Bone Conduction Headphones EXPLAINED: Pros & Cons…

by | 23/07/2021 8:13 am
This blog post may contain affiliate links

What are bone conduction headphones? And how do they work? In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know + the PROS & CONS of using bone conduction headphones…


99.9% of people use standard headphones, either earbuds or over-ear headphones. This has been the case since headphones first arrived on the market.

And while new tech has arrived on the scene – noise-canceling and wireless connectivity, for instance – headphones have always worked in the same fashion. You place the headphones inside or over your ears to listen to music or podcasts or whatever audio you like.

What Are Bone Conduction Headphones?

Bone Conduction Headphones EXPLAINED
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Bose Sport Open EarBuds | Arguably The Best Bone Conduction Earbuds On The Market | VIEW PRICES

Borrowing from the hearing aid industry, bone conduction headphones do things slightly differently. For starters, you do not wear them in your ears. Instead, they rest on the side of your face, around your cheekbones, while the headset itself usually latches onto your ears for grip.

This means the eardrum does not vibrate to pass the sound along to the cochlea. Instead, the vibrations are poised along using bone conduction to the cochlea – it still uses vibration, just a different pathway.

This is completely different from how normal headphones work; bone conduction headphones do not require you to wear anything in your ear canal. And while that might sound utterly bonkers for a set of headphones, the technology works and is now available in products from company’s like Bose with its Sport Earbuds.

Bone conduction headphones are a great option for anyone that has hearing difficulties as the eardrum is bypassed entirely. For many, bone conduction headphones are more comfortable to wear as well; they sit on the side of your face and cause less discomfort than some in-ear headphones and over-ear headphones.

And because the sound is not isolated, it makes them a great option for runners or anyone exercising outside that needs to be aware of their surroundings.

It is all too easy to become immersed in music or a video while running or walking and step out in front of a bus, for instance. With bone conduction headphones this doesn’t happen – you can hear your surroundings perfectly.

Bone Conduction Headphones PROS & CONS

Ever since bone conduction headphones arrived on the scene, they have been a hotly contested subject. Audiophiles loathe them and advocates love them. The lack of isolation is the biggest issue for many; music and audio just sound weak and watered down compared to standard headphones.

If Marmite made headphones, they’d be bone conduction headphones. And while there are some benefits to bone conduction headphones, there are also plenty of caveats to consider too. Sound quality is the biggest. There is only so much you can do with bone conduction.

And even the best products on the market pale in comparison to the sound quality and fidelity you get from even a cheap pair of earbuds or headphones. For those with hearing issues or difficulties, sure, bone conduction headphones are a great option. But if you’re hearing is fine, there is literally no reason to use bone conduction headphones over standard ones.

However, to write-off bone conduction headphones as a gimmick does the technology a massive disservice. The applications of bone conduction headphones for those with hearing difficulties, even partial hearing loss, is enormous.

For instance, if you have hearing loss in one ear, you cannot enjoy music in stereo. But with a set of bone conduction headphones, you can – and that is significant. As someone that loves music, if I lost my hearing in one ear, or both, I’d be extremest thankful someone had come up with bone conduction headphones.

Bone Conduction Headphones EXPLAINED: Pros & Cons…
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And this is what bone conduction headphones were designed for in the first place. The technology was envisaged to help those with hearing loss enjoy music. The fact that headphone companies market them as viable alternatives to standard headphones for people without hearing issues is another thing entirely.

The main reason why bone conduction headphones aren’t a great option for most people is that there is no insulation. Your ear canals are wide-open and listening 24/7 to ambient and environmental noise. If you wear bone conduction headphones, you’ll hear the audio, of course, but it will be mixed up with all the auditory sounds your ears are picking up.

This makes the music sound weak, flat, and less detailed and engaging compared to a traditional pair of headphones that block out all external sound. The blocking (or insulation) of the sound is what makes music sound so good via a good pair of headphones. Add in things like active noise cancellation and you’re transported away into another world entirely.

This kind of immersion just isn’t possible with a pair of bone conduction headphones, however, for things like audiobooks and podcasts, I guess, bone conduction headphones could work in a daily routine, especially if you want to be aware of your surroundings.

Should You Buy Bone Conduction Headphones? Wrapping Up…

Is it worth getting a pair of bone conduction headphones? If you have hearing loss, even partial hearing loss, then a pair of bone conduction headphones are 100% worth getting. In this respect, bone conduction headphones are a godsend. You will be able to listen and hear music and audio in stereo, and that is a massive blessing.

If you do not have any issues with hearing, bone conduction headphones probably do not make sense. They lack the quality and punch, as well as the isolation of sound, you get with traditional headphones. You’ll get more engaging sound from a $10 pair of headphones than you would from a $200 pair of bone conduction headphones.

The one major PRO bone conduction headphones have going for them, however, is that they’re a great option for runners or cyclists that need to be aware of their surroundings at all times but still want to listen to music. In this context, bone conduction headphones make a lot of sense.

bose-quietcomfort-35-ii-worth-it
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Bose QC35 II Headphones – My Current Daily Driver

I run a lot, so I can attest to just how useful bone conduction headphones are in this context. You can listen to music or any source of audio, while still being fully aware of everything that is going on around you. But the sound is NOT as good as standard headphones – it’s not even close.

I tested and used the Bose Sport Open EarBuds a while back. These use a riff on bone conduction technology to deliver sound, and they work surprisingly well. They’re not cheap. But if you’re going to get a pair of bone conduction headphones, these are probably the ones you want to be looking at – they are renowned for their sound and comfort.

Would I replace my Bose QC35 II’s with the Bose Sport Open EarBuds? Hell no! The difference in sound quality between these two products from the same brand is like night and day – the QC35 II’s are immersive, sound huge, and feature outstanding noise cancellation. And they’re now excellent value for money too. I always describe them as a portal to another dimension whenever anybody asks me about them.

Once you’re 6 miles into a run with TOOL’s Lateralus cranked up, you truly are in a different, wonderful place. And you simply cannot get this kind of experience with bone conduction headphones. For this kind of thing, you need complete isolation AND noise cancellation, two things bone conduction headphones cannot do…

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