Everything you need to know about bone conduction technology and related products.
What is Bone Conduction Headphone?
Bone conduction is an alternative way of hearing, as compared to the previous in-ear headphones and earbuds. As we know, sounds are made up of vibrations. Receiving these vibrations can be through the eardrums (traditional in-ear headphones) or even through the cheekbones (bone conductions). Vibrations through the cheekbones go straight to your cochleas, bypassing the eardrum entirely. This bone conduction technology has been around for centuries. The history of bone conduction technology goes way back to the Shakespearian era. Surprising enough, Shakespeare was the man that discovered the bone conduction technology. This accidental discovery has resulted in major breakthroughs, one of them being the bone conduction headphone which initially was introduced into the army, like the helmet used by soldiers who drove the tank in a super loud and noisy room. Now as technology and modern manufacturing evolves, bone conduction technology is being applied to more and more consumer brands. The application offers amazing benefits for ordinary people.
Benefits of Bone Conduction Technology
Immersing yourself in your music is great and entertaining but it is also very risky. Listening to your own devices through in-ear headphones essentially shuts you off from the outside world and also signs of oncoming danger of accidents. Car honks, fast bikes, and even pedestrians from behind zooming past you would go unnoticed and you would not be able to react quickly to these hazards. Not leaving the phone addicts these days who have their eyes and ears glued shut to their devices, these people are literally putting themselves in isolation and danger.
Around 40% of pedestrians are distracted walking while listening to headphones.
Bone conduction headphones sit on your cheekbones directly in front of your ears, leaving your ears completely open to your surroundings. Your ears are undisrupted to listen to the surroundings and are able to listen for dangers that could potentially harm you. All this while not missing anything from your music or podcast, and even your phone call.
Most in-ear headphones stay in the ears by friction. You push the little thing into your earbuds and tug them inside. Unfortunately, earbuds always fall out whenever you do strenuous activities like running or exercising. Skipping or jumping ropes require big movements that may loosen the grips on your earbuds. You would always have to ensure that your earphones are still with you at all times. And even though losing one side of your earphone would not prevent the other side from working, it is still an expensive mistake.
On the other hand, wired earphones are a hassle when the wires dangle whilst you are wearing them and walking. Worst is when you are running and the wires get in your way. Not forgetting, the wires will get sticky upon contact with your sweat and work-out equipment.
Bone conduction headphones stay above your ears at all times. Your ears are completely free. It is much more comfortable and hassle-free working out or simply taking a stroll with bone conduction headphones.
Is Bone Conduction Headphone Safe?
It is scientifically proven that open-ear headphones are safer than in-ear headphones. As bone conduction headphones do not use the eardrums to transmit music, there is no risk of eardrum damage. Deborah Price, a doctor of audiology and vice-chair of the Audiology Foundation of America, told Wired in 2004 that bone conduction is “very safe” [source: Wired]. Bone conduction headphones use vibrations onto the user’s cheekbones to transmit the audio to the listener.
With every new technology, skeptics would worry about the novelty of it all and scrutinize the nitty-gritty of bone conduction technology. But think of it this way, nobody knew the invention of the internet would change how the world works but now here we are, insufferable if our Wi-Fi connection is down for the day.
When are Bone Conduction Headphones Applicable?
There are many scenarios when bone conduction headphones are needed. Situations, where you need to listen to your surroundings but also want to be plugged into your music or podcasts, are such instances.
On a 9-5 desk job
In the office, occasionally you want to listen to some background music without letting your coworkers hear them because they got their own stuff to do. But at the same time, you don’t want to shut them off from talking to you in case they have something important to discuss. Bone conduction headphones allow you to listen to your music while still being able to check in with your coworkers.
Listening to podcasts/audiobooks around the house
There are so many podcast and audiobook players right now. From daily news to criminal theories, there are just so many things to listen to these days than just songs and music. With bone conduction headphones, doing chores around the house whilst listening to your favorite podcasts or audiobook can make your day indoors so much more productive. And imagine, if you have a baby to take care of, but you don’t want to miss any good stuff from the podcast, just turn on the speaker. You would be able to listen to your tunes while able to check in with your child. Check out what we’re reading in our audiobook collections here.
Exercising by yourself jogging around the neighborhood can be dangerous. Strangers may creep from behind unknowingly when you’re plugged in with in-ear headphones. Also, when you are cycling in the open road, there are high risks of getting into an accident because you were not aware of vehicles coming from behind. By substituting the conventional in-ear headphones to bone conduction headphones, you will be aware of the surrounding hazard and be ready to react. Safety should always be the number 1 priority. With the biggest user of bone conduction headphones to be the runner and athlete community, this group understands the hassle and dangers when on the go. With bone conduction headphone, they are able to enjoy their run without feeling any boredom.
Future Developments of Bone Conduction Technology
There was wired bone conduction headphone, but now bone conduction devices are similar in essence – pair them with your smartphone and you can call, interact with voice assistance and listen to music simply by the transmission of vibrations via your cheekbones. As the demand for bone conduction headphone is growing, more and more companies are investing in this market. Not only the technology is getting better, and the forms of bone conduction products are also increasing.
