All about the bone-conduction technology. Music even for people with hearing impairments, and open ear earphones

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We all use headphones and earphones to listen to music, make voice and video calls, and for other forms of entertainment. Headphones and earphones are thus, nothing new in today’s world of technology, and you can even find people having tons of them. Unless you are using a single ear wireless earphones, most of them come with two speakers for the two ears. Just throw any sound or music, you can listen to it using your earphones and headphones. While headphones and earphones are widely popular for their simplicity, there is another technology used in earphones, which works in a different way than traditional headphones and earphones.

I am talking about the bone-conduction technology, which works in a different way, which eventually results in some benefits and drawbacks if compared to traditional headphones and earphones. However, the biggest benefit is the ability to make sound audible to those people, who have complete or partial hearing impairments. This is undoubtedly a real deal and is really beneficial to a huge class of users. Besides being useful for those who have hearing impairments, bone-conduction earphones can also be a great deal for normal users, obviously under certain circumstances. Before talking about how bone-conduction earphones work, I will talk about how normal people hear sounds, and that will eventually help you to understand how the bone-conduction technology work.

How we hear sounds?

Sounds are waves, just like light, but are longitudinal or transverse in nature, unlike light waves, which are electromagnetic. Sound requires a medium to travel, like air, water, solid, etc. and when they hit a medium, the medium vibrates at some frequency, unrecognizable to our human eye. While our bodies can’t sense the vibration unless it is really intense, our ears have very small organs, which can perceive those vibrations, so that the sounds become audible to us.

The outer ear, which we all know, has a shape that makes it easy to harness the sounds coming from different directions and eventually send it to the eardrum, where the trip of the sound in the inner ear begins. The eardrum can respond to the sound waves and eventually makes the other organs to vibrate. Hence the cochlea perceives the vibration to send it to the brain, where we can actually understand, whether the sound is noise, music, human voice, or anything else.

That’s the simplest explanation of how we hear sound waves, or how our ears actually work.

How normal earphones work?

Well, talking about normal earphones, they play the sound at a slight loudness which eventually makes our eardrums react to the sounds that are being played by the earphones. The earphones and headphones are designed in a way that it physically or electronically blocks, the one we call noise cancellation, to keep away noises, that we simply want to ignore, when we are listening to our favourite songs, or is busy in a conversation while walking down the streets.

As earphones and headphones, work in almost the same way, we hear other sounds, people with hearing impairments can’t hear or perceive the sound that is played by normal earphones and headphones. That is when the bone-conduction technology enters the picture and makes it easier for people with some sort of hearing impairments to listen to sounds.

What is bone-conduction technology?

As I just mentioned, the trip of sound waves as electrical waves travels from the cochlea, what if we can transmit the sound directly to the cochlea bypassing the eardrum! That’s exactly the work, the bone-conduction technology works. In bone-conduction technology, the sound bypasses the eardrum, and send vibrations to the inner ear, or the cochlea, through the skull, which a bone, and thus, the name bone-conduction.

Bone Conduction technology
Image Credit: 100Buytech

Bone-conduction earphones convert the audio signals into waves, and thus, bone-conduction earphones are silent. Even though bone-conduction earphones are beneficial for people with hearing impairments, there are some points to consider. 

How good is bone-conduction earphones for people with hearing impairments?

Basically there are three categories of hearing impairments, conductive, perceptive, and mixed hearing impairment. 

In the case of conductive hearing impairment, the problem mainly lies in the eardrums not being able to send the vibrations to the inner ear, especially the cochlea. In such a situation, bone-conduction technology should work like a charm.

However, in the case of perceptive hearing impairment, the problem lies in the inability to send perceive the vibrations, and in such cases, as well as, in mixed hearing impairment, a trial is recommended before you finally go for a pair of bone-conduction earphones.

To be said in a nutshell, as bone-conduction earphones directly send the vibrations to the cochlea, the cochlea should be in a healthy condition for the bone-conduction technology to work.

Bone-conduction for normal users

Besides being advantageous for users with hearing impairments,  bone-conduction earphones can also be a good piece of investment for normal users out there. Obviously there are a number of points that you should remember. Bone-conduction earphones keep the ear canal open so that you can even listen to the ambient sounds which are not the case for normal earphones out there.

For example, you are out running, conversing with a person sitting in front of you, you can do all that and listen to music at the same time without one disturbing the other. As the ear canal is open, you can listen to what the other person is saying, and what is happening around you. On the streets, it can be a good option, as you can seamlessly hear traffic sounds and keep yourself safe.

However, if you are looking for a pair of bone-conduction earphones, don’t expect similar quality like that of a pair of high-quality earphones that you can get at the same or even lower prices. 

Bone-conduction speakers

When it comes to the term bone-conduction, I am talking about those devices which can send vibrations to the cochlea through the bones. But the same concept is used even for bone-conduction speakers. In the case of bone-conduction speakers the vibrations are transmitted to the object, it is in touch with and eventually resonates that particular object to create sounds. In the case of bone-conduction speakers, as well, the speaker itself is silent, however, the vibration is sent to the object, it has in touch with in order to generate sound waves.

Depending upon the size of the body or the object it has in touch with, the output from a  bone-conduction speaker can be very loud, and sometimes can be a few times louder Than even the loudest speakers available in the market. The Humbird Speaker is a  bone-conduction speaker, which is commercially available for pre-order right now.

Bone-conduction earphone vs. normal headphone for a general user

So, if you are a dilemma about whether you should go for a pair of bone-conduction earphones or a normal one, I would recommend you to go for a normal pair of earphones as it will offer you better value for money if you prioritize audio quality over anything else. However, if you want to keep your ears open while listening to songs and want to listen to the sound even in the real world while keeping you entertained at the same time,  bone-conduction earphones can be the best bet for you.

Bone-conduction speakers are not abundantly available out there and thus, I cannot give any verdict about that. Hopefully, in the future, we can find an abundance of bone-conduction speakers so that you can choose from a variety of choices and eventually ditch your existing speakers, which can give you loud sounds, to say the least.

So, that was all you should know about the bone-conduction technology. Do you have any questions about bone-conduction Technology? Feel free to comment on the same below. 

Sarbasish Basuhttps://www.how2shout.com/
From B.Tech (Hons.) Electronics & Instrumentation Engineer to Photography and Writing blogs; he ultimately has answers to everything. Oh, and he's also quite good in rapidly building a relationship and set up the trust; his articles are proof of that...

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