Goodbye earphones, this is how music travels through the bones

With all the comforts available today that tend to make our lifestyle sedentary, many have rediscovered the need and pleasure of playing sports. Especially running, swimming and cycling seem to attract more and more enthusiasts who often like a musical accompaniment that gives them the rhythm or simply keeps them company, while some need to remain available on the phone anyway. Unfortunately, making listening to music and phone calls enjoyable is not a foregone conclusion. Traditional solutions have limitations that make them unsuitable for athletes. The earphones tend to fall out of the ear due to jolts and sweat, while the headphones are obviously out of the question because they are heavy, not very stable and unsuitable for managing sweat.

The solution to these problems, however, is at hand thanks to technologies that exploit the bone conduction of sound. Underlying it is the principle that sound travels in the form of vibrations not only in the air, but also through other materials, including the bones of the skull. In particular, it has been discovered that when we speak the jaw acts as a sounding board and carries our voice with great fidelity, while the vibrations released on the skull easily reach our ear. These principles can be used to create excellent “microphones” and “speakers”.

The great advantages of bone conduction

Microphones that take sound from the vibrations of the bones, usually the jaw, have the great advantage of detecting only our voice, ignoring everything else. This means that even if we are in noisy, windy or adverse environments, there will be no rustle and other interference: only our words, and any verses, will be detected and transmitted. In addition, microphones of this type do not need openings to let sound through and therefore are simple to make perfectly waterproof and resistant to dirt and dust. It is no coincidence, moreover, that this technology was developed for the first time following a request from the DARPA, the American body for military research, which wanted a reliable system to let soldiers communicate with each other in conditions difficult environments.

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Suitable for traffic and shared environments

Another advantage of bone conduction sound is that devices are used instead of speakers that do not occlude the ear. They rest, in fact, behind the pavilion and leave the ear canal completely free so that we can hear without problems what is happening around us. This means that if we are on a bike, we will be able to hear the cars arrive and their acoustic signals, while if we are running on the track or in the gym we will be able to hear any warnings or other athletes who want to greet us. If desired, they are also useful in working environments where we can listen to music without disturbing anyone and still being available for voice requests.

Many products, often hybrids

Bone conduction technology can be used to detect our voice and to transmit sound to our ears, but not all products take advantage of both. The fidelity of the sound, in fact, is not exceptional and if it is okay to listen to music or talk on the phone while we lean out or otherwise, it will not satisfy those with a demanding ear. For this there are earphones that exploit the detection of the voice through bone conduction, but traditional type speakers to reproduce the sound towards the ear (perhaps with active noise cancellation), or (although more rarely) the opposite. Keep in mind, however, that if you want to use them in the pool, they must be completely waterproof kits and therefore the hybrid ones will not be for you.

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Goodbye earphones, this is how music travels through the bones


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