Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss

Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss

Bone Conduction Headphones use with Existing Tinnitus and Hearing Loss has really changed my outlook on earphones. I have been using headphones, earphones, and earbuds for years. I also have Tinnitus (ringing in my ears) and Loud Noise-induced Hearing Loss, which can be directly attributed to the aforementioned products.

This article on Bone Conduction Headphones use with Existing Tinnitus and Hearing Loss is based on not only my own experiences and empirical evidence observations but scientific study research data quoted throughout this article and included in the reference section below. Bone Conduction Headphones use with Existing Tinnitus Hearing Loss let us listen to audio at lower volumes while not making tinnitus/hearing loss worse.

For a thorough description of the symptoms and effect of Tinnitus please see the article “Tinnitus: Characteristics, Causes, Mechanisms, and Treatments” by the Journal of Clinical Neurology from March 2009 by Byung In Han, MD, and corresponding authors  Ho Won Lee, MD, Tae You Kim, MD, Jun Seong Lim, MD, and Kyoung Sik Shin, MD.

Why Wear Bone Conduction Headphones If You Already Have Tinnitus With Hearing Loss?

First of all, I wear Wireless Bluetooth Bone Conduction Headphones and do it carefully and at low volume. I never listen to loud music or noises anymore if I can absolutely avoid it. I do it for the pure enjoyment of the medium of listening.

I use Wireless Bluetooth Headphones because Apple got rid of the wire jack/port on their iPhones, so it is the simplest way to do it unless you want to buy an Apple Lightning Wire connector, which I do not.

You have to continue to live in our society so we have altered our life to accommodate this situation of Tinnitus with Hearing Loss and a few other physical ailments with a small quiet lifestyle. No longer in a busy loud big city but in a small town. It certainly doesn’t mean there are no loud noises wherever you are but if we know about it in advance and cannot avoid it we wear earplugs.

In addition, for observational purposes and because I live in Alaska, I often wear the wireless Bluetooth Bone Conduction Headphones under a beanie pulled down around and over my ears, and or sweatshirt or different levels of rain or coat hood over them.

I wear Bone Conduction Headphones without earplugs to leave my ears open for bears or moose in the woods (or they could be walking down the street around here), and this also definitely keeps the sound compartmentalized within these enclosed areas.

Possibility of Damaging Your Ears

As we have spoken of in past articles “How Loud Is Too Loud With Bone Conduction Headphones?“ and “Why Are Bone Conduction Headphones Safer Than Earbuds For You And Your Family?” the possibility of damaging your ears or your children’s ears from headphones that are too loud is a quite real possibility. There is no cure for hearing loss or some Tinnitus conditions.

The Truth Will Set You Free

We always want to know the truth and there is only one way to find that out and that is by trial and error which I have loads of practice in!!

I personally did damage to my own ears while riding my somewhat loud Harley Davidson Motorcycle and turning up the music on my earbuds too loud to hear over it. Motorcycle engines create about 100 decibels of sound or more depending, and you are trying to hear whatever you are listening to over that.

My earbuds were under my helmet, oftentimes on long rides on the highways or riding to fast around town to blow off some steam on the big city freeways. You are always listening over the hum of the engine and the pipes. The result is Noise-induced Hearing Loss and Tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears and was a really bad idea.

Earbuds in Comparison to Bone Conduction Headphones.

The main reason for this article though is what happens if we use Earbuds today in comparison to Bone Conduction Headphones.

Nowadays I normally always wear Bone Conduction Headphones when I am listening to Audiobooks or Podcasts in the morning when we walk and exercise. It is one of our greatest joys to read while walking in the forest or to the ocean. When I use Earbuds, I notice that I can hear the ringing in my ears a lot more again.

Why Is That?

Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss
Human Ear Anatomy

Bone Conduction Headphones transmit sound through the bones in the skull rather than through the outer ear and eardrum. They can also still damage your hearing if you play them too loud.

Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss
Normal Hearing Description

Not sure why the Bone Conduction Headphones don’t seem to bother the Tinnitus as much as earbuds do but that is certainly my observation.

Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss
Bone Conduction Hearing Description

How Do We Hear?

This information is from the NIDCD

Hearing depends on a series of complex steps that change sound waves in the air into electrical signals. Our auditory nerve then carries these signals to the brain.

  1. Sound waves enter the outer ear and travel through a narrow passageway called the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum.
  2. The eardrum vibrates from the incoming sound waves and sends these vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear. These bones are called the malleus, incus, and stapes.
  3. The bones in the middle ear amplify, or increase, the sound vibrations and send them to the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure filled with fluid, in the inner ear. An elastic partition runs from the beginning to the end of the cochlea, splitting it into an upper and lower part. This partition is called the basilar membrane because it serves as the base, or ground floor, on which key hearing structures sit.
  4. Once the vibrations cause the fluid inside the cochlea to ripple, traveling waveforms along the basilar membrane. Hair cells—sensory cells sitting on top of the basilar membrane—ride the wave. Hair cells near the wide end of the snail-shaped cochlea detect higher-pitched sounds, such as an infant crying. Those closer to the center detect lower-pitched sounds, such as a large dog barking.
  5. As the hair cells move up and down, microscopic hair-like projections (known as stereocilia) that perch on top of the hair cells bump against an overlying structure and bend. Bending causes pore-like channels, which are at the tips of the stereocilia, to open up. When that happens, chemicals rush into the cells, creating an electrical signal.
  6. The auditory nerve carries this electrical signal to the brain, which turns it into a sound that we recognize and understand.

My Experience with Tinnitus and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss
My Experience with Tinnitus and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

So to me, empirical evidence is my experience with Tinnitus. I have not used Earbuds for at least 9 months for this exact reason. Once I switch from Bone Conduction Headphones back to Earbuds I notice ringing in my ears a lot more again.

For someone with Tinnitus, it is like taking 10 steps back because it can be so annoying and bothersome. I feel after utilizing Bone Conduction Headphones it almost feels like a cure in a way because I can still listen to music and lots of interesting reading and not notice the ringing in my ears like I am right now.

Is that Empirical Evidence? For us it is.

The definition of Empirical according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary is:

Definition of Empirical

1: originating in or based on observation or experience // empirical data

2: relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory //an empirical basis for the theory

3: capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment // empirical laws

4: of or relating to empiricism

‘Sound stimulation via bone conduction for Tinnitus relief: a pilot study’ 

A study as far back as 2002 called ‘Sound stimulation via bone conduction for Tinnitus relief: a pilot study’ by the Department of Audiology at the University of Göteborg, Sweden said:

“A potential advantage of bone-conducted sound is that it is transmitted to the cochlea without affecting the normal hearing via the external and middle ear. The present pilot study, on patients who use a conventional BAHA and who experience mild-to-moderate tinnitus, shows that bone-conducted sound has the potential to relieve tinnitus in the same way as air-conducted sound.”

Masking Tinnitus

Masking Tinnitus

Part of the benefit of wearing Bone Conduction Headphones or any Bone Conduction technology like Bone Conduction Hearing Aids is a way to mask the sound of tinnitus.

Bone Conduction Headphones use with Existing Tinnitus and Hearing Loss takes the earphone out of your ear and puts it next to them. Many earbuds and headphones block out external sounds, it can seem like it amplifies the ringing sound of tinnitus, and it sounds louder.

Sound Therapies for Tinnitus from the American Tinnitus Association

“Sound-based therapies function on four general mechanisms of action. (Mechanisms of action are the putative processes or reasons why a given intervention is effective.) Different products may emphasize a specific aspect, or include a combination of approaches:

  • Masking: exposing the patient to external noise at a loud enough volume that it partially or completely covers the sound of their tinnitus
  • Distraction: using external sound to divert a patient’s attention from the sound of tinnitus
  • Habituation: helping the patient’s brain reclassify tinnitus as an unimportant sound that should be consciously ignored
  • Neuromodulation: the use of specialized sound to minimize the neural hyperactivity thought to be the underlying cause of tinnitus

Getting the Word Out About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Because we believe this information is so important to get out to people because of what Tinnitus has shown to me personally. We love to post information that we have read to get a better understanding of what we have and how to deal with it.

