Are Bone Conduction Headphones Safer: Facts You Need To Know

It’s common to ask, “Are bone conduction headphones safer?”, especially with their emerging popularity among exercise enthusiasts. 

You can listen to music without blocking your ears, so you can stay aware of your surroundings. This makes them ideal for many runners.

These headphones are one of the best options for staying aware of your environment when running.

Are Bone Conduction Headphones Safer?

Bone conduction headphones are definitively safer than other types of headphones due to their listening style. 

Also, audiologists have used them for professional purposes for decades due to their unique technology. 

Instead of inserting them into the ear canal or resting over the ear, they transmit audio through your jaw and skull.

Bone conduction is one of the two ways humans hear, the other being air conduction

  • With bone conduction, sound waves transform into vibrations sent directly to the bones in your skull and jaw.
  • These vibrations then venture to your cochlear, the same ear structure that audio from other headphones reaches.

However, what makes bone conduction unique is that it bypasses the eardrum, one of the most sensitive parts of your ear. 

You’ll find these styles rest comfortably against your cheekbone, similar to your other running-specific gear. 

They can often be preferred by people who want to prevent hearing damage or have already experienced hearing damage.

Can Bone Conduction Headphones Damage Your Hearing?

One of the most important things to note about these headphones is that they’re not an entirely safe option. 

  • As with any listening device, there are risks to consider, especially with sound volume. 
  • Although these headphones pose a significantly lower risk to your hearing, using loud volumes can still be damaging.

Bone conduction headphones are known to offer a far lower-quality listening experience than standard headphones. 

This issue can lead users to turn up the volume of their favorite workout tracks to incredible volumes. Exposing your ear to higher decibel ranges puts your hearing at risk for damage, regardless of headphone placement.

If you’re someone who prefers to listen to subtle audio while working out, other headphones might be preferable. Otherwise, you’ll find that you’re continually toggling to max volume, putting your hearing at risk.

Are Bone Conduction Headphones Harmful: Other Concerns

As mentioned, bone conduction headphones aren’t perfect, nor are any different types of listening technology.

A couple of other significant risks, aside from hearing damage, to consider include:

False Safety Claims

One of the primary concerns for anyone shopping for bone conduction headphones is false advertising. 

Manufacturers are bound to promote the significant benefits of this listening style over others, often exaggerating the benefits. 

You could find yourself purchasing a set of headsets that don’t offer as much protection as you think.

It’s important to review the technical specifications of your listening devices before making a decision. 

Otherwise, you could own bone conduction headphones that don’t bypass your eardrum. Also, there’s still a primary concern about cochlear damage from using conduction-style devices.

Cochlear Damage

As earlier discussed, bone conduction headphones will transmit audio to your cochlear through vibration. 

With that said, it still puts you at risk for significant hearing damage, especially with the sensitive hairs and nerves in the cochlea.

According to the CDC, individuals can experience hearing damage from loud music in the inner ear, which is still possible with these headphones.

Dizziness and Headaches

It’s important to note that everyone’s physiology is different, which can cause various effects with new technology.

There have been a few reports of individuals experiencing dizziness from using these specialty headsets daily. 

Although there isn’t a specific medical reason why this could occur, it’s likely from repetitive vibrations.

Headaches are also common with bone conduction headphone wearers, especially with lower-quality options. The less adjustability your headphones have, the harder it is to find the perfect fit. 

This issue can lead to tightness around your jaw and skull, causing headaches with extended wear.

What Are the Safest Headphones for Your Ears?

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire solution to finding 100% safe headsets for anyone’s ears. What matters the most is the volume of the music you’re listening to.

The CDC has an interesting chart that thoroughly explains the average sound level your ears can experience before incurring damage. 

  • For context, a normal conversation is approximately 60 decibels, which won’t cause any hearing damage.
  • Motorcycles can be as loud as 95 decibels, which can cause hearing damage after as little as 50 minutes of exposure.
  • With music played at maximum volume, the decibel level can get as high as 110.

Unfortunately, hearing loss can be experienced in less than five minutes of listening to loud music. Considering bone conduction devices aren’t known for impressive sound quality at lower volumes, this is a concern. 

It could be better to opt for other headphone styles if you can and consider listening to music at lower volumes.

For those looking to prioritize ear health, a radical solution would be to forgo headphones completely. We have examined the pros and cons of running without headphones in a separate article.

Are Bone Conduction Headphones Safer Than Earbuds?

As mentioned, the volume at which you listen to music has the most significant influence on your likelihood of experiencing hearing loss. 

With that said, earbuds can be equally beneficial for an everyday music lover listening to tracks at a reasonable volume. 

In certain circumstances, though, bone conduction headphones have benefits.

High-Impact Exercise

If you’re a fan of high-impact exercise, opting for conduction headphones can be a safer alternative. 

They help reduce the likelihood of physical damage to the inner ear.

With earbuds, there’s the possibility of jamming the bud deeper into your ear canal, causing significant pain.

Headphone Reinsertion

Although this isn’t a prevalent safety concern, the convenience of conducting headphones far surpasses earbuds. 

Even with low-impact exercise, earbuds can easily fall in and out of your ear, forcing you to make continuous adjustments.

Reinserting your earbuds, especially if they’re in-ear buds, can cause discomfort to your ear’s structure.

Are Bone Conduction Headphones Safer Than Conventional Headphones?

As an alternative option to earbuds, you might be wondering if conduction headphones are safer than conventional headsets. 

There’s one crucial safety concern to take note of when comparing these two styles.

Environmental or Situational Awareness

When you’re working out outdoors, you must always be aware of your surroundings. From passing cars to other people, you’ll want to be able to hear everything to keep yourself safe.

Conventional headphones, such as over-the-ear or on-ear models, substantially reduce your situational awareness. 

This point is especially true with today’s technological advancements, with noise-canceling as popular as it is.

Even without any music playing, noise-canceling headphones reduce your ability to notice safety hazards, like passing vehicles. 

If you need to stay aware, bone conduction headphones are your best option.

The Bottom Line

Answering, “Are bone conduction headphones safer?” is essential for any fitness enthusiast. 

It’s common knowledge that they can be a safer alternative to conventional headsets when used appropriately. 

As with any listening device, managing your sound volume and headphone placement can reduce the likelihood of hearing damage.

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