How Loud Is Too Loud With Bone Conduction Headphones? I have done a lot of experimenting with Headphones and Earbuds, trying to find the perfect pair. I also have Tinnitus and Noise-induced Hearing Loss, as I have discussed in previous blog articles. I don’t want to make the Tinnitus worse. Once I found Bone Conduction Headphones, it made my life easier.
How Loud Is Too Loud With Bone Conduction Headphones? This goes for all types of Headphones and Earbuds. With any sound, the recommended exposure limit is 85 decibels in 8 hours, and it is considered hazardous and dangerous over that. 85 Decibels is equivalent to noise from heavy city traffic, so not as loud as you would think.
I listened to music on my Earphones and Ear Bud’s way too loud for way too long. I used them mostly at the gym and on my motorcycle. I was also a Construction Project Manager around large commercial, hotel, and industrial building projects.
Over the years, from hearing simple hammering nails and power saws, Life Safety Sirens being tested literally over my desk, to Jack Hammers and Heavy Equipment on a daily basis. You certainly don’t have to run it to hear it. You also had to be Osha 30 Certified, so this was also always part of the training.
Bone Conduction Headphones and Technology for Listening to Music or an Audio Book talking on the phone while:
- Working Out & Gym
- Snowboarders & Skiers
- Runners, Hiking, or Walkers
- Scuba Diving, Swimming, & Snorkeling
Bone Conduction Headphones do not sit in your ear canal because they ride on your cheekbones. They do not have better-sounding music than High-End Earphones, and they are not as small and convenient as Ear Buds.
What Bone Conduction Headphones do have is an amazing ability to give you great sound while you can also hear the rest of the world. This is wonderful for so many things and in so many ways.
This attribute makes bone-conduction a great choice for so many activates and anyone who would like to enjoy Music or an Audiobook while staying alert and aware of their surroundings.
So How Loud Is Too Loud With Bone Conduction Headphones?
In 1972, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health NIOSH published Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Noise. In 1998 new recommendations go beyond attempting to conserve hearing by focusing on preventing occupational noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)
The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit is 85 decibels in 8-hr time-weighted average (85 dBA as an 8-hr Time Weighted Average). Exposures at and above this level are considered hazardous.
Here Are The Average Decibel Ratings of Some Familiar Sounds:
- The humming of a refrigerator
- Normal conversation
- Noise from heavy city traffic
- An MP3 player at maximum volume
- Firecrackers and firearms
Open Ear Design Benefits of Bone Conduction Headphones
Due to their open ear design, Bone Conduction Headphones may be helpful for anyone with Sensorineural, Conductive, or Mixed Hearing Loss and anyone who wears hearing aids.
They are also potentially helpful for Tinnitus sufferers as they allow ambient sounds to enter the ear canal and may effectively act as a masking solution for individuals suffering from this condition.
We discuss many aspects of Bone Conduction Headphone performance in many of our other articles. Two are “Compare Bone Conduction Headphones And Other Types Of Headphones” and the visually beautiful article “Where Do You Use Your Bone Conduction Headphones?”
Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
- Listening to loud noises or explosions
- A blow to the head
- Drugs that are toxic to hearing
- Hearing loss that runs in the family
- A problem in the way the inner ear is formed
Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss
- Fluid in your middle ear from colds or allergies.
- Ear infection, or otitis media.
- Poor Eustachian tube function.
- A hole in your eardrum.
- Benign tumors.
- Earwax, or cerumen, stuck in your ear canal.
- swimmer’s ear or Infection in the ear canal
- An object stuck in your outer ear. An example might be if your child put a pebble in his ear when playing outside.
- A problem with how the outer or middle ear is formed.
Dr. Lindsay Bondurant, director of the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI), uses these devices personally. She says along with outdoor activities, bone conduction headphones are useful for swimmers, snorkelers or scuba diving enthusiasts also.
“I wear my bone conduction headphones while swimming – because these devices work using vibration, they’re great for use underwater,” said Dr. Bondurant.Salus University – Pennsylvania Ear Institute – How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?
While they have several safety and design advantages over traditional headphones, bone-conduction headphones can still damage hearing when music or sound is played at high volumes.
