Yes, bone conduction headphones do work, and they work remarkably well. They offer a unique listening experience that's different from traditional headphones.
As a tech enthusiast, I’ve always been intrigued by the innovative ways we interact with sound. Bone conduction headphones, a fascinating blend of science and technology, are one such innovation.
But how do bone conduction headphones work? And why would you choose them over your regular earbuds? I asked these questions, and maybe you’re wondering the same.
The problem is there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some people swear by these headphones, while others are sceptical about their effectiveness.
In this blog post, I’ll demystify bone conduction headphones for you. I’ll delve into the science behind them, discuss their pros and cons, and help you decide if they fit you.
What is Bone Conduction Headphones?
Bone conduction headphones are a unique audio device that, unlike traditional headphones, don’t go in your ears. Instead, they rest on your cheekbones just before your ears.
You might wonder, “How can I hear anything if nothing’s in my ears?” Well, that’s where the magic of bone conduction comes in.
The Science Behind Bone Conduction
Bone conduction is a natural process of sound conduction. When a sound wave hits an object, it causes that object to vibrate.
These vibrations can travel through various mediums, including bones. Our skulls are excellent conductors of these vibrations.
Bone conduction headphones generate vibrations that pass through your cheekbones directly to your cochlea, which is part of your inner ear responsible for transmitting sound signals to your brain.
This process entirely bypasses the outer and middle ear, so you can hear the sound even though your ears are open to the surrounding environment.
From a technical perspective, bone conduction headphones are pretty fascinating. They use transducers to convert electrical signals into mechanical vibrations. These vibrations are then transferred through your bones to your inner ear.
The quality of sound you get from bone conduction headphones can vary based on several factors, including the quality of the transducers, the fit of the headphones, and even the density of your bones.
When it comes to health, bone conduction headphones have several advantages.
First, since they don’t go in or over your ears, they can be more comfortable for long-term use. They also reduce the risk of ear infections that can sometimes occur with in-ear headphones.
Moreover, because they leave your ears open, they allow you to maintain awareness of your surroundings, which can be a significant safety advantage if you’re running or cycling outdoors.
However, it’s worth noting that, like any audio device, bone conduction headphones should be used responsibly. Listening at high volumes for extended periods can potentially lead to hearing issues.
Advantages of Bone Conduction Headphones
Bone conduction headphones, with their unique technology and design, offer a range of advantages that set them apart from traditional headphones. Let’s delve deeper into these benefits:
1. Enhanced Situational Awareness
One of the standout advantages of bone conduction headphones is their ability to provide enhanced situational awareness.
Because these headphones do not cover or plug into the ears, they allow users to listen to their favorite music or podcasts while fully aware of their surroundings.
This is particularly beneficial for runners, cyclists, or walkers who must be alert to traffic and other hazards. It benefits workers who need to focus and talk with their colleagues while doing their work.
|Runners, Cyclists, and Walkers||These users need to be aware of their surroundings for safety reasons. Bone conduction headphones allow them to listen to music or podcasts while still being able to hear traffic, conversations, and other potential hazards.|
|Office Workers||It’s crucial to balance focus and availability in a busy office environment. With bone conduction headphones, office workers can listen to music or engage in a conference call while still being available for conversations and interactions with their colleagues.|
|Drivers||For drivers, situational awareness is crucial. Bone conduction headphones allow them to make calls or listen to navigation instructions without blocking the sounds of traffic and car signals.|
|Outdoor Enthusiasts||Whether hiking, bird watching, or simply enjoying nature, outdoor enthusiasts can use bone conduction headphones to listen to music or nature apps while still hearing the sounds of the environment around them.|
|Parents||Parents with young children need to be able to monitor their children’s activities or call for attention, even while listening to music or making calls. Bone conduction headphones make this possible.|
2. Superior Comfort for Extended Use
Traditional in-ear or over-ear headphones can sometimes cause discomfort or pain when used for extended periods. This is due to pressure in the ear canal or sweating around the ears.
On the other hand, Bone conduction headphones rest comfortably on the cheekbones and do not interfere with the ears at all, making them a more comfortable option for long-term use.
