Gas Mask Comms: Communications Earpiece vs. Headset

Gas Mask Comms: Communications Earpiece vs. Headset

by Matt Collins

Whether charging into a warzone or navigating through a wildfire, you will almost always use a communications earpiece with your gas mask or respirator.

It doesn't matter whether you're dealing with a roaring blaze, the roar of gunfire, or the roar of a crowd; survival situations are often loaded with distractions and excess noise.

(Image courtesy of Blue Line Syndicate Group)

And once you strap on a gas mask, you've completely covered your mouth and face. Your voice will still be audible if your gas mask has a speech diaphragm like the MIRA Safety CM-6M and CM-7M. But volume will be reduced, often with a muffling effect that makes the user harder to hear.

Communication becomes a top priority during these survival scenarios and stressful missions.

Networking with your team or family is critical to navigating obstacles or achieving objectives in dynamic and rapidly-changing environments.

So comms gear becomes an absolute necessity.

Fortunately, recent technological advances have given us various comms devices, earpieces, and radios. Operators can choose from many options for mission-specific purposes using standardized gear and connectors.

But which type of comms gear will be suitable for your mission?

Will you need a complete headset, or will a communications earpiece suffice?

And what about gas mask-compatible microphone options?

We've got the answers to all these questions and more, so let's get started.

Table of Contents

  • 01

    Gas Mask Comms 101

  • 02

    Gas Mask Comms: Headset vs. Communications Earpiece?

  • 03

    Choosing Your Gas Mask Headset or Communication Earpiece

  • 04

    Top Tactical Headset Option #1: 3M Peltor

  • 05

    Top Tactical Headset Option #2: Ops-Core

  • 06

    Top Tactical Headset Option #3: Invisio

  • 07

    MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone

  • 08

    Top Gas Mask Choice for Easy Comms: MIRA Safety CM-7M

  • 09

    Knowing is Half the Battle

  • 10

    Frequently Asked Questions

Gas Mask Comms 101

As we know them, gas masks have been around since the First World War. But it wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that they became popular with special forces and SWAT police units.

Tactical operators could safely deploy non-lethal weapons like tear gas to subdue the enemy by wearing gas masks in the line of duty. But they soon realized that masking up also prohibited practical communication. So the frequent use of hand signals and specialized sign language also became a staple among these groups.

(Image courtesy of OperationMilitaryKids)

As time passed, electronics continued to miniaturize. And by the 1990s, users no longer needed bulky radios or walkie-talkie earpieces just to keep up with each other.

Tactical headsets became popular in the early 2000s, and now several popular choices are favored by different groups and agencies.

These tactical headsets offer a rugged, sturdy alternative to civilian headsets and communications gear. They're primarily differentiated by feature set and price point, though internet forums might demonstrate fanatic loyalty for one brand.

And while most SWAT Teams and special forces almost universally prefer over-hear headsets, some groups rely on smaller communications earpieces …and with good reason.

Gas Mask Comms: Headset vs. Communications Earpiece?

In tactical environments, effective communication is essential for the success and safety of the team. Communications headsets and earpieces are designed to provide clear audio transmission and reception, but they differ fundamentally.

Tactical Helmet with integrated headset (Image courtesy of Tactical Store)

A communications headset is a single unit worn over the head, typically with an adjustable headband or helmet attachment. With tactical headsets, a microphone is usually positioned close to the mouth to pick up clear speech, and the speaker is positioned close to the ear for precise audio reception. Headsets can have various features, including noise-cancellation technology, push-to-talk (PTT) buttons, and compatibility with radios or other communication devices.

A communications earpiece, on the other hand, is a device that consists of a small speaker worn inside the ear, with a separate microphone typically attached to the clothing or worn on a lapel. Earpieces are often used when a more discreet communication option is needed, as they are less visible than a headset. They can also be more comfortable for extended wear, as they do not require a headband or helmet attachment.

Modern Earpieces are so small they’re practically invisible (Image courtesy of Comm Gear Supply)

The form factor is the main difference between a communications headset and a communications earpiece. Headsets combine the microphone and speaker into a single unit worn over the head, while earpieces have a separate speaker and microphone, with the speaker worn inside the ear.

