In recent years, bone conduction headphones have become increasingly popular. They are marketed as a safer and more efficient way to listen to music or take calls while you’re active. But can others hear what you’re listening to through your headphones?
Others around you can hear bone conduction headphones if the volume settings are too high. These headphones send sound waves through your ear and head bones to your inner ear and are typically inaudible to others. However, if the volume level is excessive, others around you may hear the audio.
Read on for an in-depth explanation of how these modern headphones work, the benefits of using them instead of regular headphones, and why others may hear them when volume levels are high.
How Can Others Hear Bone Conduction Headphones?
These headphones work by transmitting sound waves through the bones in your head to your inner ear. This ability is what makes them an excellent option for people who want to listen to music or take calls while still being able to hear what’s going on around them.
However, these headphones can be just as easily overheard as traditional in-ear or over-the-ear headphones when volume levels are high.
Others can hear bone conduction headphones if the volume is too high. These headphones deliver sound through your bones, making them harder to overhear than other types of headphones, but when played at a high volume, these waves can travel through the*- air, allowing others to hear them.
There are a couple of different situations where others might be able to hear the audio streaming from your bone conduction headphones. These include:
- Physical contact with those around you – If those around you touch you, they may be able to feel the vibrations from the sound waves.
- Wearing glasses – If you wear glasses with these headphones, the sound might leak out since the glasses act as a conductor. However, if you switch to wearing contact lenses, you won’t have this issue.
Still, these headphones are generally much quieter than traditional headphones since the sound is designed to resonate against the bones in your skull rather than the air around them.
Are Bone Conduction Headphones Worth It?
Bone Conduction headphones are worth it. Their benefits include listening to audio at a much lower volume because the sound is transmitted through your bones. This feature results in less sound pollution, and they are also more comfortable to wear since they sit outside the ears.
Here’s a rundown of five primary benefits offered by bone conduction headphones:
- You can still hear your surroundings while wearing them: They allow you to listen to what’s happening around you without completely shutting out the sound. This ability is perfect for when you’re walking around or need to be aware of your surroundings and is much safer.
- They’re more comfortable to wear: These headphones don’t go inside your ear like traditional ones, so they’re more comfortable. They also don’t apply pressure to your eardrums.
- They’re perfect for athletes and people who are always active: Since these headphones don’t need any cords, they’re very mobile and perfect for athletes or anyone who is always on the go. You can also take calls without having to stop what you’re doing.
- You can listen to audio at a lower volume: Since sound gets transmitted through your bones, you can listen to audio at a much lower volume and still hear it clearly. This safety feature is perfect for people who want to protect their eardrums or don’t want to disturb those around them.
- They’re perfect for people with hearing loss: According to the UK’s National Deaf Children’s Society, bone conduction headphones are an excellent option for people with hearing loss because they allow them to hear the sound without it passing through the outer and middle ear.
That said, these headphones also have several downsides. These include:
- They are more expensive than regular headphones: They can often be more costly than traditional headphones. However, this is because they offer several unique benefits.
- They don’t work as well with glasses: If you wear glasses, the sound might leak out since the glasses act as a conductor.
- You still hear your surroundings: While this is a benefit for some, others might find it disruptive.
- They can be unpleasant at high volumes: At high volumes, the vibrations from the sound waves can be disruptive and even painful.
- Sound quality is not as good: The sound quality of bone conduction headphones is not as good as over-the-ear ‘Can” type headphones.
The following YouTube video describes some of the pros and cons of bone-conduction headphones:
Are Bone Conduction Headphones Better For Your Ears?
Bone conduction headphones are not better for your ears than any other headphones. You are at risk of cochlear damage from using any type of earphone that is too loud. Bypassing the ear canal and outer ear and sending sound vibrations directly to the inner ear minimizes the amount of sound transmitted to the eardrum.
These headphones do have the benefit of relying upon on-ear and head bone vibrations to transmit sound, they work even if there’s some damage to the outer or middle ear.
That said, it’s important to note that bone conduction headphones are not a cure for hearing loss. They may help reduce the risk of further damage, but they cannot reverse existing damage.
Therefore, it’s still important to take precautions to protect your hearing, even if you are using bone conduction headphones.
Is Bone Conduction Safer Than Earbuds?
Bone conduction headphones are safer than earbuds because it doesn’t require placing anything in the ear canal that would lead to wax buildup and infection. They also reduce the probability of bacterial infection caused by repeatedly sticking dirty earbuds in your ears.
“Bacteria and fungi thrive in moist, warm areas, such as the ear canal, and that’s where earbuds sometimes trap moisture and fluid,” said Hayley Ralph, MD, a family medicine provider at OSF HealthCare.Can Earbuds Cause Ear Infection? OSF Health
Still, there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind when using bone conduction headphones. These include:
- Avoid listening to music at high volumes: As we mentioned earlier, conduction headphones can be unpleasant at high volumes. Therefore, it’s important to avoid listening to music at an overly loud volume.
- If you have hearing loss, consult with a doctor: If you have existing hearing loss, it’s essential to consult with a doctor before using bone conduction headphones. This precaution is because the vibrations from the sound waves could further damage your hearing.
- Keep the headphones clean: Since bone conduction headphones sit outside the ears, they can quickly become dirty. Therefore, it’s essential to keep them clean by wiping them down with a soft, dry cloth.
Do Bone Conduction Headphones Cause Tinnitus?
Bone conduction headphones can cause tinnitus if you listen to your audio at high volume for long periods. Excessive vibrations from the sound waves can damage the ear nerve, leading to tinnitus. Loud sounds may also damage the hair cells in the inner ear.
Therefore, it’s essential to consult with a doctor before using these headphones, especially if you have existing hearing conditions, including hearing loss and tinnitus.
We have a lot of experience in this area because we have had tinnitus for years and use bone conduction headphones. Here is a good article on this subject called “Bone Conduction Headphones Use With Existing Tinnitus And Hearing Loss.”
Bone conduction headphones are a great way to listen to audio without disturbing others around you. They work by transmitting sound vibrations directly to your bones, which then transmit the vibrations to your inner ear.
However, they can disturb those around you if the volume level is too high. Bone conduction headphones also have some potential drawbacks. For example, they are slightly pricier than traditional headphones, can be unpleasant at high volumes, and may cause tinnitus.
- National Deaf Children’s Society: Bone conduction hearing devices
- ScienceDirect: The effects of distractor sounds presented through bone conduction headphones on the localization of critical environmental sounds
- ScienceDirect: The effect of sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus on speech recognition over air and bone conduction military communications headsets