This can be a significant advantage for people who use headphones for several hours daily, whether for work, gaming, or leisure.
3. Accessibility for Individuals with Hearing Impairments
Bone conduction headphones can be a game-changer for individuals with certain types of hearing impairments.
For those with conductive hearing loss, where the eardrum or middle ear is damaged, these headphones can transmit sound directly to the cochlea, bypassing the damaged parts.
This can enable individuals with this hearing loss to listen to music or engage in phone conversations in a way that might not be possible with traditional headphones.
4. Reduced Risk of Hearing Damage
Listening to loud music over traditional headphones can potentially lead to noise-induced hearing loss over time. This is because loud sounds can damage the sensitive hair cells in the cochlea.
However, since bone conduction headphones bypass the eardrum, they deliver sound at a lower volume directly to the cochlea, potentially reducing the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
5. Usability in Various Environments
Bone conduction headphones are versatile and can be used in environments where traditional headphones may not be practical. For instance, some models are waterproof and can be used for swimming or in the rain.
Because they don’t cover the ears, they can be comfortably worn with a helmet, hat, or headband. This makes them great for cyclists, construction workers, athletes, and outdoor enthusiasts.
6. Compatibility with Other Devices
Many bone conduction headphones are Bluetooth-enabled, connecting wirelessly to various devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and smartwatches.
This makes them a convenient and versatile choice for listening to music, taking calls, watching videos, and even using voice assistants.
|Headphone Model||Compatible Devices|
|AfterShokz OpenComm||Bluetooth-enabled devices|
|AfterShokz Aeropex||Bluetooth-enabled devices|
|AfterShokz Trekz Air||Bluetooth-enabled devices|
|AfterShokz Xtrainerz||MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLAC files|
|Vidonn F1||Bluetooth-enabled devices|
|Tayogo S2||Bluetooth-enabled devices|
|H2O Audio Tri Multi-Sport||Bluetooth-enabled devices, MP3 player|
|Shokz OpenRun||Bluetooth-enabled devices|
|Zygo Solo||Bluetooth-enabled devices, FM radio transmitter|
|Shokz OpenRun Pro||Bluetooth-enabled devices|
7. Potential for Tinnitus Relief
Some individuals with tinnitus (a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears) have reported that using bone conduction headphones can provide some relief.
The theory is that by providing an alternative sound input, these headphones can help distract the brain from the tinnitus noise.
Disadvantages of Bone Conduction Headphones
While bone conduction headphones offer a unique and innovative way to listen to audio, they have certain drawbacks. Let’s delve deeper into these disadvantages:
1. Sound Quality
One of the most common criticisms of bone conduction headphones is that the sound quality doesn’t quite match that of traditional headphones.
This is mainly because they bypass the eardrum, naturally designed to amplify and enhance sound.
As a result, the audio from bone conduction headphones can sometimes come across as flat or lacking in depth. This might not be an issue for casual listeners, but it could be a deal-breaker for audiophiles or those who highly value sound quality.
2. Bass Response
Another area where bone conduction headphones often fall short is in delivering strong bass frequencies. Low-frequency sounds are harder to transmit through bone than through air.
So the bass from these headphones can sometimes feel weak or nonexistent. If you’re a fan of music genres that heavily feature basses, such as hip-hop or electronic music.
You might find the audio experience with bone conduction headphones somewhat lacking.
3. Battery Life
Bone conduction headphones often have a shorter battery life compared to traditional headphones. This is because generating the vibrations necessary for bone conduction requires more power.
This is something to consider if you plan to use your headphones for extended periods without access to a charger.
4. Sound Leakage
Bone conduction headphones can sometimes leak sound, especially at high volumes. This means that people nearby can hear what you’re listening to.
This could be a disadvantage if you’re in a quiet environment or where sound leakage could be a problem, such as a library or a quiet office.
Use Cases for Bone Conduction Headphones
Bone conduction headphones are not just a novelty; they have many practical applications that make them a valuable tool for many people. Here are some of the most common use cases:
- For Athletes: Athletes, especially runners and cyclists, can benefit from bone conduction headphones. These headphones allow them to listen to music or podcasts while being aware of their surroundings, which is crucial for safety.