Frankly, although there is treatment, there is not a lot you can do about Tinnitus and Hearing Loss except take great care not to make it worse. I am not ready for noise masking hearing aids so I try to be very careful and live with it. Part of the perception of Tinnitus is not thinking about it and in writing this article it has brought it to the forefront of my thoughts and magnified it which I find interesting but not fun!!

Please see the excerpt information below as they are great resources to read the full article and understand.

Diagnostic Approach to Tinnitus

Tinnitus Description from a “Diagnostic Approach to Tinnitus” by 
Richard W. Crummer, M.D., and Ghinwa A. Hassan, M.D. 
The State University of New York-Downstate, Brooklyn, New York

“The word tinnitus is derived from the Latin word tinnire, meaning “to ring” or “a ringing.” Tinnitus is defined as an unwanted auditory perception of internal origin, usually localized, and rarely heard by others.

Tinnitus is common, affecting up to 10 percent of the U.S. general population. It is most prevalent between 40 and 70 years of age, has roughly equal prevalence in men and women, and occasionally can occur in children.

The severity of tinnitus varies from an occasional awareness of a noise (e.g., ringing, hissing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, or rough sounds) in one or both ears, to an unbearable sound that drives some persons to contemplate suicide.

People with similar psychoacoustic descriptions of tinnitus may differ radically in their level of annoyance and sense of its impact on daily life. Epidemiologic data reveal that approximately one-fourth of persons with tinnitus are discomforted by it, whereas the remaining three fourths experience the condition without significant symptoms.

Tinnitus takes different forms and has different classification proposals. One classification system stresses distinctions between vibratory and nonvibratory types, while another system groups the different forms of tinnitus into subjective or objective classes.

  • Vibratory tinnitus is caused by transmission to the cochlea of vibrations from adjacent tissues or organs. Nonvibratory tinnitus is produced by biochemical changes in the nerve mechanism of hearing.
  • Subjective tinnitus, which is more common, is heard only by the patient. Objective tinnitus can be heard through a stethoscope placed over head and neck structures near the patient’s ear.

Most cases of tinnitus result from the same conditions that cause hearing loss.”

Tinnitus is Common

Types of Tinnitus With Hearing Loss

There are many descriptions of Tinnitus depending on who is describing it and the most common cause of tinnitus is noise-induced hearing loss.

Subjective Tinnitus

This is the most common type of tinnitus, and it is often caused by exposure to loud noise. This type of tinnitus can only be heard by the individual who experiences it and can be either temporary or chronic.

This tinnitus can vary in length and intensity and is experienced consistently for at least 3 to 6 months.

It can go on indefinitely and there is no cure for this condition if noise exposure to the hair cells in the inner ear caused damage. This tinnitus can tremendously affect an individual’s life with effects on sleep and daily activities.

Objective Tinnitus

Objective tinnitus is a type of tinnitus that is typically related to physical movement and touch. It can be detected by other people and it can be generated by muscle spasms in the ear or neck, and by other mechanical sources.

This is the only type of tinnitus that has the potential to be permanently repaired.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss 

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is quoted from an article by PM Rabinowitz – American family physician, 2000 – hannaziegler.tripod.com

“To be perceived, sounds must exert a shearing force on the stereocilia of the hair cells lining the basilar membrane of the cochlea. When excessive, this force can lead to cellular metabolic overload, cell damage and cell death. Noise-induced hearing loss, therefore, represents excessive “wear and tear” on the delicate inner ear structures.”

Sound Quality, Safety, and Usefulness of Bone Conduction Headphones

There is also lots of information going both directions on the sound quality, safety, and usefulness of Bone Conduction Headphones. This discussion pertains to someone who already has some level of Tinnitus.

