Are Bone Conduction Headphones Safe? (The Answer Is Not That Simple)

Ali Abdaal

There are several myths and misconceptions about health risks associated with wearing bone conduction headphones. But what is your take? Are bone conduction headphones safe? If you're unsure whether they’re safe or not, this article is meant for you. Keep reading to clear your doubts.

Bone conduction headphones are technologically advanced headphones with bone technology. They transmit sound into the inner ear directly through the cheekbones instead of the ears. It is a great innovation, especially for people with ear impairments. How does this technology work? Well, practically block both your ears with your fingers and try speaking.

If you can hear yourself, that's the same way these headphones function. While this innovation has gained dense acceptance, there are unclear safety concerns leading to questions like; are bone conduction headphones safe?

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Are Bone Conduction Headphones Safe?

The Bone conduction technique has been in existence for quite a longer period and was used to aid hearing for people experiencing hearing loss. For instance, the famous deaf music composer Ludwig Van Beethoven bit a metal rod connected to his piano in his mouth to listen to voice notes through his jawbones. Later, the technique was technologically advanced to take form of bone conduction headphones as a hearing aid.

Despite the technique being in existence for a long period, there is still debate about whether these bone conduction headphones are safe. Bone conduction headphones come with several advantages, but they also pose some risks, just like any other headphones. Although manufacturers claim that they're entirely safe, there are some safety concerns raised by some of their users, such as hearing damage, bacterial infection, headache, skin irritation, and facial nerve damage.

Despite the safety concerns associated with these headphones, they are safe to use as long as safety measures are adhered to. Following the manufacturer's instructions, for instance; wearing the bone conduction headphones properly and listening at a reasonable volume, is crucial to avoid being exposed to such risks.

Understanding How Bone Conduction Headphones Function

Ordinarily, sound waves travel through the outer ear to the eardrums, inform of vibrations produced by the moving the ossicles in the middle ear. Then, to the cochlea in the inner ear where the vibrations are converted into signals which the brain interprets as sound. However, with Bone Conduction Headphones, sound travels directly into the inner ear skipping the outer and the middle ear as the vibrations are transmitted internally.

The Bone Conduction Headphones use innovatively developed bone conduction technology. They sit on the cheekbone in front of the ears, and using the technology, they transmit sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through the jawbone of the inner skull. Besides, they transmit sounds without blocking the ear canal, so the user can hear the sound from headphones and the external environment.

Which Safety Concerns are Associated with Bone Conduction Headphones

As stated earlier, bone conduction headphones are safe to use, but they can pose some risks if not appropriately used. Most manufacturers will not inform you of the health issues resulting from using their products, in this case; the bone conduction headphones. Since there's nothing artificial that is 100% perfect it’s yet to be scientifically proven on some safety risks resulting from the use of these headphones, here are some of the common risks;

1. Hearing Damage

One of the major concerns is whether bone-conduction headphones can damage the hearing system of an individual. This is possible with any headphones and earbuds. When the ear is frequently exposed to loud sounds, the hair cells and nerves in the inner ear (Cochlear) can be affected since the waves directly vibrate the skull, which may result in a damaged hearing system.

2. Bacterial Infection

When using these headphones, cheekbones come into contact with the transducer, which is the part that vibrates and sends sound to the inner ear. Bacteria may transmit through this contact, causing a bacterial infection.

3. Facial Nerve Damage

The Facial Nerve Damage is a rare but possible threat. This condition can lead to temporary or permanent facial paralysis due to the intense pressure exerted on the facial nerve due to tightly placed headphones against the cheekbone.

4. Headache and Vertigo

Just as with any other headphones, bone conduction headphones can be uncomfortable and sometimes cause headaches. The discomfort is subjective from individual to individual; however, since these headphones sit on the cheekbone, if not appropriately worn, they can cause discomfort especially when the volume is too high. Moreover, if the vibrations get intense, they exert a lot of pressure on the head, which results in headaches. You can overcome these health threats by implementing the following;

What is the Difference between Traditional Headphones and Bone Conduction Headphones?

The primary difference between these headphones is that traditional headphones rely on air conduction which directly transmits sound into the ear canal. In contrast, bone conduction headphones use the bone conduction technique. This makes them suitable for all people with or without a hearing impairment.

Traditional headphones with active noise cancellation technology block external noise disruptions, especially if you want to concentrate on something fully. The bone conduction headphones are open-ear designed to enable listening to sound produced by the headphone and from the external environment.

Thus, they are suitable for situational awareness by people who need to multitask or stay alert, such as athletes, cyclists, and security officers. While both demonstrate good performance, traditional headphones have a better sound quality due to their isolation feature and the use of significant drivers. There are, however, continuous advancements to improve bone conduction headphones too.


Q: Do bone conduction headphones cause cancer?

A: Likewise to cell phones, bone conduction headphones emit radiations linked to cause tumors such as brain tumors that cause cancer. That can be a great concern for people who use this device. However, bone conduction headphones emit less radiation; thus, there are limited chances that they will cause cancerous tumors.

Q: Can a normal person use bone-conduction headphones?

A: Yes, bone conduction headphones transmit sound vibrations through the jawbone to the inner ear; thus, they are suitable for people with or without hearing impairment.

Q: How long can you wear bone-conduction headphones?

A: There is no specified period on how long you can wear bone conduction headphones. However, as discussed earlier, it's prudent to avoid having them on continually. Also, it's advisable to take them off at intervals or only use them when it’s essential to prevent health threats.


While bone conduction technology has several advantages, like enhanced hearing for people with underlying hearing conditions, it poses some health concerns. Fortunately, these concerns can be avoided, as discussed above, on whether bone conduction headphones are safe. Nonetheless, they are safe to use as long as you take safety precautions, and potential risks depend on individual user habits.

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