The development of the computer, the television, the CD, film, the telephone and the seemingly infinitely expanding forms of media that exist today has revolutionized the way we learn and stay informed about the world around us.
These inventions have similarly revolutionized libraries and commerce, in particular for sectors that specialize in media. Both saw the emergence of public listening stations and computers where users could sample the work of the artists that inspire and interest them.
With the need for discretion, quiet and a personalized experience in these public places came the popularization of public earphones. We all know, those dreadful things that, even a day after their purchase, always seem to smell and feel sweaty, oily and simply unclean.
Whether a pair of tiny earbuds that seem to disappear when one wears them, or the headset typically worn by a helicopter pilot, shared headphones are rarely a pleasure to put on, let alone wear for the duration of a movie.
What’s more, given the recent threats of various animal flu epidemics (avian, pork, etc.), these headphones have become a public health nightmare because they function as a conduit for the spread of infectious germs.
However, the flu is not the only negative possibility: skin diseases, parasites, fungi, lice, acne and other undesirable creatures can live on the surface or become lodged in the foam of earphones. Talk about unwelcome guests, and all you wanted to do was listen to a new album or watch a short video…
Librarians and shop owners have of course become aware of these issues through complaints from the general public. Unfortunately, they are also liable for the issues that arise from providing shared earphones, which could, in severe cases, result in law suits or health inspection agency fines.
What steps can be taken to ensure sanitation and a pleasurable multi-media experience for each user? Until now, managers only had two choices: buy a new pair of earphones for each client, or to clean and disinfect the headphones between each use.
The first is obviously wasteful (because most people already own several pairs of said earphones and don’t need any more — think about all the times you’ve rejected a pair of cheap earphones gifted to you aboard a plane) and often cost prohibitive, especially given a financial crisis that has forced budget cuts for public services worldwide.
The second option, to thoroughly clean and disinfect the earphones, is more economical and less wasteful, but it also requires the purchase of abrasive, sometimes toxic chemicals and cleaning equipment, and is very labour intensive.
The last time anyone checked, “earphone cleaning and maintenance” does not figure into the job description of librarians or store staff. Also, while disinfectants are highly effective, they never kill 100% of the germs, nor can they remove lice and other parasites.
The other issue that arises is the wetness after cleaning, which can damage the equipment or require a long wait to dry. This makes the business owner or library manager return to the question of what the point was of cleaning headsets if it’s going to require one to buy additional earphones for users in between cleaning cycles.
Finally, an economical and practical solution was invented: the disposable headset protection cover!
It looks like a small cap that covers the surface of the listening device with a relatively thin layer of mesh cloth, attached around the earpiece with an elastic strap on the non-listening side to keep the cover in place.
This elastic does not bother the listener, but also allows the covers to conform to a variety of headset sizes and shapes: They are made from a high-quality, light, nonwoven fabric, making them very resistant to wear.
During manufacture, the same hygienic procedures are employed as with the manufacture of medical gowns and surgical scrubs, meaning the covers arrive sterile, individually wrapped for simple distribution.
As such, this guarantees a unique experience for each user. However, the user can decide if he or she wants to recycle or reuse the covers – they’re single-use in the sense that only one user opens the packaging of each pair, but there is no limit to the number of times they may choose to use (and reuse) the covers.
They come in six different sizes to allow their use with the smallest ear buds or the widest “Mickey Mouse ear” headphones. On top of the size choice, the buyer may specify either black or white. White is less expensive because it’s cheaper to produce, but black looks discreet that many enterprises and media centres prefer it.
They can also be employed to cover microphones in order to shield them from saliva, germs and other problems that can arise and damage expensive equipment.
The covers are affordable enough to be changed regularly, in between each user; and simple enough to deploy that the users can change them personally, a reassuring gesture that guarantees a feeling of being cared about and that gives the establishment a sense of professionalism.
In addition to stores and libraries, these covers can be equally useful for educational purposes
- exam halls,
- training sessions, simulators,
- interactive exhibits at museums, planetariums, aquariums,
- press conferences or diplomatic meetings that require translations,
- pre-court proceedings (such as, for recording or listening to depositions),
- call and chat centres,
- tele-support services, advice hotlines, public phone stations and payphone services.