Have you heard of bone conduction? I hadn’t either…until my son was diagnosed with a profound hearing loss in one of his ears. As a dad, I instantly went into problem solving mode. How do I help my son overcome this deficit in his hearing? We had multiple tests done, went to the best doctors, and finally one suggested the use of a bone conduction hearing aid. What is bone conduction, and how can it help my son hear?
What is Bone Conduction? – A lesson on hearing
Get ready for a little science lesson: The truth is when hearing is normal we hear through air conduction, meaning sound waves hit the eardrum and turn into vibrations which eventually turn into nerve impulses that are recognized by our brain. Bone conduction is hearing that bypasses the eardrum and directly vibrates the bones of the inner ear and then continue on and turn into nerve impulses which are recognized by our brains as sound.
An experiment you can do right now to understand bone conduction is to put your fingers in your ears and talk. The sound you are hearing from your own voice is done so through bone conduction. Another example of bone conduction is hearing underwater. There is no air present underwater so the vibrations that make sound are experienced through bone conduction. Bone conduction plus air conduction equals normal hearing.
I am trying it first!
Before I was willing to consider a bone conduction hearing aid for my son, I wanted to better understand how this hearing assisted device could possibly help him. After doing some research on the Web I found the same technology used for the hearing aids being used in headphones. Bone Conduction Headphones primarily use the same principles as the hearing aid, by sending vibrations to the bones of the inner ear to hear, rather than normal headphones that rely solely on air conduction, sending airwaves to the eardrum.
After learning about these bone conduction headphones I bought a pair and used them exclusively. They performed so well that I was in disbelief that they were purely bone conduction. Although I was right and they do have tiny speakers producing sound through air conduction, bone conduction is the primary source of sound and they are impressive. I was really impressed by their performance when I tested them with my ears plugged. By plugging my ears I took away my ability to hear through the air and relied solely on bone conduction, I was amazed. The sound was excellent and surprisingly crisp.
I was so impressed with how well the bone conduction headphones worked that I decided to test them against a pair of noise canceling headphones on a flight. With the use of earplugs blocking out all ambient noise the bone conduction headphones were by far the best I have used on a plane. The headphones worked great and it quickly helped me understand how this technology could help aid in hearing.
Used by Cyclists and Runners
Bone conduction headphones are popular with cyclists, runners, and anyone else who still wants to hear their immediate surroundings. The headphones do not fit inside the ear, blocking surrounding noise, rather they sit on the either side of the head and leave the ear canals open to the outside. This design allows these athletes to be more aware of their surroundings by keeping their ears unobstructed which enable them to hear on coming traffic and other possible hazards that may affect their workouts.
I can hear many of you saying, “I am not a cyclist or runner!”, well neither am I but I have walked in New York City at night with bone conduction headphones and felt much safer than if I had my ears covered with conventional head or ear phones. Additionally, I use them at night when my family is asleep so I do not disturb anyone and can still hear my son or wife if they need me. In the morning, I use them to hear the news and weather while my son is watching his cartoons and my wife is doing her thing, all the while still able to hear both of them is need be. I use them all the time and feel much more liberated that I can listen to my show or music and still have the ability to be present in my surroundings.
Ask Me How I Really Feel
If you have read up to this point, Thank you, you probably know I am a huge fan of Bone Conduction technology and yes I really think you should get a pair. I have tried three and can only recommend two. The first pair I tried were a friends and they were corded, let me just say “Stay away from the corded variety altogether!”. My reason for saying this is there is really no need for a wire anymore, and they were not very good…enough said. The other two were the Aftershokz and Vidonn. The Aftershokz work well but are pricey. I have had two pairs the Titanium and the Airs, both worked well but broke on me and I was out about $300 as a result. The Titanium broke on the headband, and the Airs blew out a speaker (I guess I played them too loud).
Being I busted these very expensive headphones I searched for a cheaper alternative and found the Vidonn F3 Bone Conduction Headphones on Amazon. They were substantially cheaper, a little more bulky but their performance is comparable to Aftershokz. I was very impressed at how well they have performed and held up for me. As of this posting I have had them for about 7 months and don’t think I would pay the extra to buy another pair of Aftershokz, unless it was their specialized waterproof model Xtrainerz, or the OpenComm with a boom mic.
Full disclosure: I recently caved and purchased the Aftershokz OpenComm to work from home. I tried a couple of cheap wireless over the ear headphone with boom mics, but was disappointed. I searched for bone conduction headphones with a boom microphone and the only option I found was the OpenComm. I have been using them for 4 months for work and am happy with my purchase. However, I wouldn’t pay the money for an Aftershokz model that isn’t specialized. The Vidonn F3 has worked great for me and are more than 50% less.
Check out the Best Bone Conduction Headphones in 2021 for another perspective regarding Bone Conduction Headphones.
Will They Help?
The verdict is still out on whether or not Bone Conduction will help my son, but at least I have a better understanding of the options for him. I also found an alternate way to listen to whatever I want to listen to. In my opinion, Bone Conduction is a safer way to listen to all of your media for the simple fact that it allows you to still be aware of your surroundings by not eliminating all of your hearing. The father in me is compelled to tell you, despite the increased safety of these headphones please watch your volume because even bone conduction headphones at high volumes can damage your hearing.
Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments below. Be well.