OptiShokz’s audio sunglasses, the Revvez, feature patented AfterShokz bone conduction technology that delivers stereo sound through the ear cartilage. It features interchangeable lenses that is suit for multiple occasions. In summer when the sun is scorching too brightly, wearing your sunglasses and audio devices are just items of baggage that you have to bring around. These bone conduction glasses combine the two into a cool summer accessory. Brands like Zungle also came up with some very fashionable glasses.
True Wireless Stereo (TWS)
After Apple launched the AirPods, the true wireless stereo (TWS) headphones gained fast popularity. We foresee that there will be TWS bone conduction headphones very soon by the end of 2019. The TWS bone conduction headphone will definitely be a good complement headphone for those who are always on the phone. With both the benefits of bone conduction technology and TWS, the bone conduction version of TWS would definitely create some buzz among the headphone market.
Asistance Device for Medical Purpose
With the 5G communication coming on the way, there are companies now developing bone conduction communication system for doctors. With the bone conduction headphones doctors are able to hear the suitation in the operation room while talk to someone remotely for asisitance which may be conducted by a senior doctor.
Sgnl Phone Call Wristband
Another wearable device from South Korea is by Sgnl (pronounced as Signal). This wristband uses a similar concept as ORII’s ring to transmit vibration through the user’s ears. The wristband allows you to accept calls to your ears (through your fingers) as compared to Apple’s Watch where the call would be on loudspeakers. You can even attach your smartwatch to the wristband to make your watch even smarter! However, a peek into their Facebook page and it seems they are not ready for shipping at the moment.
Bone Conduction as a Hearing Aid
Bone conduction technology can be a good thing for people with hearing disability. The technology is now able to be used as a hearing aid. BoneTalker has already developed a prototype for the hearing aid. There are two parts to this hearing aid headphone. One is the bone conduction headphone part which transmits the sound via the cheekbone, so even people with damaged eardrum are still able to receive sound via vibration. The next part is the sound pick-up microphone. The microphone collects the sound and the processor will amplify it. Future development for this hearing aid headphone will be using better chip and AI algorithm to filter the noise and only retain the human voice. We believe that BoneTalker’s hearing aid bone conduction headphone will have a huge potential to replace the conventional hearing aid earphones and lower the cost greatly. If you are interested in getting your hands on this hearing aid version, contact us for an exclusive demo test.
Current Bone Conduction Headphones in the market
Swimming can be a boring sport if not for some musical entertainment. With this waterproof bone conduction headphone that is able to go underwater for a prolonged duration, swimmers are now able to listen to their built-in MP3 player. Swimming headphones are yet to be able to get connected Wi-Fi which means music streaming is still not a function.
Aftershokz have their Trekz Air and Trekz Titanium. Both bone conduction headphones are wireless and waterproof. Most users have feedback that the vibrations from the Aftershokz are a tad too strong on their cheekbones and it gives a weird tingly feeling. Personally, they are good headphones which promises a 6 hours battery life.
Choosing the right bone conduction headphone brands
Although the bone conduction headphone community is small and niche, there are still many brands around in the market. Choosing the right one is confusing and you wouldn’t want to shortchange yourself on the quality and features. After all, headphones are long-time investments that would be with you at the dullest moment to provide some entertainment. I have done the dirty work and scoured high and low for the premium brands that make the cut to be on your consideration.
As mentioned above, Aftershokz has its Trekz Air and Trekz Titanium. It promises 6-hour battery life as compared to BoneTalker Adder’s 4 hours. Undoubtedly, you can do so much more in 2 hours like cycling the extra mile or even watch three feature films as compared to two. The Trekz Air is very elegantly designed and durable with 2 years warranty but it comes at a cost. Literally. It cost USD 149.95 to get your hands on one Trekz Air.
A little cheeky plug here to feature our BoneTalker Adder. Our BoneTalker Adder uses Bluetooth 5.0 that gives a stronger signal for the great wireless audio experience. Which means hand-free phone calls can take place over a larger operating distance. We are in the process of developing more BoneTalker headphones that are better and ergonomically designed.
Future of listening
Traditional in-ear headphones will remain relevant as audio devices for most people. Some times, you just need to get away from all the noise and seek solitude from noise-canceling headphones. The sound quality from bone conduction does not offer that kind of tranquility and isolation that traditional in-ear headphones do. For the most part, bone conduction technology thrives where situational awareness is highly regarded.
Final thoughts on bone conduction headphones
As a leading brand in the industry, BoneTalker believes that bone conduction is going to get bigger and more advanced. More and more people will know and use bone conduction headphones. There are also some pros and cons, even from a bone conduction headphone company perspective.
- Good for your ears and hearing
- Heightened situational awareness for many scenarios
- Hearing aid
- More expensive as compared to conventional headphones
- Sound quality is less satisfactory as compared to Hi-Fi headphones.