Most people like wearing headphones and listening to music as they work, study, travel, or exercise. Bone conduction headphones are particularly unique since they allow you to enjoy your favorite music while still being fully aware of your surroundings. But are these headphones safe to use?
While bone conduction headphones are mostly safe to use, they could contribute to vertigo if you listen to loud deafening music for too long. They bypass the eardrum, enabling hearing through the vibrations in the skull and jawbone. An extended exposure can cause pressure in the ear, leading to dizziness.
In this article, you’ll find more detailed information on how bone conduction headsets might cause vertigo. Additionally, you’ll discover how these headphones work, who they’re most suitable for, and everything else you need to know to decide whether they’re safe to use.
How Bone Conduction Headphones Work?
Bone conduction headphones work differently from regular headphones. The key differences include:
- Unlike standard headphones, they transmit sound waves via your skull rather than through the air.
- They leave your ears completely open, enabling you to hear whatever is happening around you. The transducers sit on your cheekbones, right in front of your ears.
- They don’t pass vibrations through your eardrums. Instead, they bypass them entirely, sending the vibrations through the bones directly to the cochlea.
Under normal circumstances, sound waves and vibrations from the air enter your ears, causing the eardrums to vibrate. In turn, the eardrums cause other tiny organs in the ear to vibrate.
However, with bone conduction, the eardrums don’t trigger the vibrations inside the ear canal. Instead, vibrations from the headphones get pushed through the skull, bypassing the eardrums and reaching the ear’s inner organs, setting them vibrating.
What Does This Mean to Your Hearing?
This attribute means that you hear the sounds inside your ear rather than outside. While this might sound confusing, it’s the same kind of hearing you experience when you chew food. The chewing sounds you hear don’t emanate from your ears. Instead, vibrations within your mouth transmit the sounds through your jaws, enabling you to hear them from inside your head.
You don’t hear the chewing of your food normally as your brain is used to this sound, but if you stop and focus on that action, you can hear it.
Bone conduction thus allows you to experience sound in a completely different way. You feel sound rather than just hearing it. Instead of your eardrum detecting sound waves from outside and transmitting them to the cochlea, the vibrations reach the cochlea from everywhere around you.
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Cause Vertigo?
Some people could experience vertigo due to loud noise when using bone conduction headphones. Wearing them can cause pain in the upper cheekbone temple area, as we have experienced, and make you feel uncomfortable due to the extra pressure.
At worst, this pressure could lead to headaches, vertigo (feeling off balance), or dizziness. These effects result from the vibrations that send sound through your cheekbones.
Furthermore, loud music results in more intense vibrations. Therefore, the louder the music and the longer you listen to it, the more pronounced the adverse effects.
What You Can Do When You Get Mild Vertigo?
The following are some simple recommendations when you get a case of mild Vertigo or dizziness. Vertigo is usually treated with some simple exercises or procedures.
It is recommended that you perform some of these recommended exercises or procedures after consulting with a doctor.
Some of these doctor recommended actions may be:
- Epley Maneuver or also called the Canalith Repositioning Maneuver
- Semont Maneuver
- Appiani (Gufoni) Maneuver
- Zuma Maneuver
Some other actions you can take if you are feeling dizzy are:
- Lie on a flat surface, in a quiet place to reduce the spinning feeling.
- Sit down immedietly when you feel dizzy.
- Be careful and do not bend over to pick things up if you are already dizzy.
- Lower yourself by squating if necessary.
- Move your head carefully and slowly during daily activities.
Who Can Use Bone Conduction Headphones?
Bone conduction technology has been around for years, but not everyone can use it. There are specially designed bone conduction hearing aids for individuals with hearing impairments, especially those suffering from hearing disabilities directly connected to their eardrums.
The technology is also effective in the diagnosis of hearing impairments. The thing is, these headphones don’t isolate sounds. Therefore, they might not be suitable for you if you’re looking for remarkably high audio quality.
