Many are curious about the unique technology behind bone conduction headphones. But, there’s an on-going debate about its safety. Which side are you on?
Bone conduction headphones have been gaining popularity in recent years. With its unique open-ear design, a lot of manufacturers and advertisers promote it like it’s a godsend device to cure us of the risks of wearing headphones outdoors and headphones-related hearing loss. But others say otherwise.
Sifting through conflicting opinions can be tiring and confusing. And it’s especially frustrating when you really want to try this relatively new type of headphones as soon as possible.
If you’re one of those who are stuck between the two sides, worry no more! This article should answer all of your questions about bone conduction headphones’ safety and more. So read on!
How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?
Before discussing the safety of bone conduction headphones, it’s important to understand how they actually work.
For reference, the most common types of headphones use speakers, or drivers, to produce sound. Using these speakers, the sound is sent through vibrations passing through the air and into the eardrum.
Bone conduction headphones, on the other hand, use an entirely different technology.
When using bone conduction headphones, sound vibrations pass through the jaw and skull bones. From there, they travel directly into the cochlea, which sends the sounds to the brain. This means the sound by-passes other structures of the ear such as the eardrum. The sound is then heard from inside the ear, instead of outside.
So, Are Bone Conduction Headphones Safe?
Bone conduction headphones are a relatively new technology available to consumers. But bone conduction has a long history of being used for individuals experiencing certain forms of hearing loss.
In fact, it is widely rumored that Beethoven himself used this technique when experiencing hearing loss later in life. By placing a metal rod between his piano and his mouth, he would be able to hear the music through the vibrations in his mouth.
Despite its history of being used for hearing aids, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are safe or won’t cause any hearing loss, as many companies claim. As much as these companies would like to say that bone conduction is completely safe, that isn’t entirely true.
The question of headphone safety is complex. True, headphones and earbuds sometimes have a bad reputation. But whether they are safe for hearing loss or not depends largely on how you use them. The same thing can be said for bone conduction headphones.
Although there may be some distinct advantages to bone conduction headphones, they can still be unsafe when used inappropriately.
Hearing loss aside, there is one definitive way bone conduction headphones are safe. They feature an open-ear design, allowing users to hear their surroundings. This promotes safety, as it’s still possible to hear any warnings or dangers.
The final decision on whether to use bone conduction headphones is up to you. But knowing the pros and cons of these headphones can help you weigh your options and see what’s best for you.
The Case Against Bone Conduction Headphones
No product is perfect. In the case of bone conduction headphones, there are some common concerns reported by users that you should be aware of.
Has this ever happened to you? While reading a product description, you are blown away by its amazing features. But when you look at the reviews, they are completely different or negative. Any company trying to market a product is going to sell you on the great features. They’d be less inclined to share the possible negatives.
Some have claimed that bone conduction headphones offer no risk of hearing loss. That is simply not true. According to the CDC, the real danger of hearing loss comes from potential damage to the cochlea in the inner ear.
Sustained exposure to loud sounds can damage the hairs and nerves in the cochlea. Because bone conduction headphones still send sound to the cochlea, they can still cause hearing loss if used improperly.
Headaches and vertigo
There are certain negative side effects that have been reported when using bone conduction headphones vs normal headphones. Bone conduction headphones usually rest on your temples. Because of this, wearing bone conduction headphones can get uncomfortable or cause headaches. Some users have even reported vertigo or dizziness when using them.
These effects are mostly due to the vibrations used to transmit the sound through the cheekbones. Not all of us can get used to hearing things in a different way. Plus, as your music gets louder, the vibrations also get more intense, leaving a weird feeling on your cheekbones.
Ill-fitting headphones can also be the culprit. Discomfort can result if they don’t sit properly or put too much pressure on the head.
Nobody is the same, though, and your results and experiences are bound to be different than someone else’s. If you’re one of those who experience these problems, you may resolve them by staying at a lower volume level, and ensuring the right fit.
Bone conduction headphones rest on the skin above your ears and can cause pressure. Some people experience skin irritation, often when they are worn for long periods of time.
It is to be expected that any product used or worn for an extended length of time could cause discomfort. If you’re considering using bone conduction headphones, you might want to try them out for a while to see if you experience any of these side effects.
The Case for Bone Conduction Headphones
As bone conduction headphones continue to gain in popularity and usage, there are clearly many who feel that the benefits outweigh the negatives. No wonder why there are many types of bone conduction headphones on the market today!
Help make the hearing impaired “hear”
As mentioned earlier, a unique usage of bone conduction headphones is for people experiencing certain types of hearing loss, depending on the part of the ear affected. By heading straight to the cochlea, the sound waves can skip over the areas that aren’t working properly.
Not only that, they aren’t worn directly in or on the ear. They are often more comfortable to wear when using hearing aids, and less likely to produce feedback.
Keep aware of the surroundings
How often have you been immersed in your favorite music, completely unaware that someone is trying to get your attention? It’s a common problem when you can’t hear what is going on around you.
With bone conduction headphones, though, your ears are free. You don’t need to turn off your music to know what is happening around you. Being able to stay aware of your surroundings while still listening to your music is a huge advantage of bone conduction headphones.
Great use for different professions
Many professions require both regular communication and situational awareness. Soldiers, for example, need to remain vigilant about their surroundings. Wearing earpieces can be a danger, because they may not be able to hear and react to a dangerous situation. With bone conduction headphones, they are able to maintain communication with their team while remaining safe and situationally aware.
Athletes such as runners and cyclists also benefit from the many kinds of bone conduction headphones. These outdoor sports require a certain level of awareness to keep safe. And using bone conduction headphones allows users to remain alert to their environment.
Plus, most bone conduction headphones can be worn with safety helmets and other gears. You won’t have to sacrifice anything just to upgrade your ride with some music.
Everyone has different tastes and experiences. Some people swear by bone conduction headphones, and others prefer to use the more traditional options available. No matter which style you prefer, protecting your hearing is important.
If you want to keep your ears safe long-term, make sure you avoid extended exposure at high volumes. This is true whether you are using traditional or bone conduction headphones.
What do you think? Do you enjoy bone conduction headphones, or are there a different type of headphones you prefer? If we missed some pros and cons of bone conduction headphones, let us know in the comments below!