Bone Conduction Technology: A New Pathway of Hearing

Do you ever hear the term of bone conduction technology? It is an innovation in hearing devices that can make us feel the new sensation of hearing: the feel of hearing sound inside your head! This. Is. Strange! Surprisingly, the secret behind this technology is quite simple. They just use the basic physical property of sounds and change the normal process of hearing with a new shorter pathway.

What is sound?

The Vibration of Strings. Source: Flickr

Before I explain about bone conduction technology in details, we should first understand what is sound precisely. The scientist explains that a sound is a form of vibration that has pitch (known as frequency) and intensity (known as amplitude). Practically, everything we hear comes from the vibration of anything which makes the air around it wobbles. The wobbled air moves as waves with alternating low and high air pressure that we called wave-like motion. The frequency of a sound is simply the number of waves (up and down) something produces per second. The higher frequency will have higher amount of “up and down” waves produced per second. A simple example is a soprano singer has higher frequency voice than a bass singer. While amplitude describes the loudness of a sound. Every time you turn on your mp3 player with high volume, you will hear a song with high amplitude.

How can we hear a sound?

The Structure of Ear. Source: Flickr

The basic idea is sound can travels around through medium. As I explained before, when something vibrates and hit the air around it, the sound is travelling through the wobbled air to any directions. We can hear a sound when our ear can catch the vibration and pass it through our hearing system. The system itself is quite simple. Our ears consist of three different area: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The outer ear (ear flap) is responsible to first catch the vibration. It transfers the vibration through ear canal to our eardrum located in the middle of our ear. The eardrum vibrates and caused the other three tiny bones beside it vibrating as well. The vibration continues to the fluids inside a tiny snail-shape tube called cochlea in the inner side of our ear and transformed into electric impulses, sent to the brain via auditory nerve, and violá: you heard!

What is bone conduction technology?
Well, instead of using normal pathway, bone conduction technology uses a “short-cut” pathway. From its term, obviously, they use bone as media to transfer the vibration of sound. So, in this case, the vibration will surpass the outer and middle ear (the ear flap, ear canal, and eardrum) and goes directly to three tiny bones in our ears. How could it possible? The hearing devices that used this technology can direct the vibration of sound through our jaw bones or skull to the bones in our ears. This condition that will make new sensation: like hearing the sound inside our head!

What is the application of this technology?

The Bone Conduction Headphones. Source: Flickr

Nowadays, it is the cutting-edge technology in the medical field to help people with hearing problems. Generally, the deaf people have a problem with their eardrum that makes them unable to hear. This short-cut pathway apparently can solve their problem. Another application is the new design of headphones. The common headphones that we used usually isolate us from the outside world because the earplugs block our ear canal. By using this kind of headphones, nothing blocks our ears so we can still hear the rest of the world like we normally do. This is extremely useful when we usually using headphones while walking or cycling in the city. We would be less worry of getting run over by car.

Sound fascinating, but is it safe?
For hearing aid devices, this technology is safe and many devices are available now. If we talk about headphones, it could be less harmful than normal headphones because there is no potency to destruct our eardrum. But, if we always use high volume while hearing using this headphone, there’s no doubt that we can destroy our hearing system (the nerves inside). So, we are still recommended to hear music with moderate volume.



5 Responses to “Bone Conduction Technology: A New Pathway of Hearing”

  1. aali2 says:

    Nice post! I personally always wonder why we interpret off-key bits in songs as being sad, when it’s all just sound waves in the end… There’s some sort of a magical link to emotions right there.

  2. Natalia Radjah says:

    Thanks, Robin. Science indeed grows rapidly right now. Scientists constantly make progress and innovation that extremely fantastic 🙂

  3. Robin Sanchez Arlt says:

    Nice article Natalia. Isn’t it just awesome how far science as come. We even have bionic eyes. What’s next?

  4. Natalia Radjah says:

    Thank you:)
    Actually, for hearing-aid devices, it doesn’t look like the headphones in this article. The devices are attached to the skull from behind our ears. Some types for babies are made like a headband so they don’t need to wear it a whole day.

  5. kangk1 says:

    Great article! With this technology, more people with hearing impairment can hear the sound. But do they have to wear the headphones anytime?