Bone conduction glasses have been around for years. Many of you may first heard of them when Zungle was still a thing just a few years ago. They are stylish, they are comfortable, and they are ideal for some types of hearing loss.
But just in case you haven't noticed it yet, bone conduction glasses seem to be less popular these days, with less brands still having them in their product line.
In this post, we'll dive deep into bone conduction glasses, compare them with air conduction glasses, whether you should buy them and finally, recommend the top 3 bone conduction glasses that are worth buying.
Bone Conduction Glasses and Hearing Aid
We often relate bone conduction to hearing aid. Beware it doesn't always help. Some of the most common hearing loss types are: conductive, sensorineural and mixed hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss occurs when there are issues with the outer or middle ear. This prevents sound from reaching the inner ear. In this case, bone conduction helps by delivering sound directly to the cochlea bypassing the outer and middle ear.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is usually caused by aging, long time exposure to loud noise or certain medical conditions. In this case, it's issues with the inner ear or nerve pathways that transmit sound from the ear to the brain so bone conduction may be less effective.
- Mixed hearing loss is the combination of the above two types, so it may still benefit from bone conduction aid.
Hovever, most of bone conduction glasses on the market are not designed for the specific purpose of hearing aid. They don't receive the sound from the environement or whom you are speaking with, so what they can do at best is to assist with hearing when used with a dedicated hearing aid APP or a sound reception device like Hearing Spouse.
Anyway, if you are looking for hearing aid, it's recommended to always consult a doctor before purchasing any of the bone conduction glasses.
Air Conduction vs. Bone Conduction Glasses
If you are not looking for hearing aids, you may wonder the difference of all these glasses.
There are mainly two types of open-ear audio glasses: air conduction glasses and bone conduction glasses, both of which have their reasons for choosing the technology for their purposes.
I'll talk about them in terms of three aspects: audio quality, sound leakage and wearing experience.
Air conduction glasses, by their nature, are glasses with headphones that do not block your ears. So they inherit every advantage traditional headphones have.
Genearlly, for the same price, air conduction glasses perform better in terms of audio quality. Their mid and high-frequency ranges are clearer, more detailed but they fall short in the low-frequency ranges. You can check out our in-depth Bluetooth audio glasses guide for more information
With bone conduction, the bass effect is even worse. It is the inherent weakness of bone conduction and all open-ear audio device.
But we don't buy open-ears for their audio quality, do we? We choose these open-ear glasses because we can listen to music, audio books and make phone calls while staying attuned to the surroundings. When you choose such open ear product with small speakers, get ready to sacrifice bass effect for safety and awareness.
However, we do see efforts have been made to improve bass on bone conduction devices. Shokz Openrun Pro uses bass enhancers to bump up lower frequencies, which may be just extra air conduction speakers specially for that effect.
The separation of high, mid and low ranges may be a solution for tackling the challenge. We may see this applied to newer generations of bone conduction glasses in the future.
Sound leakage is the amount of audio that leaks out of your ears and is audible to people around you. It can be no only an annoyance to others in a quiet environment, but it also causes privacy issues.
A good pair of bone conduction glasses usually has quite less sound leakage when comparing with air conduction glasses. And being GOOD, is not always easy for bone conduction glasses.
Bone conduction speakers are usually referred to as bone conduction transducer, as they vibrate to transfer the sound via the cheekbones to the cochlea.
But sound is all about vibration, whether through bone conduction or not. Good bone conduction transducers have higher transmitting efficiency, which means they convert more audio signals to inner ears through vibration and have less sound escape to the air.
Those not-so-good transducers, on the other hand, have lower converting efficiency, and thus more sound is transmitted to your ears through air. The thing is, part of the sound that escapes to the air, will still end up in your inner ears through bone conduction, whether you use bone conduction transducers or not in the first place. That's why you hear noise even when you block your ears.
Because of this effect, some brands cut some corners by applying less effective bone conduction transducers and still claim to adopt bone conduction technology.
Technically, it's easier for air conduction glasses to reduce sound leakage while maintaining good audio quality than bone conduction glasses. This makes it less rewarding for brands to invest more on bone conduction glasses. And this may also explain why some brands gradually abandoned this product line.
When built into glasses, both of these technologies take the open-ear design.
Although some of the older audio glasses still have in-ear earbuds, they are less common nowadays.
Air conduction glasses are usually more comfortable to wear than bone conduction glasses just by a tiny bit, because with bone conduction, to achieve better audio, the glasses' temples need to fit tightly against the head. And because the bone conduction transducers usually jut out, it makes them even less comfortable.
However, it really is not hard to get used to them. Once you do, you'll forget about these issues immediately and enjoy the open-ear audio experience.
From the comparison above, it seems air conduction glasses generally have a better experience. But it really is not. Both type of glasses work well when you choose the right ones that fit your need.
Bone Conduction Prescription Glasses
Adding prescription lenses to your bone conduction glasses is easy if the brand has official prescription service. If they don't, then it's your duty to make sure your prescription lens provider don't break your glasses.
Here are the things to watch out:
With bone conduction glasses, the two glasses arms (temples) typically have two types of syncronization methods: wired and TWS.
With TWS (true wireless stereo) connection, the two temples syncs wirelessly.
With wired connection, there is a wire connecting the two temples. The wire goes through the hinges and into the front frames.
This is where most prescription issue is. The optician doesn't know about the wire and when installing the lenses, the frame and hinge may endure too much force and ultimately if the wire snaps, it completely breaks the audio feature of the glasses.
So we recommend brands' official prescription service whenever possible.
Bone Conduction Recommendations
If you need wrap-around style sports bone conduction sunglasses, our top recommendation is VocalSkull Sports.
Here are the two other bone conduction glasses we recommend.
Shokz Roadwave is Shokz's latest bone conduction glasses. It's sold on many running and cycling stores but not on either Amazon or Shokz's official site. We don't know the reason behind this strategy but Roadwave is surely one of the best Bluetooth sunglasses, whether bone conduction or not.
- No rim design for easy lens changing
- Comfortable on the temples because the bone conduction transducers do not jut out
- Audio is just as good as other Shokz bone conduction headphones
- The groove design on the temples offer a nice position for microphones, making a clearer call quality even in strong winds (this is especially a plus for cyclists)
- Sound leakage is a bit louder than other Shokz headphones, but still better than most other bone conduction sunglasses
- Not suitable for indoor use
If you like the sporty style, we also have recommendations of air conduction version of Bluetooth audio glasses, which may also work as Bluetooth safety glasses.
Bone conduction glasses these days are so rare that even if you have a reason to use them, your choices are very limited. QZTELECTRONIC could be your choice for everyday wearing. Unlike Shokz Roadwave, these fit both indoor and outdoor occasions. See detail.
- Equipped with photochromic blue light blocking lenses out of the box
- IPX6 waterproof
- Suitable for all-day use in different scenarios
- Only support 4 hours of music on a full charge
- Not as good audio quality and leakage control
Bone conduction glasses can be a great choice for good audio quality, less sound leakage. They can also assist with hearing for certain types of hearing loss. If you are still hesitating, maybe it's time to try our Bluetooth audio glasses.