Loud cellphone talking syndrome

23:18, Jul 12 2010

Have you ever been quietly minding your business when suddenly your ears are bombarded by that person who refuses to talk at a normal volume into their cellphone?

You are not alone.

By all accounts it's a common occurrence, and it has be one of the most annoying habits to have developed with our growing use of cellphones.

There are a range of explanations as to why people can't seem to get their volume right, from the mundane to the psychological.

It's tempting just to say "people are rude" and to let your mind turn to the dark side, but it's probably not that simple.

Even well-trained, polite people can find themselves bellowing under the right conditions, so there must be more than manners in play.


Here are a 10 possible reasons for loud cellphone talking syndrome, with advice for sufferers of this terrible ailment, and also for those around them.

1. Lack of adequate sidetone

Sidetone is your own voice replayed through the earphone as you speak, which acts as feedback. This is used in landline telephones and while it has been reproduced on most digital phones, they don't always get it quite right.

Since most people grew up using landlines, we're used to altering our volume depending on what we hear on the phone. So, when the sidetone is missing or too low, it gives us the impression that we're not talking loud enough, and we raise our voice.

Maybe it's time cellphone manufacturers started to get this feature right in their handsets?

Just talk normally and imagine they are right in front of you.

2. Ambient noise/bad connection

When there is noise around you, it's easy to think that you need to yell to get your message heard. This is not always true - because your mouth is right next to the microphone, you shouldn't have to raise your voice by much to be heard fairly well on the other side, regardless of the surrounding noise or interference.

If you are trying to make a call in a tunnel or an underground bunker - you're doing it wrong. How urgent is the call? Can you postpone it until you are in a quieter area, or one with better coverage? Please do.

3. Bad volume control

When someone says they can't hear you, the problem could be on their end. Most phones have a volume control for the speaker on the handset somewhere, and this could be turned down to a low level accidentally or from a previous call (one who was shouting into the handset?).

Instead of raising your voice, ask them to turn their phone volume up. The control is normally on the side of the phone, right under your fingers.

4. Not holding the phone right

It sounds simple, but if you don't hold the phone right, you won't be heard properly. I have seen people holding phones with the microphone near the edge of their jaw, as opposed to next to the mouth where it should be.

The microphones on most cellphones are quite sensitive, but are carefully calibrated to have an optimum speaking distance. Moving the microphone just a few centimetres away from your mouth can mean the person on the other end will have trouble hearing you, and ask you to speak up.

On the flipside, they may have the speaker away from their ear - this has happened to me a few times. The phone slides down just a centimetre or two and you can barely hear them. You are left wondering why they are talking so quietly, and possibly asking them to speak up.

Hold it right, hold it steady.

5. Foreign language

It sounds awful, but some people actually think that talking louder will make someone understand them better if they don't speak the same language.

In truth, it doesn't. Talk slowly and clearly and be patient. English is not the only language in the world - be tolerant. Shouting solves nothing and can be offensive.

There is only one thing worse than being an ignoramus - being a loud ignoramus.

6. "What?" syndrome

This is an especially frustrating affliction where someone instinctively answers "what?", "ay?", "hmm?" or "huh?" to almost any question, even if they heard perfectly well.

The reasons why they do this escape me, but it can sometimes give the impression that you are not talking loud enough.

A good way to deal with this is to resist the urge to repeat yourself. Ask them if they can hear you OK, and express the point that you are unwilling to repeat yourself - confront them on it. Most of the time it can be turned off when required.

If a conversation is worth having, it's worth giving full attention to, right? Don't talk louder, talk smarter.

7. Lack of self-awareness

It's easy to get so involved in a phone call that you forget where you are, who is around you or the situation you are in. It's possible some people simply don't realise that people can hear them.

If you have ever used public transport, you've probably come across people who have no problem chatting away loudly, even though no one else is talking and is forced into hearing every word - unless they have headphones.

The fact is: people can hear you.

People right at the back? They can hear you. The driver? They can too. Your co-workers? Most likely. Almost anyone within 50 metres? There's a good chance.

Remember that.

8. Personality

Some people just want to be heard. These people (extroverts to some, arrogant to others) think their lives and personal conversations are interesting to other people, and intentionally raise their voice to attract attention. "Oh yeah, I can't believe she asked me out, just like the rest of the girls, ay mate? AAHAHAHA".

What a Bozo.

Unless you are famous - and even if you are - the chances are pretty high that no one really cares about what you are saying.

Maybe you could try wearing loud clothing instead - at least then people can look away.

9. Phone voice

Have you ever noticed how people can be so angry one minute, but as soon as they answer a phone they are all sunshine and kittens? I call this the phone voice, others call it your manner.

Some people's phone voices may have developed to be louder than they would usually speak, through business (to give them an air of authority), or for whatever reason.

So, whenever they answer the phone, they assume their phone voice, which may or may not be appropriate for the situation.

10. Downright rudeness

It has to be said that some people are probably aware of all of these reasons and just don't care in the slightest. Bad day, bad parenting, whatever the reason, there's probably not much you can do about this type of caller.

If you are on the receiving end, never underestimate the polite request, or the evil glare.

If all else fails, you could try pulling out your cellphone, walking up to the person and proceeding to cycle through your ringtones one-by-one. Just an idea.

So, however you do it, please try to be considerate of others - we have to share space and while cellphones can be a blessing, they can also be a curse.

The last thing you want is to end up like this guy - although he is hilarious.

Are you a loud cellphone-talker? Or a loud-talker hater? Can you identify with any of these reasons? How do we deal with it? Is this a technology flaw on the phone-maker's part?

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