Bone conduction technology has a number of applications, such as hearing aids, smart helmets and military communications. Their most recent application has been brought to headphones. This type of headphones doesn’t use drivers to vibrate air, which triggers the eardrum, instead the music driven by the vibration through the skin to the small bones of your middle ear. This gets transfered to the opening of your cochlea. The three headphones discussed below are considered to be the top 3 bone conduction headphones available in the market. They have been tested and the details are given below:
AfterShokz TREKZ Titanium
When it comes to rating bone conduction headphones, the AfterShokz definitely takes the top spot. At CES 2016, AfterShokz cemented their position as one of the best manufacturers of bone conduction headphones by launching the TREKZ Titanium. This is a wireless version of an older yet popular model of headphones. The TREKZ Titanium is very light and comfortable to wear. Even when you think that AfterShokz has reached their pinnacle point, they step up and raise the bar higher.
TREKZ Titanium looks much better than its predecessor. It is available in three colors – Ocean (black/blue), Ivy (black/green), and Slate (black/gray). These headphones make use of a titanium band that is coated with silicone, thus providing flexibility and reducing the chances of damage. With its IP5 rating, the TREKZ is designed to be sweat proof and is thus perfect for exercise and sports.
Multipoint pairing is definitely a cool new feature of these headphones. They may be paired with your phone but you may also connect them with your laptop or TV when you want to listen or watch something. Through Bluetooth 4.1, you can pair as many devices as possible, which was not possible with older versions of the headphones.
Just like the Bluez 2s, TREKZ fits quite well. The band may be a bit flexible thanks to the way the band is positioned next to the ear rather than at the back of the neck or head. These headphones are so comfortable that you won’t even feel them after one week of wearing them.
AfterShokz Bluez 2s
After testing the majority of bone conduction headphones in the market, we have come to the conclusion that AfterShokz is indeed the best manufacturer of open earphones. Why? Because they have produced the number two headphones on our list – the Bluez 2s!
The Bluez 2s are quite similar in design, fit, functioning, and pairing to the TREKZ Titanium. The major difference between the two is that the Bluez 2s is designed with a broader neckband toward the back while TREKZ has a thicker band around the ear hook area. If you are already wearing a hearing device, then it would make more sense for you to go for the Bluez2s, since you wouldn’t want to add more bulk next to the area around your ear.
However, the TREKZ offers a better balance in comparison. In fact, there are four features that the Bluez 2s does not have but can be found in the TREKZ. These are:
- Silicone frames coated with titanium
- Multipoint pairing
- Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluez 2s has Bluetooth 3.0)
- PremiumPitch+ with deeper bass and wider sound range. The TREKZ provides half the sound leakage that the Bluez 2s does.
Damson Headbones (Wireless)
This is one of the pairs of headphones that we discovered during the course of our research into bone conduction headphones. Recently, we got the chance to test them out.
Damson has completed their Kickstarter funding and has released the Headbones into the market, so we decided to try them out. Damson Headbones are wireless headphones that are able to stream audio via the cheekbone to the inner ear using Bluetooth. Rather than placing earbuds inside the ear canal, the Damson Headbones are placed on the cheekbone in front of the ears. As music streams and produces tiny vibrations, they are picked up by the headphones and relayed to the inner ear. You still maintain the ability to listen to ambient sounds around you.
Straight out of the box, the Headbones seemed quite large, compared to the much smaller AfterShokz Sport. However, this makes sense considering that the Headbones are wireless and thus will have to be larger in size. This is something that you must think about when choosing between a wireless and wired headset. If you intend to use these headphones for sports or exercise, then this is one feature should be considered.
There were some problems that we encountered when pairing the Headbones to an iPhone. The button that is used to power up the headphone is the same button for pairing the device. When you press the button, you will hear a sound say “on” after about 3 seconds. If you keep pressing the button for 5 more seconds, you will then hear a sound that says “pairing.” It would have been much better if the instructions were clearer on this as it took a couple of attempts to get it right.
We decided to test the Headbones by streaming some audio while engaging in outdoor conversation. It was possible to hear both the music over the headphones a well as the conversation taking place. This makes the Headbones a lot safer than traditional headphones that block out all ambient sounds, especially when walking in high traffic areas. It is better to lose a bit of streaming audio for a brief period but still be able to hear oncoming traffic.
Though the podcast and music were able to stream well, it became a bit difficult to have a conversation on the phone. There are times when hearing the person on the other end became difficult as the headphone seemed to lose its connection. At the time, my iPhone was in the pocket of my jacket.
It was awesome to see that the carrying case could be folded to make transportation easier. The other bone conduction headphones couldn’t do this. The Headbones fit quite well. The fact that they are placed over the cheekbones makes it easier to adjust them. The only issue we had is that the portion that lies on the neck tends to hang a bit too low, thus rubbing against the shirt’s back collar. This allows the headphones to move unnecessarily around the cheek area every time you turn your head up and down.
On the other hand, they still allow you to wear them with your hearing aids and experience no interference at all. This is definitely a positive feature in terms of fit.
Over the course of the last one year, we began looking into a company known as Zungle, which was designing smart glasses with inbuilt Bluetooth as well as bone conduction technology.