According to the ATA, the American Tinnitus Association, Sensorineural hearing loss is commonly accompanied by tinnitus. Some researchers believe that subjective tinnitus cannot exist without some prior damage to the auditory system. The underlying hearing loss can be the result of:
- Noise-induced hearing loss- Exposure to loud noises, either in a single traumatic experience or over time, can damage the auditory system and result in hearing loss and sometimes tinnitus as well. Traumatic noise exposure can happen at work (e.g. loud machinery), at play (e.g. loud sporting events, concerts, recreational activities), and/or by accident (e.g. a backfiring engine.) Noise-induced hearing loss is sometimes unilateral (one ear only) and typically causes patients to lose hearing around the frequency of the triggering sound trauma.
- Age-related hearing loss(presbycusis) – Hearing often deteriorates as people get older, typically starting around the age of 60. This form of hearing loss tends to be bilateral (in both ears) and involves the sensory loss of high-frequency sounds. Age-related hearing loss explains, in part, why tinnitus is so prevalent among seniors.
When you have tinnitus — or ringing in your ears — many things can make those sounds worse. One of the most obvious is noise. Loud sounds from things like machinery, headphones, and concerts can cause short-term ringing or permanent hearing loss. Do what you can to avoid it. Move farther away. Wear earplugs. Turn down the volume. Don’t forget to protect kids’ ears, too.
How Earbuds Damage the Ears
On the website Kidshealth.org, Dr. Danielle Inverso says, “Believe it or not, earbuds can damage your hearing in the same way that things like chainsaws and motorcycles can. That may seem weird because earbuds are so small. But the damage is all in the volume.
Chainsaws and motorcycle engines create about 100 decibels of sound. That much sound can start to damage a person’s ears after less than half an hour. An MP3 player at 70% of its top volume is about 85 decibels. Turning the volume up and listening for long periods of time can put you in real danger of permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss from earbuds is an example of a condition called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). This kind of hearing loss is becoming more of a problem among kids and teens.”Kidshealth.org – Dr. Danielle Inverso
Industries That Started Bone Conduction Technology
- The U.S. Military was one of the first adopters of bone conduction technology. They implemented the behind-the-ear style headsets in order to communicate on the battlefield.
- Hearing Aid patients can be switched to the bone conduction device known as BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aids). These headphones can be used when you are wearing a hearing machine.
- Sports and Scuba Diving Bone conduction technology is used underwater. Casio was the first company to use this technology in scuba diving.
According to the Hearing Journal, “Vibratory technology such as bone-conduction hearing aids can overcome a conductive hearing loss in some hearing-impaired listeners who, for various reasons, receive limited benefit from conventional air-conduction hearing aids. These reasons include the presence of a fluctuating conductive loss, typically caused by recurrent otitis media, and the absence of a pinna or ear canal.”
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
This web page by the National Institutes of Health has this to say about noise-induced hearing loss:
“Normally, these sounds are at safe levels that don’t damage our hearing. But sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, even for a brief time, or when they are both loud and long-lasting. These sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).”NIH – Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
From a Letter to the Editors of Hearing Journal:
In the article “Letters: The Truth about Bone-Conduction Earphones” Portnuff, Cory AuD, Ph.D.; Berger, Elliott MS
It states that “The maximum output levels of MP3 players. The highest reported output level of which we are aware in the peer-reviewed literature is 120 dBA, with a tight-fitting earphone. (J Acoust Soc Am 2008;123:4227).”
The description of the Aftershokz bone-conduction earphones included the statement, “Because the headphones do not use the eardrums to transmit sound, they allow users to listen to music without the risk of eardrum damage.”
MP3 player earphones are not capable of producing levels great enough to cause an eardrum perforation, so users would not be at risk of eardrum damage from any type of earphone. Rather, listeners are at risk of cochlear damage from the overuse of any type of earphone. The fact that these earphones use bone-conduction transducers does not inherently make them any safer than any other earphone, as the bone-conducted sound is transduced by the cochlea similarly to air-conducted sound.The Hearing Journal – The Truth about Bone-Conduction Earphones” Portnuff, Cory AuD, Ph.D.; Berger, Elliott MS
Pros and Cons of Bone Conduction Headphones
- Conductive hearing loss: This is basically when the outer ear and middle ear have something wrong with them. Which doesn’t allow that transmission of sound all the way into your inner ear or your cochlea? When that happens, you can’t use traditional headphones to get all of that sound to go all the way through for you to hear it well. That’s why bone-conduction headphones work so well. It completely bypasses the outer ear and the middle ear so you can stimulate that healthy cochlea in and of itself.
