Why More People Should Consider Wearing Bone Conduction Headphones

There are significant benefits to leaving your ears open while listening to your audio device. Here are a few.

Pedro Costa
The Startup


And while some may think that if there are inappropriate times and places for wearing headphones, then why bother wearing them at all? After all, it is much rather a personal desire to have a musical playback than a real “matter-of-life” necessity.

Yet, there is a whole science about how music affects our mood and productivity. When listening to the right tunes, music can activate hormones that, for example, help us to wake up in the morning by increasing happiness, it boosts our performance while exercising, it allows us to focus and relax by decreasing anxiety, and so on. That’s why I don’t feel like exaggerating when I say that for many people listening to music in their different daily situations is pretty much a sacred ritual, just the same as having a cup of coffee in the morning is.

Lucky for us that we’re living in the 21st century with every kind of headphones available out there in terms of sound quality, design, price range, and different built-in features like Bluetooth, AI, and whatnot. However, I bet that most of you could think of only three ways of wearing headsets, namely, in-ear, on-ear, and over-the-ear. This means that in every case, we’ll be receiving the sound through our ear canals (this process is called air conduction). Its effect is that we immerse ourselves more or less in the digital audio content and consequently shut off from our surroundings. Now, while in some cases, this is the exact desired effect, however, in worst cases, this can also be life-threatening.

But there is a way around it!

What Is Bone Conduction and How Does It Work?

While the technology itself is not so new; it dates back to as far as the 16th century. Beethoven used it after he lost most of his ability to hear, it is implemented in most hearing aid devices, and the military utilizes it for communication. Though, it was only about a decade ago that it was first introduced to the consumer market.

If you see headphones said to have an open-ear design, they will most likely use bone conduction tech. Resting on cheekbones, bone conduction headphones work by transmitting sound vibrations through the human skull and skin, bypassing the ear canal, straight into the inner ear. The effect is that now you have a parallel hearing channel since your ears are left open and therefore continue receiving the sounds from the surroundings, and here come some crucial points why having such an augmented layer of sound is really, really good!

Safety First

Especially for those living in big cities!

According to a recent study by Audio Analytic, there has been an increase in pedestrians, joggers & cyclists wearing noise-canceling headphones in the past year. And I’m sure that to most readers this will not come as striking news that, according to the same study, there has also been an increase of traffic-related accidents involving people wearing such kinds of headphones as they get easily distracted and unaware of their surroundings and the traffic.

So, if you’re one of those people who has to conquer the traffic bustle every morning while biking to work without having to crash into another cyclist, or if you’re jogging or simply walking around the town, then you better hear the ambulance sirens approaching before you cross that street… I could go on with the examples, but I think that you get the point. If staying aware of the hazards is your priority, then you should consider using open-ear headphones.

Communication Is the Key

Listening to some lo-fi hip hop beats always helps me Zen and focus better when I work on my computer. I do that a lot when I’m working at the office, and I know that many people like to do the same. However, I’ve noticed that when I wear my headset at work, my colleagues feel uncomfortable to approach me if they need my assistance.

In our perception, we associate traditional in-ear/on-ear headphones with isolation from the external environment. A person wearing headphones sends others a message of being unavailable for communication, even though that’s not always the case (especially when you’re at work with other people).

Open-ear headphones are an excellent alternative for such occasions where you need to stay connected and approachable, but it’s also okay to vibe out a little to your tunes if that helps you focus.

No More Ear Canal Discomfort

If you haven’t found the headphones with a perfect fit to your ears, then it can really (and I mean REALLY) ruin the whole listening experience. I’ve had so many cases with earbuds being too small and falling out of my ears, or, on the contrary, being too big and therefore creating discomfort in my ears, and even distorting the sound quality. I’ve had also experienced on-ear headphones that were so tight that I couldn’t wear them for more than half an hour.

The good thing about open-ear headphone design is their comfortable fit. Since they are resting on cheekbones, you don’t have to worry about clogging your ears anymore. You might get a little ticklish sensation from the sound vibrations, but that’s about it.

To conclude, it is also necessary to mention that while using bone conduction headphones, one should not expect the extraordinarily superb sound quality of the traditional headphones. In fact, if bone conduction headphones had that feature, it wouldn’t be possible to have the benefits as mentioned above. It is though a whole new and unique listening experience for its users. Just imagine doing whatever you’re usually doing but always having an audio playback, as if you were, for example, playing music in your room in the background. Pretty cool, I would say.



Pedro Costa
The Startup

Hey, I am Pedro. Acoustics engineer and a huge audio and tech nerd, who’s currently working on making open-ear headphones. Founder at Auricle. www.auricle.io