According to the latest information, their crowdfunding status indicates that they have all the funds they need and are expected to start shipping the product from April 2017. If you want to place your pre-order, you can do so here. There is also a very interesting video that you can check out below for further information.
Apart from Zungle, there is also another startup that is setting its sights on creating smart glasses and sunglasses. The company is known as Vue, and their products can be pre-ordered here. Shipping begins in July 2017. Watch the video below for further details.
There is a huge market for bone conduction technology, and this has resulted in its rise in popularity and improvement in the last 7 to 10 years. Bone conduction headphones provide people with hearing loss with a great way to enjoy their audio and still listen to ambient sounds.
People with deafness in one ear or conductive hearing loss will benefit immensely from bone conduction headphones. If you wear any kind of in-ear hearing aid, you can still get to enjoy audio streaming through bone conduction technology.
A Brief History of Bone Conduction Technology
Bone conduction technology is designed to help a person hear a sound by making the bones of their face vibrate. This is primarily through the cheek and jawbones. In other words, rather than the sound waves going through the outer and middle ear, the waves directly stimulate the person’s inner ear (cochlea), which is the actual hearing organ.
The technology used in bone conduction is not new at all. It was developed many years ago to aid those who have problems with their hearing. Bone conduction was the means that Beethoven used to overcome his hearing impairment whenever he composed music on his piano. He would bite down on the composer’s wand that was attached to his piano in order to listen to the notes he was playing.
Applications of Bone Conduction Technology
- Hearing Aids – Over the course of the last 40 years, more than 100,000 patients have been fitted with a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA). People suffering from hearing loss and wearing in-ear hearing aids can also use headphones at the same time.
- Military communications – One of the first groups to adopt this kind of technology was the military. They used headsets worn behind the ear to communicate while on the battlefield. This was a better way to communicate on the field since it let soldiers retain total awareness of other external sounds. It also allowed transmission of sounds wirelessly. Invisio is one of the many companies that have enabled local tactical units to use bone conduction technology.
- Sports headphones – The music industry has embraced bone conduction headphones as a way to provide an alternative method of enjoying music. One of the pioneers of bone conduction headphones for sports use was Audio Bone, way back in 2008. The company claimed that they could provide users with high-quality sound while still allowing them to hear ambient sounds. The headphone was not designed to cover the ear in any way, thus allowing cyclists and runners to enjoy music and maintain awareness of traffic around them.
- Scuba diving – It is an awesome experience using bone conduction to communicate underwater. Bone conduction technology for scuba diving was patented in 1996, with Casio being one of the pioneers of the technology when they launched Logosease. This device was designed to act as a transceiver that works together with ultrasound to facilitate wireless communication for a range of about 32 kHz.
- The solution for ambient noise – Apple is one company that is starting to recognize the potential of earphones that enable the wearer to maintain an awareness of the sounds around them, while also improving speech recognition.
Who are most likely to benefit from bone conduction headphones?
Given that people with hearing loss don’t have any problem with their cochlea, they will benefit from this type of headphone because bone conduction deliver sound directly to innear ear not through eardrums. But for people who suffers from nerve deafness (perceptive hearing loss or mixed hearing loss) the bone conduction will be less effective.
For sport enthusiasts, it is an interesting experience to hear the surroundings mixed with music from bone conduction headphones while running, riding or walking.
- They will vibrate when played at high volume levels.
- People can hear what you are listening to but you are able to communicate with them as usual.
- Though they sound good but the bass is missing and the volume may not be LOUD enough
We are about to launch into our list of the best bone conduction headphones, which not only let you to your favorite tracks but have full sense of the surrounding. But first, let’s take a look at some of the issues that most users are concerned with.
One issue is whether you can use them even if you suffer from hearing loss. Yes, it is possible to use the headphones even with unilateral or conductive loss of hearing. What is important is that you must have at least one working cochlea.
When it comes to deciding which bone conduction headphones to buy, we recommend AfterShokz Trekz Titanium. Unfortunately, the quality of the sound is not as good as that of “normal” headphones. However, a clarification is needed. The issue isn’t that bone conduction is inferior to air conduction (which is how regular headphones work). The issue lies in the fact that you cannot implant bone conduction headphones. In other words, the transmission of sound is not direct, thus resulting in the quality of sound being poorer.
Most people want to know whether there are any major differences between bone conduction and “normal” headphones. Firstly, bone conduction headphones need to have a power source, regardless of whether it is wired or not. There must be some sort of battery, though with advancements in wireless technology, you may not even notice the battery pack.
At times people who are hearing impaired wonder if it is possible for your hearing to get worse by using bone conduction. The answer is Yes. If you play the music too loud, you may cause further damage to your hearing.
If you are already wearing hearing aids, then it is absolutely possible to wear bone conduction headphones over your hearing aids. This is how most people who wear hearing aids prefer to put on their headphones. If you are wearing the behind-the –ear variety, you may find it a bit difficult to put on the headphones. However, it can still work.
Go ahead and try out any of the headphones described in this article. Just be kind enough to shoot us an email and let us know what your experience was like. Alternatively, you could just leave us a comment in the comment section below.