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Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work? (Find Out Now!)


If you’ve ever wanted to listen to music while remaining aware of your surroundings, it’s time to look into bone conduction headphones. These specialized headphones lack speakers, allowing you to hear external noises such as voices or oncoming traffic.

However, bone conduction headphones are not suitable for everyone. They have a few drawbacks, including poor audio quality.

So, do bone conduction headphones work and how exactly do they work, and are they appropriate for you?

Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?

WHAT ARE BONE CONDUCTION HEADPHONES?

Bone conduction headphones are a newer product on the market. They are incredibly inventive, offering a listening experience unlike any you’ve ever had. The design of these headphones is what sets them apart.

Instead of going inside or covering your ears, bone-conduction headphones rest on your cheekbones, leaving your ears open to listen to other sounds. This feature enables you to listen to music, podcasts, and other media while remaining aware of your surroundings.

HOW DOES BONE CONDUCTION WORK?

Bone conduction headphones, unlike regular headphones or earbuds, do not rely on speakers to produce sound. Instead, they vibrate your skull—or, more specifically, your cheekbones—using two transducers. These vibrations reach your cochleas, where they are converted into “sound” for your brain.

Bone conduction effectively bypasses your eardrums, allowing you to hear external noises while listening to music, podcasts, phone calls, or other sounds through your headphones.

Bone conduction is not the same as air conduction, which is what most people think of when they think of “hearing.” With air conduction, sounds create waves of pressure in the air, which vibrates your eardrums. The sound is then transmitted to your brain by your eardrums vibrating your cochleas.

Some people think bone conduction is gross or creepy, but it’s actually quite natural. When you speak, for example, you hear a combination of air and bone-conducted sound. This is why your voice sounds different in recordings; recordings do not capture all of the bone-conducted sounds that vibrate through your head.

To be clear, bone conduction headphones aren’t silent. The vibrations created by these headphones produce some audible sound that other people might hear, especially if you’re close to them.

HOW DO THESE VIBRATIONS GET TO THE COCHLEA?

Sound, like light, travels in waves through the air, but unlike light, sound can travel through much denser objects. This is how you can hear music from a neighbor’s room and feel your walls tremble while not seeing their light on through the wall.

These waves are picked up by your ear by vibrating and passing the sound along inside, usually beginning with the eardrum. The eardrum is a thin flap of skin that vibrates in response to sound waves, causing other organs in the ear to vibrate as well.

However, the vibrations picked up by the cochlea are an important part of the hearing. When the eardrum and other organs in your ear begin to vibrate, the cochlea begins to receive all sound vibrations and transmits them to the stereocilia.

The stereocilia then convert this input into signals that are sent to the brain. In short, vibrations from the eardrum travel throughout the ear, and the signals picked up by the cochlea are ultimately sent to the brain.

How does this happen in the absence of eardrum vibrations? This is where bone conduction enters the picture.

Alternative Video: Are Bone Conduction Headphones Right For You?

Are Bone Conduction Headphones Right For You?

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PROS OF BONE CONDUCTION HEADPHONES

Next, we’ll go over all of the perks of bone conduction headphones, including the factors that set them apart from traditional headphones.

1. They Are Helpful for People With Hearing Loss

Because they bypass the external and middle ear, bone conduction headphones can help you hear sounds better if you have hearing loss. As a result, if your hearing problems are in these areas, this design is extremely beneficial.

Furthermore, because of their unique design, these headphones are ideal if you wear hearing aids because some types of aids can be worn concurrently with them.

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2. Useful for People Who Suffer From Tinnitus

If you suffer from tinnitus, bone conduction headphones can be a lifesaver. Tinnitus, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is a condition in which people hear a ringing in their ears.

It is caused by a variety of factors, including age-related hearing loss, earwax buildup, middle ear infection, inner ear damage from loud noises, and others.

In general, people with tinnitus have a difficult time listening to music through traditional headphones because they block out all external sounds and ambient noises, making their tinnitus sound louder.

3. They Increase Your Situational Awareness

You probably enjoy listening to your favorite songs or podcasts while going for your daily walk or run, just like most people. While this increases your enjoyment, it also increases your chances of being involved in an accident if you are wearing traditional headphones.

You’ll be safe and sound with bone conduction headphones because you’ll still be able to hear what’s going on around you.

This feature is important if you regularly exercise outside because you will be able to hear sirens, people shouting at you, a car approaching, and any other sounds that can alert you to potential dangers.

