Staab (2012) indicates that knowledge of bone conduction hearing has been around since the time of Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576), a physician, mathematician and philosopher as well as an early deaf educator in the early 1550s. In one of Cardano’s 230 books, entitled “De Subtilitate,” (1550), he described a method by which sound was transmitted to the ear by means of a rod, or the shaft of a spear held alt=”bchs.jpg” width=”101″ height=”158″ />between one’s teeth.
Bone conduction is among the first concepts mastered by young audiologists in the assessment of their patients, as it is part of the information necessary to arrive at a diagnosis for a hearing difficulty. When initially discovered, it was primarily of academic interest until Cabrei in 1846 and then Bulwer in 1848, who capitalized on the use of a rod invented by Itard in 1821.
Bone conduction has had some intermittent use in the education of the deaf and some success with hearing aids for the deaf, particularly for those disorders that involved the middle ear, but its use was rather cumbersome as it could cause frequent headaches, and other issues to the person that was the recipient of its use.
While known to professionals such as otolaryngologists, audiologists and others for some time it has only been in the past 20 years or so that bone conduction it has been seen as a possible method for implantation of amplification. Implants that capitalize on bone conduction hearing, such as the Bone Anchored Hearing Aid ( BAHA), the Sophono, Bonebridge, Soundbite and others now offer an alternative to cochlear implants, traditional hearing aids and other treatment.
Bone Conduction Headsets: A Safer Alternative to Earbuds?
Although bone conduction has been around for a long time in audiology, otolaryngology and other hearing circles, it has only recently appeared in the electronics market as a concept for military communication gear and consumer electronic products. Unlike Ear buds or other types of air conduction headphones, bone conduction headphones do not block out ambient noises. Since they do not plug the ear canal, users can hear what is going on in the environment while listening to their favorite music, running, or other activities. Navy SEAL alt=”bchs” width=”99″ height=”150″ />teams and other military, SWAT teams and other police applications can communicate during missions yet stay in tune with what is happening around them. These devices are light-weight and well-vented, yet robust and adjustable. Worn around the back of the head, they offer volume controls and other features that make them full-featured headsets.
Because the bone conduction headset does not cut the user off from the environment, it is considered safer than air conduction alternatives. Additionally, there is no damage from stimulus intensity and/or the constant ear insertion ear buds and other types of insert headphones.
Apple was recently awarded a patent to incorporate bone conduction technology into their earphones.
There seems to be two general types of these products:
- those used for the tactical military operations such as combat or police purposes, selling from $225-850 US$
- the more affordable type for the rest of us, consisting of consumer electronic versions available from $20 – 150 US$
The latter type are used for leisure, business, sports, study and probably could be used by some hearing impaired individuals (those with conductive or mixed hearing losses). The devices have the capability to pair to most any cellphone or other device that has Bluetooth connection capability. The packaging for some of these headsets even include earplugs to block out the outside noises and enjoy a better (probably higher intensity) sound from the headset.
How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?
Bone conduction occurs when sound travels through the bones of the skull to the inner ear. Bone conduction actually occurs every time you speak and explains why your voice sounds somewhat higher pitched when you listen to yourself on a tape recorder. Bone conduction by itself offers a deeper fuller sound and your voice sounds deeper when not mixed with the sound that comes to the ear from the ear canal.
Audiologists know that sound travels in waves and when it hits the eardrum it is translated into a series of mechanical vibrations. When sound first enters the ear, the pinna focuses it into the auditory canal and then on to the ear drum, which vibrates sympathetically to the sound. These vibrations are passed on by the three auditory ossicles that vibrate into the cochlea. The cochlea is a fluid filled labyrinthine chamber that translates vibrations into the electrical signals that the brain perceives as sounds This is called air conduction hearing.
Bone conduction hearing bypasses everything and transmits these vibrations through the bone directly to the cochlea, effectively leaving ear canal and eardrums free to listen to other things. Virtually all of the bone conduction headphone manufacturers use a jaw bone placement for the stimulus rather than the traditional mastoid stimulus commonly used for audiometry, as it appears to provide a clearer, more consistent signal.
