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A monaural headset has a single earpiece with audio output, instead of two earpieces. These devices are also known as one ear headsets, a reference to their distinguishing feature, and they are commonly used with telephone systems. It is possible to use them with other kinds of sound and telecommunications systems, depending on the need. Most electronics suppliers carry them and may offer a range of models for various applications.
With a monaural headset, the listener receives a single channel of audio. On a telephone system, this is normal, as such systems only allow for single channel communication. Phones typically only have one speaker, for example. A headset with two headphones simply splits the channel, rather than providing true stereo input. The monaural headset can allow people to participate in and monitor phone conversations while still being able to hear what is happening around them, which may be useful in some settings.
Such devices can also be used for communications headsets on tactical missions and other operations, where people can get audio input in one ear and listen for environmental sound with the other. It can take some practice to learn to adapt to this kind of audio input. It can be confusing and overwhelming at first, although it may be important for safety and alertness. Bodyguards, for instance, may need to be able to communicate with a base while also being alert to their surroundings.
The monaural headset design can also include an attached microphone. A headband is typically used as a mount for the earpiece and the microphone, to hold them firmly in place for the operator. Such devices can allow for hands free operation of phones, radios, and other communications systems. This can be useful for ergonomic reasons or safety ones, where people may need to be able to have their hands free to multitask.
It is possible to force stereo output into a single mono channel for use with equipment like monaural headsets. People using a monaural headset with a stereo input may otherwise miss some of the sounds because they are carried on the other channel. A technician can insert an adapter into the line to bring the stereo channels down to a single mono channel. Some decline in sound quality may occur and the range of audible sound may become narrower. If these are concerns, it may be necessary to switch to a stereo headset.