Aug 19, 2011

Why Do People Yell Into Their Cell Phones?

Pretty much everyone owns a cell phone these days, and with the great advantages of cell phones also comes responsibility. There is certainly proper and improper cell phone etiquette, and unfortunately, improper cell phone etiquette is still rampant amongst the general population.

One prime example of bad cell phone etiquette is people yelling into their cell phones. Have you ever noticed how people talk much louder into the cell phone than a regular phone? It’s very common, and can be extremely annoying for all those nearby. A lot of people will excuse themselves into another room when taking a call, but there are some times when you can’t leave. For example, when you’re riding in a car with someone, you might need to take a call, and there’s no “other room” you can go into. It is times like these when cell phone etiquette is of the utmost importance.

So why do people with normal speaking volumes yell into their cell phones? It’s a pretty simple explanation, actually. Household telephones, or landlines, have a microphone in the receiver that amplifies your voice into the ear piece. When you talk into a landline, your voice is captured and replayed through the ear piece, so you hear your own voice loud and clear. It’s very similar to how a radio DJ wears headphones, then speaks into a microphone and hears his own voice in the headphones. With cell phones, your own voice is not amplified into the earpiece, so the only sound you hear is from your mouth. Seem like this wouldn’t be a huge difference, but the volume level of words coming from your mouth through the air and into your ear is a pretty big difference from sounds coming from a phone speaker that’s pressed directly against your ear.

Cell phones are very common in society, but relatively speaking, they’re still pretty new. Unless you’re a teenager, you probably grew up in a time when household phones were the norm, and therefore you are subconsciously trained to act as though every phone operates like a household phone. So it’s no surprise that when most of us made the switch from landlines to cell phones, we carried over a bunch of our habits. Now we hear our own voice as much softer while speaking into our cell phones and the natural reaction is to speak up.

It’s important to avoid this tendency in situations where you’re trying to be polite. Remember, people want to hear you screaming into a cell phone about as much as you want to hear them screaming into a cell phone. So keep in mind that, while talking on a cell phone, you only have to use your regular voice, as if the person were standing right next to you.

Perhaps one day cell phone companies will decide to incorporate the same voice-amplification technologies into cell phones that were commonly used in landlines. But it’s probably not going to happen. Cell phones are here to stay, so we all need to adapt and start practicing proper cell phone etiquette.

Your turn to talk, come on lets hear what you have to say……..


  • “Huh? Yeah.. NO WAY.. Yeah, won’t BELIEVE what she said…”

    I think some people just like others to hear their conversations. It’s like they’re showing off about how interesting they are. I’ve seen this in some cases but it’s probably not always the case.

    Anywho, they have this sound-enhancing technology you speak of in other places but cell phones seem to be slow to adopt it.. I have a Turtle Beach headset that does the line monitoring and amplification as well. It also auto-levels the different audio channels.. This stuff is not that hard to implement so you have to wonder why cell phones have advanced in everything EXCEPT the stuff that actually enhances phone calls. I guess they just expect us to text all the time. ;o)

  • blogroll links?

  • :mrgreen:

  • Lol…
    Yeah, my dad does that all the time. It’s SO annoying.

  • Good for people to know.

  • After (politely) asking them to keep it down a bit, I got so pissed off at someone screaming into their cellphone and being utterly oblivious to their surroundings that I pissed on the guy’s shoes. He absolutely didn’t notice it, so I pissed up one leg…he carried on yelling into his cellphone…so I pissed up the other leg, zipped up and retreated to watch the next step.
    The “next step” was fascinating. He finally hung up, noticed that his pants and shoes were soaked in urine, and promptly dialled someone on his cellphone and started yelling “some dirty fucking bastard just pissed all over my pants and shoes while I was on the goddamn phone”

  • Ethel – I shout at my mouth, don’t you know i am utterly insane?

  • Thank you friends for all your comments, much appreciated. Found this one pretty amusing:-
    @ Antoine Froger – Bet you shout at the burnt toast too :).

    Take care and cheers.

  • The guy in the photo looks just like me! Amazing.

  • Sometimes I yell at my toaster. Any explanations?

  • As for the digital compression algorithm, most of it is done on my campus and I can assure you they’ve been tested on real people (hell, I’ve participated to at least a dozen of double blind tests). Now, if you have a crappy cell to replay that and if the manufacturers aren’t able to properly implement the compression algorith, you’ll end up with shit.

  • Simple: There is no or limited aural feedback to the ear from what the person is saying with cell phones.

    The original Bell telephone had a feedback transformer circuit so that the person speaking could reduce their volume to that of normal speech.

    It is amazing how the new engineers overlook the old technology and why certain things were done. Today’s cell phone is a crappy design.

  • An entire article just to say don’t talk so loud on your cellphone in public,genius.

  • but youcan still hear your own voice whether or not its played back

  • It’s called “sidetone” and engineers have known about the need for people to hear themselves for almost 100 years.

    This is one of three unforgivably stupid mistakes by cell phone designers.

    The second was further limiting the frequency response beyond even the limited range of land line telephones, which is why it’s harder to recognize someone’s voice on a cell phone.

    And the third was letting digital engineers pick an audio compression protocol that sounds like blended dogmeat, based on equations that said it was perfectly acceptable, rather than actual listening tests.

  • i dont think that is the primary reason. i think the main reason people yell (besides just being inconsiderate) is cell phone audio quality is terrible (although its been getting better in the last couple of years) and you have to yell for the other person to hear you, especially when there are noises like traffic/car engine/crowd of people in the background, something that is uncommon with traditional landlines.

    certainly the loud nextel BEEP didn’t help.

  • The common technical term (at least in theatre) is sidetone… the amount of “yourself” that is fed back into the ear piece.

    Some singers use monitors (speakers) on stage aimed at themselves and others use various wireless in-ear devices, all so they can hear themselves.

    I have no idea why this isn’t done better with cell phones.

  • Actually I just bought a Samsung Juke and the first thing I realized was that the calls sounded slightly clearer. I realized that it’s because I was hearing my own voice coming through the earpiece. Looks like they HAVE begun to incorporate this technology and it is MUCH better!

  • This is true. Id agree, but i still want to know why people feel when they hold cell phones they are the most important person in the room.

  • GREAT POST Ethel.
    Can you write a post about why we close our eyes when we sneeze? I think it would make for a GREAT READ.

Leave a comment