Bone conduction headphones are gaining traction at a tremendous rate as a generally safer option that’s also better for your ears. People believe they’re safer at high volumes because the sound doesn’t pass through your ear canal and eardrums. But is that true, or is it simply a false belief? Are bone conduction headphones really better for your ears?
Bone conduction headphones are better for your ears than standard headphones or earphones in some ways. For example, they are more hygienic since you are not introducing bacteria into your ears through them. But they still produce sound, so it’s possible to damage your hearing at high volumes.
Bone conduction headphones offer you many benefits over regular headphones, and some of those are because they are better for your ears. But that’s not always the case. Let’s look more closely at the impact of bone conduction headphones on your ears so you can know how to use them safely.
What Makes Bone Conduction Headphones Better For Your Ears?
Several factors make bone conduction headphones better for your ears than standard headphones or earphones:
Less Bacterial Growth In Your Ears
Standard headphones or earphones fit inside your ears or cup over them, blocking off the ear canal and inner ear from fresh air. This creates a warm, moist environment, the perfect breeding ground for different types of bacteria.
Usually, this would not be a problem, especially if you don’t use the earphones for long periods of the day and practice good ear hygiene. But some of us wear our earphones most of the day, especially if we work monotonous jobs or commute often.
Bone conduction headphones eliminate this problem because they don’t cover your ears at all, which improves your general ear hygiene and prevents bacterial growth inside your ear canals.
No Transference Of Bacteria
We all have to clean our ears regularly; hopefully, we do that daily. It gets rid of the previous day’s bacterial build-up. But it doesn’t help much if we clean our ears and then insert our earbuds that are still covered with yesterday’s grime. You can easily replace bacteria in your ears just by using the same earphones or headphones.
To make matters worse, when we’re not wearing our earphones, they are often in our pockets or desks, where they are exposed to even more bacteria and other contaminants.
Bone conduction headphones don’t have that problem for the same reason as the previous point: they don’t go in or on your ears, so your inner ears aren’t such an accessible entry point to infect your body.
No Build-Up Of Earwax
Regular earphones (specifically the in-ear types, like earbuds and AirPods) can restrict the natural flow of earwax out of your ears. Earwax is meant to carry dirt and bacteria out of your ears, so if your ears are plugged with earphones too often, it restricts that flow, often leading to a harmful build-up of earwax that could cause a wax blockage and various diseases.
Bone conduction headphones never interact with your inner ears, so they can’t block the natural flow of earwax from your ears.
No Irritating Pressure In Or On The Ears
Many people who try bone conduction headphones do so because they don’t like the sensation of the pressure that regular headphones or earphones place on their ears. Headphones can cup your ears too tightly, while earphones can cause friction or pressure inside your ears; it’s a common problem with people who have cauliflower ears.
In this case, the benefit of bone conduction headphones isn’t guaranteed, as we will soon see. But some people’s ears can benefit from the removed pressure.
They Can Help Prevent Hearing Loss
Your ears consist of multiple organs that are all essential for hearing. The first of these organs are all located in the ear canal, like your eardrums. Using regular earphones or headphones at high volumes can cause hearing loss. In this case, bone conduction headphones are better for your ears since they bypass your outer ear and ear canal, with all the organs in them.
Note that this is a generalization, and there are exceptions that we will get to in a moment.
How Are Bone Conduction Headphones Not Better?
Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. Not everything about bone conduction is better for your ears. For example:
They Can Still Cause Hearing Loss
Even though bone conduction headphones bypass your eardrums, the fact is that your eardrums won’t easily get damaged by any type of earphone since most cannot go up to high enough volumes to do so. The real possibility of hearing loss from headphones is cochlear damage.
Your cochlea is located in your inner ears and is responsible for translating sound vibrations into signals your brain can interpret as sounds. And, just like regular headphones, bone conduction headphones still transmit sound to your cochlea, so putting the volume too high could still negatively affect your hearing.
In fact, there’s a possibility that bone conduction could make matters even worse. Because bone conduction is notorious for not being as loud as regular earphones (mainly because they don’t block your ears), people tend to push the volume higher than they usually would with other earphones.
Since the volume is actually the same as with regular earphones, but your ears are open to ambient noise, so you don’t hear it as clearly, pushing the volume higher makes bone conduction headphones worse for your cochlea than regular headphones.
Bone Conduction Headphones Still Cause Irritation
Bone conduction headphones work better when tighter since they can more easily pass their vibrations through the bones. Though this pressure doesn’t sit inside your ears or over them, it’s still close to your ears. The headphones also have over-ear supports that could cause more pressure if you wear them with glasses or sunglasses.
All of these factors could cause skin irritations and pain for some people. Some prefer bone conduction headphones because they can more easily cope with this type of pressure than the in-ear type, especially for users with cauliflower ears. But other cases are more serious.
There have been situations where the irritation of the vibrations so close to their skin caused a severe skin rash in some people. These are pretty uncommon, but it does happen.
Bone conduction headphones have more advantages than disadvantages regarding the health of your ears, but that does not mean they are always better. High volumes can still cause hearing damage, even though they bypass your outer ears. So, keep the volume low, and be sure to get a set that fits you perfectly to avoid skin irritation; then, bone conduction may work perfectly for you.