4. They Have an Incredibly Comfortable and Snug Fit

Do your ears always ache after wearing traditional headphones for an extended period of time? Maybe your earbuds keep falling out because they’re the wrong size. Perhaps your padded headphones are too heavy, putting too much pressure on your ears.

If that’s the case, we feel your pain. It’s extremely difficult to find headphones that are a perfect fit. Unless you have perfectly shaped ears for your headphones, you’ll most likely encounter some of these issues on a regular basis.

However, with bone conduction headphones, you won’t have to deal with these issues again! Because they rest on your cheekbones, they won’t get in the way of your ears or ear canals, saving you from all of that soreness and pain.

CONS OF BONE CONDUCTION HEADPHONES

While bone conduction headphones are fantastic, they do have a few downsides. We’ll go over these potential cons in detail below.

1. They Tend To Be on the Pricey Side

While these headphones are fantastic, they are also fairly new technology, which means they are not inexpensive. They can cost anywhere from $50 to $600 or more, depending on the quality.

While the higher price is worth it for many users due to the numerous benefits of these headphones, they may not be an option if you’re on a tight budget.

2. They Have Lower Sound Quality

While one of the main benefits of bone conduction headphones is that they allow you to listen to what’s going on around you, this can also be a disadvantage if sound quality is important to you.

By definition, these headphones have lower sound quality than traditional styles because you’ll be hearing your music alongside several competing external noises, reducing audio clarity.

3. They are still capable of causing hearing loss and tinnitus.

While bone conduction headphones bypass the eardrum, they can still cause inner ear hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), one of the most common types of hearing loss, occurs when the cochlea loses its stereocilia, which are tiny hairs that affect your brain’s ability to interpret sounds.

4. They Have To Be Charged Regularly

Like any wireless headphones, bone conduction headphones have to be charged regularly. While charging your headphones may be a slight annoyance, it’s less annoying than untangling your headphone’s wires when they are in a huge bundled mess!

5. Other People May Be Able To Hear What You Are Listening To

Because these headphones rest on your cheekbones rather than inside your ears, they aren’t completely leakproof. Others may be able to hear some sounds coming from your headphones, especially if they are close to you or you are playing your audio very loudly.

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Passers-by won’t be able to hear the exact songs or podcasts you’re listening to (unless you have your headphones on full blast), but they will likely hear some sound leaks.

How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?
How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?

HOW DOES BONE CONDUCTION SKIP THE EARDRUM?

This is much easier to understand now that you know how the inner ear works. The eardrum is frequently where vibrations begin to spread throughout your other little internal ear organs, but it is not required to conduct those vibrations.

All of the bones and organs inside your ear, however, would remain static if it did not provide input. How do you avoid the need for the eardrum to vibrate in order for the other organs and bones to begin vibrating?

Bypassing the vibrations through your skull rather than your eardrum, you avoid the need for that, triggering the vibrations in your ear’s inner organs. These vibrations would work the same as the ones that are started by the eardrum because the cochlea does not know the difference.

The cochlea sends these vibrations through the channels to your brain, similar to how hearing begins with your eardrum. These sounds are registered by your brain in the same way that they would be by a traditional headphones.

A common misconception is that bone conduction headphones are completely silent. This is not true; these headphones are still audible, but much less so than traditional earbuds. The difference is that they are intended to send sound waves through your skull rather than through the air.

HOW DID BONE CONDUCTION START?

The idea of bone conduction technology isn’t new, it was discovered as early as the 1500s, though there is reason to believe you can trace it back further.

Gerolamo Cardano, physician, philosopher, and mathematician, realized that you could hear through a rod and spear when you placed them between your teeth. Even though he figured this out, the actual use of this for deaf and hearing-impaired individuals didn’t start until later.

Bone Conduction in Hearing Aids

Cardano’s findings were controversial at the time they were published, and it took several hundred years for them to resurface in the public eye. Some believe that this concept, the rod between the teeth, is how Beethoven was able to hear what he was composing.

It wasn’t until the 1940s that audiology was recognized as a science. This aided in the implementation of bone conduction to aid in the diagnosis of hearing disorders and the support of the hearing-impaired.

In the 1970s, bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA hearing aids) were introduced. These implants allowed the user to hear through bone conduction, so if their eardrum was damaged, it would help them hear without it.

Is Bone Conduction Just for the Hearing Impaired?

This technology has been a game-changer in the hearing impaired and deaf communities, but it is not unique. The military has long used bone conducting technology, and it has proven to be extremely beneficial to the athletic community.