The choice between a headset and an earpiece will depend on the user's specific needs and the tactical situation.

Choosing Your Gas Mask Headset or Communication Earpiece

Choosing the right communications gear for a gas mask is crucial to ensure clear communication and maximum safety.

Fortunately, there are a few universal factors you can consider to ensure you're getting the right headset or earpiece:

  • Compatibility: The first and most important factor is compatibility. The headset or earpiece you choose must be compatible with your specific gas mask model. Check the manufacturer's specifications and recommendations to ensure the headset is compatible.

  • Noise Reduction: Look for headsets that provide noise reduction or noise-canceling features. These features help reduce background noise, making it easier to hear incoming messages and communicate with your team.

  • Microphone Type: Consider the type of microphone that comes with the headset. A noise-canceling microphone is ideal, as it reduces background noise and ensures clear communication. If it doesn't come with an integrated microphone, consider the connector's form factor.

  • Comfort: Choose a headset or earpiece that is comfortable to wear for long periods. Look for adjustable headbands, ear cushions, and lightweight designs to ensure maximum comfort.

  • Durability: When working in hazardous environments, durable gear is crucial. Look for headsets made from high-quality materials that can withstand extreme temperatures, moisture, and impacts.

  • Connectivity: Consider the type of connectivity the headset offers. Wired headsets are generally more reliable, while wireless headsets provide greater freedom of movement. Choose the type of connectivity that works best for your specific needs.

  • Price: Finally, consider the cost of the headset. While investing in a high-quality headset is essential, you should also consider your budget. Look for headsets that offer the best value for your money.

By keeping these seven factors in mind, you'll be sure to end up with an earpiece or headset that provides clear communication, maximum safety, and long-lasting durability when used with a gas mask.

Let's look at some top comms gear choices among professional and civilian users.

Top Tactical Headset Option #1: 3M Peltor

3M Peltor’s ComTac headsets are a popular choice (Image courtesy of Enviro Safety)

3M Peltor was founded as a mining venture in Northern Minnesota in 1902. Over time, the company has evolved to specialize in critical communications technology and personal protection equipment.

3M Peltor currently offers a wide range of communications products, including in-ear and over-ear headset options, respiratory communications, and safety base stations.

One of the company's most popular products is the Push-To-Talk (PTT) Adapter Military Radio with Connector. This adapter can be used to turn various 3M Peltor communications headsets into hands-free communications devices made explicitly for military radios.

The PTT Adapter can be a game-changer. Combined with a gas mask, it allows for hands-free communication while wearing it, which is essential for those working in hazardous environments. This can help to increase communication efficiency and safety in high-pressure situations.

As a well-established company with over 120 years of experience, 3M Peltor is known globally and sells its products through outside dealers located worldwide, making shipping accessible for customers worldwide.

This is definitely a brand you can trust.

Top Tactical Headset Option #2: Ops-Core

Ops-Core’s Amp Headset is another popular (and pricey) choice (Image courtesy of Gentex Corp)

Ops-Core is another top brand, founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2005 by David and Viktoria Rogers.

In 2012, the brand was purchased by the Gentex Corporation with a focus on developing advanced personal protective equipment for elite military units worldwide.

The company specializes in technology and equipment for military, law enforcement, and security purposes, and its most popular products are tactical headsets.

Compared to other manufacturers, Ops-Core offers fewer products, which can be seen as a positive sign as it indicates the company prioritizes quality over quantity. The company's tactical headsets are widely regarded as some of the most rugged, robust, and reliable options on the market.

So Ops-Core headsets are another excellent choice for use with your gas mask.

Top Tactical Headset Option #3: Invisio

Invisio Communications was established in 1999 but only began exclusively manufacturing communications technology in 2008.

The company is headquartered in Denmark and has offices in several other countries, allowing for worldwide shipping and high demand for its products. Invisio specializes in tactical communications for defense and public safety, and its reputation stems from providing critical communications technology to the U.S. and British militaries.

