HomeTechnologyNewsIs it still worth buying bone conduction headphones?

Is it still worth buying bone conduction headphones?

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Bone conduction hearing aids offer greater comfort, long-term wear, communication with others, and situational awareness than traditional hearing aids. This comes at the cost of music quality and noise cancellation or blocking.

Bone conduction headphones offer the promise of audio without isolating you from the outside world. This made them ideal for work or workouts, but now that the headphones have transfer modes, is there any good reason to keep buying them?

The basics of bone conduction

Bone conduction hearing aids send vibrations directly to your inner ear through the bones of your skull. Typically, the transducers rest on or near your cheekbones, and to you, the audio appears to be coming through your ears.

A diagram of an ear showing bone conduction bypassing the ear canal.

Bone conduction headphones are comparable in price to wireless headphones with audio pass-through features. This means you have to choose between them if you want to hear audio from a device while receiving sound from your surroundings.

RELATED: How do bone conduction headphones work?

Closed-back headphone transfer modes aren’t great

Since normal headphones cover or fill the ear canal, they sometimes come with a pass-through feature, often called transparency mode, to allow you to hear your surroundings. The pass-through features work by using microphones on the outside of the headphones to route audio to your ears through the headphones’ speakers. As you can imagine, the quality of this feature varies between different headphone brands and models.

Apple AirPod Max

Apple’s higher-end AirPods Max on-ear headphones may not have the best audio quality for the money, but taken as an overall package, there are plenty of features and fidelity to make them worth the price of entry.

Audio transfer on a pair of Apple Airpods Max is so good it’s indistinguishable from not wearing headphones. The pass-through quality on a pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is useful, but you probably don’t want to spend a lot of time listening to the world filter through them; it is only useful in short bursts of transfer.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

Incredible battery life, great sound, and a great price compared to the competition. If you’re a Samsung user, the Buds Plus are an easy recommendation, and if you’re another type of Android user, the value proposition is just as good.

With bone conduction headphones, there is no pass-through. You just listen normally without headphones.

Bone conduction is better for long-term wear and comfort

Whether you wear in-ear headphones, on-ear headphones, or an over-ear model, things will get uncomfortable after a while. Whether it’s from the heat and sweating of your ears or the pressure that the earphones put on the inside or sides of your head, earphones have a limit.

Bone conduction hearing aids don’t sit in your ears and don’t have the kind of clamping force you get with traditional hearing aids. This makes it easier to wear them long term, like all day at the office. It also makes them more comfortable for physically intense activities. Not to mention, they’re much better at staying on your head than wireless headphones!

Bone conduction can prevent some hearing impairments

Since bone conduction hearing aids bypass the outer ear and eardrums, they may be a better option for people with hearing impairments that specifically affect those structures. If you have such a hearing impairment, you should talk to your doctor about whether bone conduction headphones will help you. Still, if you’re a good candidate for this technology, it can enhance activities like watching TV or making calls.

Bone conduction headphones make you look present

Transfer modes are great, but one problem is that other people don’t know you have it on. To a stranger, you are wearing headphones, which can be considered rude or make the other person uncomfortable.

When you wear bone conduction headphones, it’s nothing like hearing aids, and your ears are visibly open to the outside world. Therefore, they are a better solution than regular headphones if you want to seamlessly transition between interacting with other people and outputting audio from a device.

There are disadvantages to bone conduction

If you’re considering buying a pair of bone conduction headphones, you should be aware that they naturally have drawbacks compared to a pair of AirPods Pro.

First of all, the audio quality of music in particular is significantly lower than that of traditional headphones. These headphones don’t recreate the same rich range of sound as most similarly priced traditional headphones. That doesn’t mean they sound bad in absolute terms, but if you’re more concerned with getting the best musical fidelity for your money, this technology isn’t for you.

The other main drawback is that, unlike pass-through headphones, you don’t have the option to block out sound from the rest of the world. So you’ll have to live with any chatter or noise in your environment, with no noise canceling option.

Should I buy bone conduction headphones?

If you can live with less audio fidelity and a complete lack of noise cancellation, then the unique advantages of bone conduction headphones are hard to deny.

Equipped with good equipment, you can stay connected to any audio source you prefer throughout the day in comfort, without isolating yourself from your surroundings or from other people.

If you’re a physically active person, bone conduction headphones are the best option in every way, aside from audio quality and noise cancellation. They will stay on much easier than wireless headphones and will keep your ears cool and sweat free.


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