When running, cycling, or working out outside, using a bone conduction headphone rather than a traditional earphone allows you to hear passing cars and be more aware of your surroundings.

However, the technology has an infinite number of applications. They have been utilized in Google Glass, education, law enforcement, construction, and even scuba diving.

Thanks to their open ear design, they’re considered comfortable to wear as well, which is just another addition to the list of their many benefits.

Bone Conduction Headphones Skip Eardrums?
Bone Conduction Headphones Skip Eardrums?

SHOULD YOU USE BONE CONDUCTION HEADPHONES?

The use of bone conduction headphones is a personal preference. Are you willing to forego audio quality in order to hear what’s going on around you? Or are you a swimmer who enjoys listening to music while working out? Then you’re probably a good candidate for a pair of bone conduction headphones.

Of course, there are some situations in which bone conduction headphones should be used without hesitation. Cycling with traditional headphones or earbuds, for example, is extremely dangerous. It is also prohibited in some states and countries.

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Those who are obsessed with audio quality should skip bone conduction headphones. That said, there are some alternatives, such as the Sony LinkBuds and Bose Sport Open earbuds, which feature an open design to let you hear some surroundings without sacrificing audio quality.

WHY SHOULDN’T GET BONE CONDUCTION HEADPHONES?

Opponents of bone conduction emphasize the importance of isolation, but it is more than just repetition for the sake of repetition; it makes an audible difference.

Because a good seal reduces auditory masking, insulating your eardrums from outside noise improves clarity. Furthermore, if your eardrum isn’t being used, transmission accuracy suffers. You’ll get the gist of your media playback, but the audio quality is severely compromised.

Aside from the sound quality, the fit may be uncomfortable. Take, for example, the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium, one of the more popular options; it sits atop your cheekbones and is supported by a small portion of your ears.

Walking, let alone more strenuous activities like running, makes it difficult to maintain a stable fit. Those who fall into this camp believe you’re paying more for less. The concept is novel, but real-world use reveals many deficiencies. Of course, there are always two sides to a coin.

CAN BONE CONDUCTION HEADPHONES DAMAGE HEARING?

Yes. Simply put, they are as “dangerous” as standard headphones. Some argue that because bone conduction headphones bypass the eardrum, they do not cause ear damage.

Though this is correct, you should not be concerned about the eardrum. If you listen to music at excessively loud volumes for extended periods of time, you should be concerned about cochlear damage.

This is true for both bone conduction and conventional headphones, and neither is necessarily safer than the other. If you are careless with the volume and duration of use, both of them can cause cochlear damage.

WHAT IS THE AUDIO QUALITY OF BONE CONDUCTION?

To be honest, they don’t sound as good as traditional headphones. It’s neither good nor bad; it’s simply different. Unlike traditional headphones, they have a muffled sound and thus lack the noise-canceling crisp edges that many modern headphones have.

They do have their uses, and many people prefer them when they want to be more aware of their surroundings while listening to music.

Outside of the needs of the hearing impaired, they can be useful for hands-free calls and machinery workers. If audio quality is important to you, and you expect it to be comparable to regular headphones, you will be disappointed.

CONCLUSION

Bone conduction headphones are not new, but the technology is extremely useful in both the diagnosis and treatment of hearing impairments. Because of technological advancements, there is now another—often safer—option for both runners and bikers.

Though they pose the same “threat” to the cochlea as traditional headphones, they leave the ear open to other input while remaining silent.

Overall, this technology was able to help bypass the eardrum for those with hearing impairments and everyday users who need to be able to hear both the audio of the headphone and the world around them at the same time.

Should You Use Bone Conduction Headphones?
Should You Use Bone Conduction Headphones?

FAQs On How Bone Conduction Eardrums Works

Are bone conduction headphones worth it?

Because they bypass the external and middle ear, bone conduction headphones can help you hear sounds better if you have hearing loss. As a result, if your hearing problems are in these areas, this design is extremely beneficial.

Do bone conduction headphones cause hearing loss?

Long-term exposure to loud sounds can harm the cochlea’s hairs and nerves. Because bone conduction headphones still transmit sound to the cochlea, they can cause hearing loss if used incorrectly.

Is bone conduction better than headphones?

While conventional earbuds and headphones may interfere with or jostle hearing aids, bone conduction headphones bypass this. Additionally, listeners who are deaf in one ear may enjoy stereo sound that can’t be heard with traditional in-ears.

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