Sound Quality, Safety, and Usefulness of Bone Conduction Headphones

Sound Quality For Someone Who Already Has Tinnitus

I personally am not an audiophile but love the good sound quality as much as the next person. While sound quality and clarity are very important with ringing in your ears constantly, it is a different scenario. Bone Conduction Headphones use with Existing Tinnitus Hearing Loss can make a difference.

For me having the convenience of Wireless Bluetooth Bone Conduction Headphones and the ability to listen to something while I am out and about in nature or a city is more important than the actual sound quality in those specific instances.

If I want super impressive sound quality than I would wear over the ear headphones or listen to open-air speakers. Again everyone is different and to each their own.

Safety of Bone Conduction Headphones

Bone conduction headphones are safe to wear and let you hear your surroundings while you are wearing and using them.  Bone Conduction technology and headphones are used by the U.S. military, and bone conduction technology is used in hearing aids and for the hearing impaired.

Bone Conduction Headphones are safe for your hearing as long as you do not turn them up so loud that you get hearing damage from loud noise. The technology is a safe alternative for earbuds and over-the-ear headphones.

Bone Conduction Headphones are most useful in activities that require your ears to be open for safety or for athletic activities. That is why the U.S. Military uses them in specific circumstances. We have often said that for the safety of a person who needs to hear their surroundings in city traffic, for instance, on a bicycle or running or a place where it helpful, they are a real asset.

Some Ways to Prevent or Lessen Hearing Damage

  • Minimize exposure to loud noise
  • Listen in moderation and not to just loud music.
  • Know your sound environment before going into it
  • Protect your hearing when necessary with standard or custom earplugs
  • Have a daily time limit
  • Don’t smoke Tobacco smoke has been linked to hearing loss.
  • Listen in quiet environments, so you are not trying to drown out unwanted noise.
  • Eliminate as much distortion as possible
  • Don’t put anything in your ear and avoid damage from foreign objects.
  • Get prompt treatment for ear infections.
  • Check out your medications and their side effects. Over 260 medications have been reported to cause tinnitus as a side effect.

1.1 Billion People At Risk Of Hearing Loss

World Health Organization highlights the serious threat posed by exposure to recreational noise

Press release:

27 FEBRUARY 2015 | GENEVA – “Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events, according to WHO. Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.

Data from studies in middle- and high-income countries analyzed by WHO indicate that among teenagers and young adults aged 12-35 years, nearly 50% are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from the use of personal audio devices and around 40% are exposed to potentially damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues. Unsafe levels of sounds can be, for example, exposure to in excess of 85 decibels (dB) for eight hours or 100dB for 15 minutes.”

In Conclusion with Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss

We love Wireless Bluetooth Bone Conduction Headphones and the options they give us. We wear them every week during different activities and listen to different things with them.

What we have learned is to do all things in moderation including listening to any type of music, information, or format through any type of medium weather it be the stereo speakers in your automobile or earbuds while walking in the park at lower volume so that we do not make our Tinnitus and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss any worse.

We recommend that we learn about this for our children and pass on the information to younger generations. With new technology will also come new options and opportunities for enjoying music and sound with less danger.

If we can share this information of Bone Conduction Headphones use with Existing Tinnitus and Hearing Loss with one person and it helps them then we have definitely done our job today!!

References:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empirical
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12166689
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S037859551630291X
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686891/
https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/earbuds.html
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1541931218621313
https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/headphones-hearing-loss/
https://www.ata.org/managing-your-tinnitus/treatment-options/sound-therapies
http://hannaziegler.tripod.com/ent/varia/rabinowi.pdf
https://mysoundtherapy.com/us/wp-content/uploads/Diagnostic-Approach-to-Tinnitus.pdf
https://hearsmart.org/resources/portable-music/
https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/ear-care/en/

John Mortensen

I was a project manager and am a technology and science enthusiast who loves to study the latest technology, such as AI, smartphones, headphones, and software.

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