Bone Conduction 101: The way it Works, What it is and Does it Hurt?

Music is a huge part of daily life also it may be for nearly as long as Human beings have now been on this planet. I often point to the discovery of the 40,000-year-old flute dating back to the ice age as proof for this, but truthfully, the facts you need is all around you, every day. We recall ballads and music long after the people who initially composed them have died and rotted away (an idea which I find curiously calming) and the music industry, like it or hate it, is definitely a huge business.


However, while the ice age musicians likely lived during a world of stark violence, frozen, featureless wastelands and harsh, ‘kill or be killed’ inter-cave politics, they never had to deal with road works, delivery lorries, screaming infants or drunken crowd-rousers on their way to the stag evening. Fortunate buggers.


Today’s listener has to accommodate all that and more, that may make listening to the music not only difficult, but also treacherous.


Now, though, contemporary science has stumbled over a means in which you’ll be able to still listen to your favourite songs, even if you’re wearing earplugs (no, I have not been sniffing discarded paint cans once more). It’s called skeleton conduction technology and no, despite the slightly strange name, it actually doesn’t harm…


According to recent research, exposure to any noise over 100 decibels wears away a film known as the myelin sheath and leaves your middle ear liable to problems like tinnitus and temporary deafness, which can be the beginning of even more serious problems. Bone conduction technology is designed to bypass many sensitive portions of your ear and reduce the chance of inner-ear harm.


How? Well, in order to know that, we need to first comprehend how our ears actually work. (HERE COMES THE SCIENCE-Y BIT) Principally, noise travels though the space, these sound waves are intercepted by several structures within the ear and are eventually translated and transmitted into our brains (if it helps, visualize it like the encoding/decoding of digital information, like that which leads the movements of a wireless mouse).


The sound waves first encounter a bit of cartilage (yes, similar stuff that a shark’s skeleton is formed of), which helps to focus the sound, this known as a pinna (but you are able to call it your outer ear without looking too ridiculous). 


After that, the sound waves pass into your middle ear, that is filled up with air and also contains both your aural canal and your eardrum (my little brother burst his when he was little and virtually burst mine crying about it). The eardrum vibrates, passing the sound through to a ossicles, that are three small bones (that are in fact pretty vital to the sense of balance, I’m told). These tiny bones transmit the signal to the cochlea, that’s a fluid-filled infrastructure that ‘encodes’ the indicators for our brain to ‘decode’.


Bone conduction technology vibrates the bones of your skull, sending the noise directly to a cochlea and bypassing the remainder of their ear totally. The nerve impulses transmitted to your brain are exactly the same, however the sensitive mechanism of the ear doesn’t need to deal with the trouble of, to quote Anchorman’s Brick Tamland “LOUD NOISES!”


This process appears to be totally safe; in reality, the famously deaf composer Beethoven employed a rudimentary version of this process in order to compose his most renowned works. He attached a rod between his piano and his head and, as such, was able to hear the song he was playing.


So there you go, rather then exposing your sensitive ears to louder and louder volumes, just to drown out the environment noise, you are able to alternativily stick your earpugs in and play your music at the proper volume. Make no bones about it (groan!)


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