network with secured communications systems and must provide excellent sound quality to allow people to communicate easily and clearly. A number of firms manufacture them and may produce custom versions for specific agencies. Some are only sold directly to authorized personnel.

Earphones and a microphone on a tactical headset provides for two way communications and may be arranged in a number of ways. Many use bone conduction technology to transmit sound. With bone conduction, the device vibrates the bones in the ear directly for communications. Some devices are worn behind the ears to allow people to hear ambient noise while wearing a tactical headset, which can be important for safety. Other devices do just the opposite and provide hearing protection by blocking the ear and allowing the operator to wear a covering device to limit hearing damage from explosives and other loud noises.

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Some tactical headset sound pickups are designed to strap to the throat, so people can whisper to communicate with members of a team and to avoid tangling and other issues that may arise while using the device. Others may be configured in other ways, including with the use of small pickups attacked to clothing. The design of a tactical headset may be discreet, as for people like private security who want to be able to communicate with a team without being obvious.

Helmet-mounted designs are available along with versions that people wear directly on their skin or attach to headbands and similar equipment. Finding the best design can largely depend on the setting. For those working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, for instance, hearing protection tactical headsets are necessary to allow people to communicate without hearing damage from the aircraft and other heavy equipment. Members of a police operations team might not want their hearing obscured because they need to hear sounds in the environment around them.

Tactical headsets transmit and receive on secured channels, and may be capable of channel switching, if necessary, to accommodate the needs of a team. While in training, members of a team receive information on how to communicate clearly. This includes following communications etiquette to avoid crosstalk and other issues, and remembering to adjust settings on the equipment to limit the risk of hearing damage.

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