Henry, P. & Letowski, T. (2007). Bone Conduction: Anatomy, Physiology, and Communication. Human Research and Engineering Directorate, ARL. ARL-TR-4138. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
Staab, W. (2012). The origins of bone conduction hearing. Hearing Health and Technology Matters, LLC. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
Never worry about earbuds falling out of your ears again.
Matthew Miller started using mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He was a co-host, with Kevin Tofel, of the MobileTechRoundup podcast for 13 years and authored three Wiley Companion series books.
Holiday Gift Guide
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While I test a lot of headsets while running, I always go back to using bone conduction headsets so that my ears are open for safety reasons. With darkness surrounding me and the rain beating me down, bone conduction headsets are essential for my winter running sessions. For the past month, I’ve been running with the AfterShokz Aeropex and I’ve been extremely pleased with their performance.
The Aeropex retail price is $159.95, but there is currently a $30 off sale, so the price is $129.95. They are available in Cosmic Black, Blue Eclipse, Solar Red, and Lunar Grey. I tested the standard size Cosmic Black set.
I first tried out AfterShokz bone conduction technology with the Trekz Air in 2018, and over the past year, I tried out a couple of other options from competitors. With the Aeropex over my ears blasting classic rock, it is clear that AfterShokz sets the bar when it comes to bone conduction headphones optimized for working out.
- Comfortable and secure fit
- Improved physical buttons
- IP67 dust/water resistance
- 8-hour battery life
- Ears remain open for safety
- No fast charging
The Aeropex headset is using 8th generation bone conduction technology from AfterShokz, and it is clear the company has worked hard to provide an excellent audio experience. There is also a bit of tradeoff in audio performance with bone conduction when compared to standard headsets that go in, on, or over your ears. However, the volume, clarity, and overall experience provided by the Aeropex is perfect for me. I ran in a Ragnar trail race on Mt Rainier this summer and used the Trekz Air to keep me going since that is the only headset type allowed as it keeps your ears open to the environment around you.
The retail package includes the headset, silicone carrying case with magnetic clasp, earplugs, and two magnetic charging cables. The inclusion of two cables is a nice touch and means I can keep one in my travel bag and the other at home since I enjoy running when I travel.
The headset has a matte finish with a titanium frame holding the pieces together, so you get a lightweight and comfortable fit. There is zero pressure or discomfort caused by extended wear of the headset.
One aspect of the Trekz Air that I did not like was the tiny buttons and small port cover to access the microUSB port for charging the headset. On the Aeropex, we find two large buttons under the right side and a magnetic induction cable. This charging mechanism may also help keep the headset reliable for years since there is no opening for water to get into the headset. There is also a large button on the outside of the left side that fits over your ear. Controls are simple and easy with the Aeropex, a vast improvement over the Trekz Air.
The large multifunction button is used to play/pause music, skip to the next song, go back to the previous song, answer/end calls, reject calls, redial the last number, and launch your preferred device voice assistant. The power and volume buttons obviously control power and volume, but also mute calls, change equalizer settings, and check battery status.
AfterShokz advertises up to eight hours of battery life, and that matches my experiences. I typically go for three to four runs and wear them on a couple of commutes before charging up the headset. While they have an IP67 dust/water resistant rating, they are not designed for swimming.
The Aeropex also supports multipoint pairing so you can connect to two devices at once, which is useful if you want to connect to a phone and a watch or a phone and a tablet at the same time and then flip between the two as needed.
- Microphones: Dual noise-canceling mic
- Dust/water resistance: IP67 rating
- Battery life: Up to 8 hours of play. Two hours to charge up the headset using a magnetic induction cable.
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
- Earbud weight: 26 grams
Daily usage experiences and conclusions
There are several reasons I prefer using the AfterShokz Aeropex over standard earbuds, including the fact that they never fall out of your ears no matter how much you shake, rattle, and roll when you workout. The headset easily lasts for up to eight hours for playback, allows my ears to remain open to hear my surroundings, and never disturbs the people around me. At first, I only used them for running, but have since adopted them for my commute since I can sit on the train and listen to music, podcasts, and video without others on the train hearing anything. A friend actually recommended also using them on an airplane, in combination with the included earplugs.
For running, I paired the headset with multiple Android phones and watches, including the Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE and Coros Vertix 2 . Audio plays back perfectly every single time with no missed beats or skipping. The bass is actually decent with the headset, advertised as AfterShokz PremiumPitch 2.0. Being that I live in Washington State, I also spend a lot of time running in the rain, and the headset has performed flawlessly in these conditions.
