Bone Conduction Headphones vs Earbuds (Differences, Pros & Cons!)

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  • What are the major differences between bone conduction headphones and earbuds?
  • What are the pros and cons of bone conduction headphones and earbuds?
  • How do bone conduction headphones work?
  • Also, check out our guide to whether bone conduction headphones can cause vertigo

Bone conduction headphones have completely revolutionized the audio playback industry.

The innovations brought about by this technology have not only provided users with considerable health benefits, but they’ve also allowed hearing-impaired people to enjoy music just as everyone else would.

However, bone conduction headphones aren’t everyone’s first choice of a playback device, and there’s a lot of debate around their comparisons to earbud headphones.

In this article, we’re going to examine the pros and cons that come with bone conduction headphones, and also see how they compare to conventional earbuds. 

Bone Conduction Headphones vs Earbuds: Which Is Better?

  • Bone Conduction headphones are generally better suited for people that require headphones that place little to no strain on the ear canal. These people include the hearing impaired, the elderly, and anyone suffering from an ear-related medical condition such as tinnitus.
  • On the other hand, earbuds tend to be the more popular choice among consumers that need reliable sound quality and performance. Earbuds provide a more isolated listening experience than bone conduction headphones, and are the better for audiophiles, sound engineers, musicians, and other intensive music listeners.

How Do Bone Conduction Headphones Work?

Bone conduction headphones work by emitting vibrations instead of regular sound signals. These headphones mostly consist of a two-piece component that is placed over the ear.

The frontal piece is placed on the side of a user’s head where the jawbone and ear meet.

This frontal piece converts an incoming signal into vibrations that are pulsed through the skull and received by the cochlea inside the ear.

Essentially, bone conduction headphones turn human skulls into speakers, without placing extra strain on the inner bones and muscles of the ear.

Our auditory nerves perceive these vibrational emissions in a similar way to traditional headphones and translate them in the same way to the brain.

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Pros Of Bone Conduction Headphones

The primary purpose of bone conduction headphones is to provide a strong, reliable means of intrinsic audio playback to humans without the harm caused by regular headphones.

Conventional headphones and earbuds work by emitting sound from small speakers that are placed within the ear.

The space in between this speaker and your inner ear is highly sensitive and can be easily damaged if the speakers get too loud. 

Most headphone manufacturers exceed the suggested maximum volume level so that they can compete with one another.

A lot of headphone users also tend to ignore the volume safety warnings on their audio playback devices.

Bone conduction headphones lower the risk of hearing loss or damage caused by excessive audio playback levels. 

People That Benefit From Bone Conduction Headphones

Hearing Impaired

Several people with medically diagnosed hearing loss can now make use of bone conduction technology to hear audio playback.

Bone conduction headphones can bypass any deficiencies within the ear canal and send audio through the auditory nerves directly to the user’s brain. 

Sportsmen and Women 

Certain music listeners may not be able to use conventional headphones due to the environmental conditions of their chosen activities. A great example of these users is swimmers.

Water usually passes through the ear canal during swimming and severely interferes with the audio playback that earbuds provide.

However because bone conduction headphones are placed against the human skull, water cannot interrupt the sound quality of their playback. 


Musicians have always made use of headphones for playback and monitoring purposes.

A common issue with using earbuds for monitoring during live performance is that they create a spatial disassociation between the listener and the performance space.

Bone conduction headphones allow musicians to receive audio playback while still being able to hear the room in which they perform, providing a much clearer sonic image and sound quality for them to navigate their performances within.


Children can be especially partial to hearing loss at an early age if they’re subjected to excessive noise levels.

Much like other developing parts of their body, extra care needs to be taken to preserve their ears as they grow.

Bone conduction headphones prevent high sound levels from entering children’s ears directly, which means they can be left to use their audio playback devices unmonitored.

Pros Of Traditional Earbuds

Immersive Sound Quality 

Headphones outperform bone conduction headphones for the immersive sound quality of their audio playback. Unfortunately, bone conduction headphones just can’t deliver the same stereo imaging as traditional earbuds do.

This downfall makes them a secondary choice for anyone looking to experience the full spectrum of surround sounds such as gamers or movie watchers. 