- If you don’t like things inside your ear, or you have sensitive ears, or you have issues with earwax, then these headphones are for you. The cool thing about Bone Conduction devices is that they don’t need to have anything that goes inside of your ear canals for them to work. This is because you are not actually using your ear canal or your middle ear. You are stimulating that bone directly, which can stimulate that cochlea and cause those hair cells to send that signal to your brain.
- The whole concept of using bone conduction is that you can get those transducers to press hard enough into your skull in order to create a vibration that your ear can pick up and hear. The pressure is not an incredible amount of pressure, but you can feel it when you are just sitting there and relaxing.
- Another drawback is that they just don’t function as well as over-the-ear headphones in terms of sound quality unless you have conductive hearing loss. If you are suffering from this, go ahead and purchase these bone conduction hearing devices.
Number of People in the U.S. with Hearing Loss Expected to Nearly Double in Coming Decades
Headphones and Earbuds don’t have to be extremely loud to damage your ears. How Loud Is Too Loud With Bone Conduction Headphones? It obviously depends on how loud the sound is and how long you listen. The louder the sound is, the less time you can safely listen to it. Sound levels of 85 dB are considered safe for 8 hours per day (40 hours per week).
Loud power tools can damage your ears as much as a much louder gunshot or explosion. Even listening to headphones or earbuds at a moderate volume can damage your hearing over time. The duration of the exposure matters just as much as the volume. Someone can clap their hands next to your ears super loud, for instance, and that force and snap could damage your ears in the right circumstance.
“The researchers found that the number of adults in the United States 20 years or older with hearing loss is expected to gradually increase from 44 million in 2020 (15 percent of adults) to 74 million by 2060 (23 percent of adults).”
Even If You Know the Decibels
Even if you knew the decibels of your music, some might be recorded louder, and some might be recorded softer. All of your volume settings on your smartphone and headphones and your listening volume could vary from album to album and song to song. Everything is recorded a little bit differently each time because it is an art.
CBS News reports “The top volume on an Apple music player, like the iPhone, is 102 decibels, about as loud as a leaf blower. Keeping the volume at 70 percent, or 82 decibels, is safe for eight hours a day. 80 percent volume, or 89 decibels, is safe for 90 minutes.”Apple – Change the way music sounds on iPhone
Most headphones and earphones tend to have a max decibel range of about 110 decibels. The average range is 97-107 decibels, and some models can reach 130 decibels.
How Loud Is Too Loud With Bone Conduction Headphones? These are some great posts some users made:
“The damage is not due to physical contact – the ear canal is much longer than the headphone ‘earbud’. The damage to your hearing is through vibration and damage to the hair cells. Damage to the eardrum can occur through vibration and perforation (if the music is stupidly loud)”
“As someone who is deaf in one ear, the bone conduction has been awesome. I can hear the stereo, unlike normal headphones.”
“Some of us are hard of hearing (40+ decibel loss, both ears) Stuffing an earbud in and cranking up the volume doesn’t may damage what little hearing I have left. Earbuds also don’t work with hearing aids. So our only real choice is bone conduction headsets. I have a pair that were only about $45 that works really well. They aren’t for everyone, yes there is a niche market, but that market is pretty large when you consider how many have hearing loss.”
“It’s not always about isolation or the dynamic range when it comes to wireless earphones. What is its purpose? For me, it’s an outdoor activity where I need to be able to hear what is going on around me while listening to either music or podcasts. I can pair to two phones, a big plus since I carry two. I frequently forget that I have them on. They last for hours. I like them!”
At the End of the Day, How Loud Is Too Loud With Bone Conduction Headphones?
You know at the end of the day if you are an audiophile and looking for superb sound performance and unequaled quality then Bone Conduction Headphones are probably not for you. They have good sound quality but I don’t believe that is the total point. These are to help people with a myriad of different ways with different issues as described above.
If you want a sports model that you can hear your surroundings with while listening to Music, an Audiobook, or talking on the phone, then these are wonderful. I use these all of the time because they are so convenient. I especially like to wear them while walking and listening to Audiobooks one of my favorite activities.