How bone conduction headphones work – and why you should try them

Headphones have come a long way over the years and it is now possible to purchase a pair to match and complement any style of music in a dizzying array of designs. Alongside the more classic models, bone conduction headphones are a nice variation on the theme and will be particularly interesting if you are a fan of fitness in the great outdoors. In some scenarios, they are also beneficial for certain types of hearing impairment.

Bone conduction headphones are placed just above your cheekbones so that vibrations pass through your jawbone, bypassing your eardrums. The sound is transmitted directly into the cochlea via the bone, rather than using vibrations moving through the air as is the case with conventional headphones.

An obvious benefit is that nothing is pushed into your ear canal, but the real appeal of bone conduction headphones is that you can continue your outdoor activities while still being perfectly able to hear what’s going on around you. And, as mentioned, the fact that sound waves pass through bones rather than eardrums can also make conduction phones a potential solution for some people with hearing loss. This is because the earliest hearing aid designs used this technology before headphone manufacturers talked about it.

Thinking of buying a bone conduction headset? We’ve rounded up the best deals on our top models here.

Comfort levels

Another benefit of using bone conduction headphones is that because they are mounted on the side of your skull, there is nothing uncomfortable or intrusive about sitting on or in your ears. Headphones have become the phones of choice for many people, but they can be intrusive and not entirely hygienic either, as you’ll know if you’ve owned a pair before. Having to reuse headphones for long periods of time can become a rather unpleasant experience, although the sound quality still prevents you from doing without.

Likewise, many of us prefer the standard old-fashioned headphone design, which sits on your head and ears. While this style of helmet remains as popular as ever, the downside to these is that they can be bulky to wear and are not always suitable for outdoor activities. Just the way they can get around if you’re doing anything other than a light jog can become extremely irritating.

Man and woman wearing Shokz OpenMove headphones

(Image credit: Shokz)

They also cut out outside noise which is a good thing in many ways, but not that hot if you want to know what’s going on around or behind you. Bone conduction headphones aren’t a perfect solution, however, and like any other headset, they can cause fatigue if you wear them for too long.

Even the best headphones you can buy won’t always be right for everyone. Bone conduction headphones are no different and should ideally be tried on first to make sure you are doing well with them. Buying headphones is a subjective thing and everyone has different needs, which is probably why the headphone market is as big as it is.

To remain vigilant

However, the real benefit of bone conduction headphones, unlike most traditional headphones you can buy, is that your ears aren’t disconnected from what’s going on around you. In fact, because bone conduction headphones don’t sit on or in your ears, they allow you to hear other sounds. This is obviously going to be very useful if you are in the field, but still want to know who or what is near you.

It is also possible to buy bone conduction headphones specially adapted for different types of activities. So, next to the most obvious models for running and outdoor activities such as cycling, it is possible to buy waterproof bone conduction headphones designed for swimming.

Man in swimming pool wearing Shokz OpenSwim headphones

Some bone conduction headphones are specially designed for swimming (Image credit: Shokz)

It is important, however, to take a close look at the specifications of bone conduction headphones. While many are sweat resistant, you will need to purchase a pair specifically designed for swimming needs to ensure they continue to work once you hit the water.

There are also models that were created with more of a communication angle in mind, so if you need to make and receive calls regularly when you’re on the go, a pair of bone conduction headphones with plenty of capacity. of talk time is worth considering.

Compatible with ears

Another benefit of bone conduction headphones is that you are less likely to damage your hearing. It’s easy to overlook or ignore the damaging effects of too loud music, especially when it’s right next to your eardrums. In fact, like many ailments, the negative effects are not noticeable until after the damage is done. Bone conduction headphones reduce the impact on your inner ear, simply because they are mounted on the outside.

However, bone conduction headphones can still be problematic for your hearing if you turn up the volume, even if they are not placed properly in your ears. As with most things, this is all done in moderation, so use your bone conduction headphones sensibly and they should do your hearing a favor.

Boxing woman wearing Vidonn F3 bone conduction headphones

(Image credit: Vidonn)

A wise choice

Bone conduction headphones have some drawbacks. Users frequently report that audio quality suffers from not being in or on their ears. This is a reasonable compromise, as any loss in audio quality is compensated for by allowing the user to hear other things. If you are out jogging and like to keep a cool head, then a pair of bone conduction headphones seems like an obvious piece of the running kit to consider.

The same can be said if you find yourself in another scenario where it is essential to keep an ear attentive to external sounds. A lot of people like to listen to music while they are working, which is not a big deal if you are sitting at a desk and working from home. However, if you are working in a situation where listening to music is permitted but still need to be aware of dangers, or managers might be on the run, then bone conduction headphones might be worth considering. .

Which brings us neatly to the best guide to bone conduction headphones in the 2022 guide that we’ve compiled which has a handpicked selection of the latest and greatest models you can buy. Unsurprisingly, the Aftershokz brand (or Shokz as they’re now called) is a brand you’ll hear frequently mentioned when it comes to bone conduction headphones. They have a great selection to suit a variety of budgets, but you can also get solid deals from Vidonn, Tayogo, and H20, among others.

However, there are fewer options than you will find in the rest of the burgeoning market for the best headphones. The same goes for the best wireless headphones and the best wireless headphones. Nonetheless, for certain audio requirements, using a bone conduction headset makes perfect sense.


This article is part of TechToSee’s Get Fit in 2022 series – a collection of ideas and guides to get you started on your health goals for the New Year, regardless of your current fitness level.

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