Since my days of using the Trekz Air, the buttons have been improved, and this design improvement alone was enough to get me to recommend the Aeropex. However, I also like the longer battery life and improved audio performance.
So you’re looking for a new set of headphones, but the market is so overcrowded that finding the perfect fit seems like a colossal task! With prices and styles ranging from the suburbian to the ridiculous, how are you supposed to know what is right for your needs?
With options like wired or Bluetooth, noise-canceling or noise isolation, or a combination, we are here to help clear the path for you and guide the way.
We have searched high and low, and whittled down the competition to our 10 Best Lightweight Headphones. Most of these are budget offerings, with a few higher-end products thrown in to show just what is on offer these days.
Our rating: (5 / 5)
So let’s go through them and find the perfect pair for you…
Top 10 Best Lightweight Headphones In 2021 Reviews
1 Bose Soundlink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones
In the world of personal audio devices, there aren’t many names bigger than Bose. While at times polarising to the professional audio community, customer loyalty has ensured that Bose remains the true heavy hitter they are today.
The Bose Soundlink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones with Microphone, Triple Black are top of the line and, in our opinion, a fantastic deal. These are priced somewhere in the middle to top end of the market and are generally aimed at consumers looking to move away from earbuds and dip their toes into the world of over-ear headphones.
With the option to run in a wired, passive mode or an impressive wireless reach of 30’ (9.1m). You have the ability to wirelessly connect to multiple devices and a battery life of up to 15 hours. Charging takes three hours for a full charge, with a quick charge option of 15 minutes for two hours!
Take full control while you listen to your favorite track. Maybe sit back and catch the latest episode of that show you’re bingeing or take calls with the handy and intuitive button set on the right earcup.
It can be tricky to design a product to be lightweight, while not leaving it feeling at least slightly cheap and tacky. Here Bose has really done a great job, with the Soundlink feeling like a quality made product. The plush earpads and soft-feel headband combine to give a supremely comfortable fit.
In testing, we found these to perform excellently under hugely varied conditions. Bass-heavy tracks like “Regulate” by the late, great Warren G did push the boundaries of the low end slightly, but we were still impressed.
The balance of the rich low-mids and the clean high-mids makes for easy listening here. Overall the sound quality is top-notch.
Our rating: (4.4 / 5)
- Compact size.
- Powerful audio response.
- Simple controls.
- Wired or wireless.
- Slightly less power when wired.
2 Bose Noise Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth Headphones 700
Next up, we have the absolute creme de la creme of lightweight headphones with the Bose Noise Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth Headphones 700. These are the long-awaited successor to Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II models and are part of a new, smarter breed of headphones. The Bose 700 have a lot to live up to, because the QuietComfort 35 ll has reigned supreme in the Bose range for a number of years.
Well, although slightly pricier than their predecessor, The Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are far better headphones and stand above the rest of the competition as a headset for making calls. They have achieved this through a new microphone setup. This has been tuned to isolate the user’s voice from any background noise.
Also added is the adjustable sidetone feature. This allows you to hear your voice mixed in with the call coming through the headphones. (hopefully preventing you from talking too loudly when on a call). In testing they performed very well in all situations, from work meeting calls on noisy streets during morning rush hour, to loud, windy beaches.
Plus, with a battery life of nearly 20 hours, connectivity with the Bose Music app, a fantastic sound palette across the board, the introduction of touch controls, and coming in as the most comfortable over-ear units we tried. We think they stack up very well against the QC 35 ll.
As the name indicates, these “smart headphones” come with Amazon’s Alexa built-in, and are optimized for Google Assistant and Siri. Both of which have dedicated hardwired buttons, with Alexa being controlled by voice commands also.
In terms of noise-canceling tech, the 700 s has a totally new set of drivers and a total of eight microphones to help with what Bose calls “evolved noise-canceling functionality.”
But, unfortunately, these headphones do not fold, unlike the QuietComfort 35 II. This results in a larger package when stowed in their carry case. However, the addition of a magnetic closing pocket in the case that is large enough for all the accompanying cables was a nice new feature though.
Our rating: (5 / 5)