Bone Conduction Headphones: Everything You Need to Know

Bone Conduction Headphones

Imagine if you could still stay fully aware of what’s happening around you while listening to your favorite music through a headset. Yes, I know this may sound strange in the first place, but that’s exactly what bone conduction headphones are known for. 

Bone conduction headphones transmit sound through vibrations that travel to the inner ear via the bones of the skull, allowing your ear canal to hear the noises around you. 

If this concept sounds interesting to you, don’t miss this article. 

Going forward, I’ve covered everything about this unique category of headphones in detail, from the way they function to comparing them to regular air-conduction headsets. 

So, keep on reading!

Key Takeaways

  • Bone conduction headphones, or simply bone phones, are used by runners, cyclists, swimmers, musicians, people hard of hearing, etc. 
  • They transmit sound to the inner ears as vibrations via the skull. 
  • There are no potential downsides to these headphones if used correctly. 
  • There is no clear winner between air and bone conduction headphones, due to their different strengths and weaknesses. 

How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work? 

How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work

Image by Corsca

Now that you’ve got the gist of what bone conduction headphones are, I know you’re keen to understand how they work. So, here it is.

Bone phones are based on the bone conduction audio technology. What this does is convert every sound into vibrations with the help of a tiny transducer. These vibrations then travel to your inner ear (or cochlea) via the bones of the skull (the speaker)

This leaves your outer ear completely unblocked, and thus free to let in other external noise. 

But are bone conduction headphones safe? The answer is YES and NO. It’s a yes if you properly wear these headphones and for limited durations. And it’s a no if you do otherwise. 

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What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Bone Conduction Headphones? 

Example of Bone Conduction Headphones

Bone conduction headphones may be advertised as a ‘godsend’ gadget and it’s true for not one, but many reasons. But as every coin has two sides, the same is true for these devices. 

Below are the key advantages and disadvantages of bone phones. 

Pros of Bone Conduction Headphones

Keeps You Aware of The Surroundings

Being still aware of your surroundings, while listening to your music, is probably one of the biggest pros of bone conduction headphones. This way, you need not pause your song every time to listen to what’s happening around you. 

Helps Deaf People Hear

The sound waves produced by these headphones directly reach the cochlea (inner ear) of the wearer, skipping the affected parts of the ear(s), if any. Due to this, even deaf people or those hard of hearing can enjoy their favorite songs. 

In The Ear ITE Hearing Aid

Image by Philips Hearing Solutions

Note: One can use bone conduction headphones with In-The-Ear (ITE) and Invisible-In-The-Canal (IIC) hearing aids. On the other hand, you should avoid them with hearing aids such as Receiver-In-Canal (RIC), Behind-The-Ear (BTE), and Open-Fit. 

Useful For Different Professions

Bone conduction headsets are also useful for different professions. Take the example of athletes like cyclists, runners, swimmers, etc. They can use these earphones for communication with their team members and still have situational awareness. 

No Ear Wax or Infection Worries

As you’re not plugging anything into your ears, the risk of ear wax accumulation or infections is minimal with bone conduction headphones.

Comfortable to Wear

I’m not saying regular earphones aren’t comfortable. But they are notorious for falling off the ear or putting pressure on the head if worn for long. Forget how difficult it becomes to manage them in or around sweaty ears! 

This isn’t the case with bone conduction headphones that sit around your ears, against the skull. 

Better Awareness

You will be better aware of traffic and other potential dangers when you listen to music with bone conduction headphones in urban settings. The same applies if your job involves some risky tasks, where your hearing needs to be unaffected. This means that you can still enjoy some quiet music or take an important call while at work.

Cons of Bone Conduction Headphones

May Cause Hearing Loss

Yes, you read that right. According to the CDC, listening to loud sounds for a long time, be it with air or bone conduction headphones, can result in damaging your hearing. This is because it damages the cells and membranes inside the cochlea. 

Headaches and Vertigo

The sound vibrations produced by bone phones often cause headaches, vertigo, and even dizziness. And as your music gets louder, the vibrations become more intense. All this contributes to a weird feeling on your cheekbones. 

Skin Irritation

Another common issue I came across with bone conduction headphones is skin irritation, especially if you wear them for long hours. 

Lower Sound Quality 

Lower sound quality is the next big problem you’ll face with such headphones as they rely on vibrations to transmit sound, rather than air. Due to this, neither bass nor treble are clear while listening to anything. 

Sound Leakage

If you’re using bone conduction headphones in a public place, for example, the metro or library, your friend sitting next to you will be able to guess what you’re listening to. This is because the sound vibrations often leak into the atmosphere.  

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Air Conduction Headphones Vs. Bone Conduction Headphones

Air Conduction Headphones Vs. Bone Conduction Headphones

Image by SmartNested

The following table summarizes the various differences between air and bone conduction headphones. 

Aspects/FeaturesAir Conduction HeadphonesBone Conduction Headphones
Sound Quality BetterAverage
Noise Isolation Blocks out external noisesLets in external noises
SafetyNot safe if used for long hoursNot safe if used for long hours
ComfortStandard comfort levels  Better comfort levels
ApplicationsFor general useIdeal for sports
PriceMore expensive Less expensive 

Which Is Better, Air or Bone Conduction Headphones?

There’s no clear winner between these two types of headphones, as also evident from the above table. 

  • While air-conduction headphones work by vibrating your eardrum to produce high-quality audio with bass, they also block out almost all ambient noise. Examples: BUGANI B01, ORANPID PQ-1, etc. 
  • Conversely, bone conduction headphones work by converting sound into vibrations that then travel to your inner ears via the skull bones. As a result, you can still hear ambient noises, but the audio quality also gets reduced due to the same. Examples: H2O Audio Sonar PRO, JekaDabe OPENEAR Bone X2, etc. 

Hence, which of the two is best for you solely depends on your primary needs.  

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Bone Conduction Headphones: FAQs

Q: How Long Do Bone Conduction Headphones Last?

A: How long your bone conduction headphone will last primarily depends on the model you use. Still, most of them last between 6-8 hours per charge. You can, however, follow these tips to increase your headset’s battery life: 

  • Avoid using the headphones for long
  • Keep the volume level low to moderate 
  • Keep the firmware updated to the latest version

Q: Can a Deaf Person Hear With Bone Conduction Earphones?

A: Yes, a deaf person can hear with bone conduction headphones. This is also one of the main advantages of the tech. 

Q: Can Bone Headphones Damage Hearing?

A: Bone conduction headphones generally don’t damage your hearing. This is because they transmit vibrations to your inner ears via the bones of your skull, keeping the ear canal free. However, improper use or extremely high volume may affect your hearing abilities in the long run. 

Q: Can You Use Bone Conduction Headphones With Hearing Aids?

A: You can use bone conduction headphones with hearing aids only if you use In-The-Ear (ITE) or Invisible-In-The-Canal (IIC) aids. 

Q: Can Others Hear Bone Conduction Headphones?

A: Others can hear bone conduction headphones, due to the sound leakage limitation of these devices. This is because some vibrations get transferred into the air. 


The concept of bone conduction headphones isn’t new. It has been around for over two decades, with the first commercial earphones hitting the market in the 2000s. 

Although designed for athletes (swimmers, runners, etc.), musicians, and people with mild to moderate hearing loss, anyone can try and make use of bone conduction headphones. But before you go ahead and order a pair for yourself, be aware of their disadvantages too.


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