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Comfortable Fit 

While conventional earbuds can cause damage if operated at unsafe levels, certain users have become accustomed to and prefer the fit that earbuds have on their heads. 

Noise Cancellation

Traditional earbuds and headphones come with noise-canceling properties because they work by placing a direct blockage over the ear canal.

Bone conduction headphones operate while still leaving the ear canal open, which leaves room for outside noise to interfere with audio playback. 

Cons of Bone Conduction

There is still room for research and development in the field of bone conduction technology.

While the technology may provide users with a safe means of listening to audio, bone conduction headphones don’t come without their minor setbacks.

Below is a shortlist of common user issues related to bone conduction headphones. 

Sound Bleed  

Bone-conduction headphones have a habit of leaking vibrations for their emission pads.

If turned loud enough, some users have complained that their bone conduction headphones create an unpleasant buzzing around the ear due to sound vibrations bleeding from the transmitters.

This sound bleed also causes interferences in audio playback quality.  

Ergonomic Inconsistency 

Most bone conduction headphones aren’t designed in a one-size-fits-all fashion.

The human skull has subtle but crucial variables in shapes and size, and bone conduction designers have yet to figure out the ergonomics that go into creating a more universal fit for users. 

Battery Life

Bone-conduction headphones require a considerable amount of energy for use in comparison to traditional earbuds.

This issue is especially prevalent during use over Bluetooth or wireless modes. Conventional headphones and earbuds tend to have a much longer battery life than most bone conduction headphones

Quick Tips For Bone Conduction Headphone Users 

Ensure Correct Fit For Playback

Even though bone conduction technology offers users a very advanced means of audio playback, users will only enjoy the full benefits they provide if operated correctly.

It’s important to find a set of headphones that have a fit where the vibrations pad sits flat against the skull, to avoid any excessive sound bleed or leakage during playback.  

Do not use strong water current

Bone conduction headphones are designed for use during swimming. However, they can still be subject to loss or damage when used in more extreme swimming conditions such as oceans or rivers.

Swimmers should try to only use their bone conduction headphones in swimming pools or areas with gentle water currents. 

Connectivity issues

Certain users have filed reports citing connectivity issues with their bone conduction headphones.

Often, this error comes from the user end, as bone conduction headphones operate using certain connectivity modes, such as mp3.

Users should be sure to fully read through their respective user manuals for correct connectivity procedures when using bone conduction headphones in wireless or Bluetooth modes.  

Final Thoughts

Bone conduction headphones are an innovation brought about by necessity. The benefits that they provide offer audio playback to a wider spectrum of users than traditional earbuds.

Bone conduction provides reliable audio playback to the elderly and hearing impaired, a benefit that air conduction headphones simply cannot deliver. 

Traditional earbud users may find it tricky to adjust to using bone conduction headphones but cannot dispute the health and safety advantages that they offer.

Bone conduction headphones place no direct pressure on the ear canal and are vastly safer to use than traditional earbuds. 

Conventional headphones may still be the preferred method of audio playback for anyone that needs strong, precise sound quality.

These users could include musicians, producers, mix engineers, or even gamers and movie watchers. 

As a whole, bone conduction headphones could still do with some minor improvements in performance ergonomics before they can fully compete with traditional headphones.

Bone conduction headphones are also generally more expensive than conventional earbuds, which makes them less accessible to the general public. 

Bone conduction headphones are perfect for anyone that wants to enjoy a passive listening experience without the risk of hearing loss or damage.

If functional safety is your primary priority when considering headphones, bone conduction models are a terrific choice for you. 

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Are bone conduction headphones safer than earbuds?

Bone conduction headphones are much safer to use than earbuds. Bone conduction headphones place no direct pressure on the ear canal and aren’t as harsh on the ear muscles and bones as earbuds. 

Do bone conduction headphones damage your hearing?

Even though bone conduction headphones provide a distinctly safer means of listening to audio than earbuds, they can still cause damage if pushed to extreme levels.

This damage can occur over a long-term period if users operate their bone conduction frequently at maximum volume levels. 

What are the advantages of bone conduction headphones?

Bone conduction headphones deliver a reliable means of audio playback without the risk of hearing loss or damage.

Bone conduction headphones also allow hearing-impaired people to experience audio playback. Bone conduction headphones can be operated safely while swimming in water.