Can you Hear A Bone Conduction Headset Whilst Wearing Earplugs?

earpieceWith very little information on the internet about earpiece’s, it is very rare when we get a chance to re post, with permission, an article from this industry.

There is no reason why not. The main parts of the ears are, essentially, removed from the hearing process when listening to ‘Bonephones’.

A bone conduction headset is a portable speaker system designed to bypass the most sensitive portions of your ear in order to reduce the risk of hearing loss. According to recent studies, any noise over 100 decibels can cause hearing problems like tinnitus and temporary deafness, even resulting in permanent damage. Your average iPod can reach sounds as high as 115 decibels in the US, but here in the UK, special software limits most devices to about 100db.

Anyway, a bone conducting headset (a technology occasionally referred to as ‘Bonephones’) could be the best way to listen to your music safely. Patrick J. Kiger of How Stuff Works.com explains the science behind ‘Bonephones’.

“To understand how bone conduction works, you first have to understand how we hear sounds, which we do in two ways: Sound travels in waves through the air. Normally, sound waves travel through several structures in the ear, before being translated and transmitted through our nervous systems to our brains. First, the waves enter the outer ear, or pinna, which is the big flappy piece of cartilage that helps to focus the sound. From there, the sound goes into the air-filled middle ear, which includes the auditory canal and the eardrum, a flap of skin that vibrates when exposed to the energy from sound waves. On the other side of the eardrum, there are three small bones, the ossicles, which are attached to it. They transmit the vibration to the cochlea, a fluid-filled structure that takes those vibrations and converts them to electrical impulses that are sent along the auditory nerve to the brain. But that’s not the only way our body can process sound. Sound waves can also be transmitted through the bones in your head. When the bones vibrate, the sound reaches the cochlea, just as it would by going through the middle ear and eardrum, and results in the same sort of nerve impulses being transmitted to your brain. This method of sound transmission is called bone conduction”

According to Kiger, the great composer Beethoven employed a sort of prototypical version of this method. By attaching a rod both to his piano and to his head, he could ‘hear’ the music he was making, an innovative solution that shares the same essential principle with bone conduction.

‘Bonephones’ should have no effect whatsoever on whether a user is wearing earplugs or not, because the portion of the ear that is ‘plugged’ is not actually in use.

My own personal worries concerned the safety to the user of these new headphones, but Kiger affirms that,

“Deborah Price, a doctor of audiology and vice-chair of the Audiology Foundation of America, told Wired in 2004 that bone conduction is “very safe”

In addition, ‘Bonephones’ are especially good for the visually impaired user, who may wish to listen to music, audiobooks or other content without having to cover their ears.

The technology is still relatively new, but at the moment it appears to be perfectly safe and generally able to match the basic functions of a standard set of earbuds, although questions remain about the level of audio quality achieved via this method.

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