- For Swimmers: Some bone conduction headphones are waterproof and can be used while swimming. Traditional headphones can’t be used underwater, but bone conduction headphones can transmit sound through the bones of the skull, even in water.
- For People with Hearing Impairments: Bone conduction headphones can be a boon for people with certain types of hearing loss. Since these headphones bypass the outer and middle ear and directly stimulate the inner ear, they can be used by individuals with conductive hearing loss.
- For Outdoor Enthusiasts: If you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, bone conduction headphones can allow you to listen to music while still hearing the sounds of nature around you.
- For Office Workers: In an office environment, bone conduction headphones can allow you to listen to music or take calls without completely blocking the sounds around you. This can be beneficial if you must be aware of conversations or announcements.
- For Military and Law Enforcement: Hearing the environment is crucial in tactical situations. Bone conduction headphones are used in military and law enforcement settings to allow for communication without compromising situational awareness.
- For Gamers: Some gamers prefer bone conduction headphones because they allow them to hear game audio without blocking out real-world sounds completely. This can be useful in social gaming situations.
- For People with Sensory Issues: Some people find traditional headphones uncomfortable or painful. Since bone conduction headphones don’t go in or over the ears, they can be a comfortable alternative.
- For Drivers: It’s essential for drivers to be aware of their surroundings. Bone conduction headphones allow drivers to listen to music, take calls, or get navigation instructions without blocking out the sounds of traffic.
- For Bikers: Similar to runners and cyclists, bikers must be aware of their surroundings for safety reasons. Bone conduction headphones allow them to listen to their favorite tunes while keeping their ears open to hear traffic and other important sounds.
Specific Applications of Bone Conduction Headphones
Let’s delve into the specific applications of bone conduction headphones and answer some common questions about their use:
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work for Deaf?
Bone conduction headphones can help people with certain types of hearing loss, such as conductive hearing loss, by transmitting sound to the inner ear through a wire instead of directly to the ear.
These headphones bypass the outer and middle ear and deliver sound directly to the inner ear.
However, bone conduction headphones may be ineffective for individuals with sensorineural hearing loss caused by inner ear or auditory nerve damage.
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work with Earplugs?
Yes, bone conduction headphones can work with earplugs. Using earplugs can enhance the listening experience by blocking out ambient noise and allowing the user to focus more on the sound delivered through the headphones. This can be particularly useful in loud environments.
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work with Hearing Aids?
This largely depends on the type of hearing aid. Bone conduction headphones can work with certain hearing aids, particularly those that do not fill or cover the ear canal.
However, for hearing aids that do fill the ear canal, using bone conduction headphones may not be feasible.
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work Underwater?
Some bone conduction headphones are designed to work underwater and are popular with swimmers.
These waterproof headphones can transmit sound through the bones of the skull, even in water, allowing swimmers to listen to music while doing laps.
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work in Loud Environments?
Bone conduction headphones can work in loud environments, but the ambient noise level can impact their effectiveness.
Since these headphones do not block the ear canal, ambient noise can compete with the sound being delivered through the headphones. However, using earplugs can help mitigate this issue.
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work with Hearing Loss?
As mentioned, bone conduction headphones can work for individuals with conductive hearing loss. They may also benefit individuals with unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear).
However, these headphones may not benefit those with sensorineural hearing loss significantly.
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work with Glasses?
Yes, bone conduction headphones can be worn with glasses. The headphones typically wrap around the back of the head and rest on the cheekbones, allowing plenty of room for glasses.
However, comfort levels can vary depending on the specific designs of the headphones and glasses.
The headphones work effectively, providing a unique way to experience audio. They transmit sound via vibrations through the skull, bypassing traditional air conduction through the ear canal.
This allows users to enjoy music or podcasts while maintaining awareness of their surroundings.
They’re handy for outdoor activities, those with certain types of hearing loss, and anyone needing to balance audio input with environmental sounds.
James Dimento is a Chief-in-Editor of SoundUnify. He is a headphone enthusiast and creative writer passionate about audio technology. He has three years of experience writing about headphones and sound quality and is responsible for creating reviews and taking care of all administration.