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Feeling germ-conscious? Just wait until you see what’s left on your earpiece tube

Officers share stories of discomfort and the difference going tubeless made in the field


Sponsored by Earphone Connection

By Yoona Ha, Police1 BrandFocus Staff

Twenty-three times per hour. That’s how often we touch our face on average, according to researchers in Australia who looked into human face-touching behavior – which by the way, includes probing facial orifices like picking your nose or mining earwax.

What's that on your ear? Don't let bacterial buildup put an unnecessary spotlight on you. (image/Getty)
What's that on your ear? Don't let bacterial buildup put an unnecessary spotlight on you. (image/Getty)

This is troubling news, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. The prevailing public health advice is to not touch your face, but does handling earpieces and putting them into your ear count? What if you need to adjust your acoustic tube?

The good news, according to experts like Claudia Pastides, who works as a physician at Babylon Health, is that while there is currently no evidence that coronavirus can get into your body through your ears, the virus is still spread by inhaling virus-filled droplets. That’s why it’s so important to avoid touching surfaces that may have been contaminated by such droplets. A bigger concern, when it comes to earbuds and acoustic tubes, is the bacterial buildup inside the tube of an earpiece.

To solve this icky problem, Ruben Scheimberg, a former cameraman on the set of “Cops” and “LAPD: Life on the Beat,” two TV series depicting the on-duty life of police officers, devised a tubeless earpiece that doesn’t accumulate the gunk that grosses you out.

“A lot of times officers change their acoustic tube not because they can’t hear anymore, but due to the hygiene issue – there’s discoloration, rigidness and hardening that occurs due to the oil and bacteria build-up,” said Scheimberg, owner of Earphone Connection, which supplies two-way radio accessories to law enforcement.

The solution for the hygiene issue that officers face was to develop the Micro Sound Tubeless Listen Only Earpiece.

Why going tubeless is the cleaner, more efficient choice

A dirty ear tube. (image/ Earphone Connection)
A dirty ear tube. (image/ Earphone Connection)

What often contributes to the unsightly bacteria buildup is how the earpieces are built. It’s the thick acoustic tube that leaves room for bacteria. Knowing this, Scheimberg said he developed an earpiece with a wire that’s insulated with Kevlar fibers and a thinner outer wire that’s a fraction of the size of an average acoustic tube on the market.

“I appreciate the solid cable [in the Micro Sound] instead of the tube. These tubes often get dirty and discolored with age or become blocked with debris,” said Brian Kramer, an officer at the Northfield Police Department in Minnesota. “The all-black color allows for stealth, and the single, thin, uncoiled line running down my ear allows for a minimalist look and feel.”

Why let sound travel when you can have the sound delivered straight to your ear?

Another benefit of the Micro Sound is that it’s built to have the speaker right at the ear instead of having the sound travel from the radio through the tube. This allows for clearer communications.

With traditional acoustic tubes, officers find themselves turning the volume up, but when the Micro Speaker is placed directly in the ear, there’s no need to adjust the volume. In fact, they may turn the volume down.

“We hear all the time that dispatchers have to repeat themselves because they sound muffled because, through the acoustic tube earpiece, the sound is kind of more basic and a little hollow,” said Scheimberg. “But with a tubeless earpiece, you sound clearer because there’s no obstruction or loss of sound that occurs through the tube.”

For years, officers have complained about ear fatigue or the discomfort that comes with wearing ill-fitted earpieces.

Jeff Wiener, an officer Police1 previously interviewed for this story, said dealing with the lasting discomfort of a molded earpiece from a 10-hour shift has officers thinking there must be a better solution.

“We’re always looking for something that’s comfortable and still gives you a good sound quality,” said Wiener.

Paired with the Micro Sound, the Fin Ultra All Day Comfort Ear Tips that’s made with silicone helps the Micro Sound fit more comfortably inside the contours of the ear, without causing any ear fatigue. Plus, it costs only $5.35 to replace.

“During a time like this where we’re dealing with an infectious disease pandemic, it’s easy to see how the Micro Sound is not only the right choice but also the most hygienic,” said Scheimberg.

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