However, they’re superb for individuals looking to have their ears free to hear what’s going on in their surroundings as they engage in other activities. Examples include cyclists, runners, or walkers.
And since the headphones don’t use traditional earbud drivers, swimmers can opt for waterproof bone conduction headphones and still listen to music as they do their laps. They’re also perfect for scuba divers, athletes, law enforcement, military communication, and construction.
Bone Conduction Headphones Pros and Cons
It’s important to understand the pros and cons of using bone conduction headphones. This information is helpful because it can help you make an informed choice regarding whether to use them.
So, let’s proceed to look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of bone conduction headphones.
- They’re comfortable to use: Since bone conduction headphones don’t plug the entrance to the ear canal, they don’t cause you to experience a suction-like sensation, which some headphones produce and can be pretty unpleasant. Furthermore, they sit away from your ears, which helps prevent headache-causing pressure over your head or ears. This benefit also helps you avoid ear infections.
- They help you remain aware of your surroundings: Bone conduction headphones don’t cover up our ears completely, blocking out external noises. They help you remain aware of your surroundings. Therefore, you can hear surrounding sounds like oncoming traffic. This advantage allows you to enjoy your outdoor workouts such as walking, running, and cycling a lot more since you stay alert and feel much safer.
- They’re lightweight: Some bone conduction headphones, depending on the manufacturer, are super lightweight, adjustable, and feature volume control.
- They’re useful as hearing aids: Bone conduction headphones are suitable for individuals with partially damaged eardrums because they bypass the eardrum. They allow them to hear sounds conducted through the bones rather than their eardrums. Also, they can help the visually impaired continue using their hearing sense and maintain awareness of what’s around them while still using headphones.
- They remain in place: Unlike ear pods that keep slipping out or headphones that fall off, bone conduction headphones stay in place. The bar provides a snug fit around your head, making them feel more secure and easy to use.
- The sound quality isn’t as good: These headphones don’t block off outside noise; therefore, the sound you experience isn’t as high quality. In other words, because your ears remain exposed, ambient noises mask the sound received through your headphones, resulting in lower sound clarity than regular headphones. You can wear earplugs to counteract this issue to some extent.
- Some users might find the headphones somewhat uncomfortable: Everyone is different, but It might take a while to get used to using bone conduction headphones, as you might not find them as comfy as your regular headphones. This adjustment requires you to get comfortable with the unfamiliar sensation of wearing plastic headphones around your temples.
- In some, they may cause headaches: Similar to standard headphones, using these headphones on high volume for extended periods can lead to headaches. It could also cause ear damage, leading to impaired hearing. However, headaches could also occur because of wearing bone conduction headphones that don’t fit well, as they press hard on your temples.
- They can be pricey: Due to the technology used in their manufacture and depending on the brand and quality, bone conduction headphones can be more expensive than standard headphones. They are certainly not as expensive as high-priced over-ear headphones.
How To Use Bone Conduction Headphones Safely
No matter which type of headphones you’re using, there are general safety guidelines you need to follow. Besides, the wrong usage, like extensive use accompanied by unnecessarily loud volume, could lead to severe consequences, like hearing loss following a damaged cochlea.
Below are valuable suggestions on how to protect your hearing by using your bone conduction headphones safely:
- Use moderate volume whenever you are listening to music or podcasts.
- Remember to take occasional breaks when using the headphones.
- Use the safety features that come with your headset to enhance your safety, such as volume control or noise reduction.
Bone conduction headphones provide a helpful way to enjoy podcasts or music without losing awareness of what’s happening in your immediate environment. And like regular headphones, they’re safe to use, so long as you follow proper guidelines like using safe volumes and avoiding prolonged usage without taking breaks.
- Wikipedia: Bone Conduction
- Healthy Hearing: Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) Causes
- CDC: How Does Loud Noise Cause Hearing Loss?
- WebMD: Vertigo: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Recent Findings
- AXA Health: Headphones and Ear Health
- Hearing loss – Symptoms and causes