Invisio's expertise in defense technology is reflected in the types of products they create, including headsets, intercom systems, cables, and PTT accessories. Their tactical headsets are among their most popular products, designed to provide top-of-the-line communication capabilities for military applications.

Overall, Invisio Communications' tactical headsets and other critical communications technology are designed for military applications, providing reliable and high-quality communication capabilities for defense and public safety personnel.

MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone

Of course, the biggest challenge of a communications earpiece with gas masks is—how you communicate back.

Most full-face respirators are entirely sealed. Most modern gas masks also feature an oro-nasal cup that further isolates the mouth and prevents the use of standard headset microphones.

Fortunately, there's a reliable option compatible with all MIRA Safety adult gas masks and installs in just a few seconds without needing tools or additional equipment.

The MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone uses a noise-canceling, dynamic, moving-coil microphone designed to endure 30,000 hours of rugged use. Its tough polymer housing is designed to fit perfectly over the exhalation valve of your MIRA Safety gas mask.

(Image courtesy of The Gas Mask Microphone is a simple—but POWERFUL—upgrade)

Since the microphone mounts to the outside of the mask, they're virtually no risk of breaking the mask's airtight seal, and no electronics or complicated parts to be placed inside the mask or up against bare skin.

Instead, you'll exhale air when you speak, and the exhalation valve will open. The microphone mounted directly below that valve will pick up the sound of your voice far more clearly than it otherwise would. And since it uses the natural opening of the exhalation valve, it won't interfere with your gas mask's proper functioning in any way.

The MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone is optimized for all-weather use (-33°C to +77°C) and requires no additional power supply.

The Gas Mask Microphone has a 2-pin NEXUS U-173/U connector compatible with Peltor and Ops-Core headsets. Alternatively, a 3.5mm version is available that is compatible with the MIRA Safety Voice Projection Unit.

Top Gas Mask Choice for Easy Comms: MIRA Safety CM-7M

The MIRA Safety CM-7M is the ultimate in practical CBRN protection for civilians, law enforcement, and military users alike.

It has all the features you'd expect from a professional-grade gas mask—including butyl construction, an integrated hydration system, a speech diaphragm, and an eyepiece configuration optimized for use with night vision and rifle optics. It uses NATO standard 40mm gas mask filter cartridges. And it comes in three different sizes, so you're ensured a snug fit.

The CM-7M is also compatible with the whole family of MIRA Safety accessories and gear. So your new Gas Mask Microphone is an easy install that takes just a few seconds–but you've also got the option to mount a MIRAVision Spectacle insert with prescription lenses.

You can even add a Powered Air-Purifying Respirator to make breathing easier during long hours of use!

With a 20-year shelf life and plenty of flexibility, the CM-7M is a perfect choice, regardless of whether you're just getting started or looking for a gas mask to integrate with your existing kit.

Knowing is Half the Battle

When it comes to survival situations, knowledge is power.

Knowing in advance what's around the next corner, knowing that one of your team members is stuck and needs help, or just knowing that everything's going to plan could save lives.

And while wearing a gas mask can be necessary to survive in specific environments, it instantly limits your ability to speak, shout, or communicate with those around you.

That's not necessarily the first thing you consider when buying your gas mask. But the realities of using your mask, especially for extended periods, mean some form of communications equipment will be essential.

The MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone is a quick and easy upgrade that can be installed in just a few seconds, then connected with a wide variety of 3M Peltor, Ops-Core, and other headsets. It can be integrated into your existing push-to-talk (PTT) rig for radio comms or connected to a MIRA Safety Voice Projection Unit for crowd communication.

A communications earpiece may still be ideal for some users. If you're concerned about a traditional tactical headset's weight, size, and bulk, an earpiece with a mic is the right choice. They're low-profile, easy to carry just about anywhere, and they can be just as capable as a larger headset in the right conditions.

But what do you think?

Which brands have you had experience with? What kind of comms gear works best for you in the field?

Sound off and share your insights in the comments below, and help save your fellow readers endless hours scouring internet forums!

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