Bone Conduction: Help For Hard Of Hearing

Can new headphone technology change how all users experience sound?

Dr. Breese with Daniel

The COVID-19 pandemic was doubly difficult for Daniel Goldberg, a 53-year-old stock clerk who lost his hearing when he was 3 years old and depends in part on lip reading to communicate.

“Because everybody was wearing masks all the time, I couldn’t read their lips,” says Daniel, who also communicates through American Sign Language, which he teaches in his spare time.

Daniel has become an expert in lip reading and ASL because he has no right eardrum and the left eardrum does not function normally. As a result, hearing aids have not always worked well for him.

“With special technology, I can hear some noises,” Daniel explains. “I had a device I wore on my chest that amplified the hearing aids, but sometimes it caused confusion or misunderstanding. I would hear two instead of toe, that kind of thing.”

Daniel isn’t alone. Despite major technological advancements in hearing devices, many struggle to hear sound and speech clearly and have no outlet to listen to music or podcasts or watch television or movies without closed captioning.

That may soon change with the development of the Dome Audio D4 bone-conduction headphones that Daniel recently tried during a visit with his audiologist, Kelly Breese, AuD, of Hearing Aids of Sarasota.

Dome Audio D4 headphones with “covers.”

Unlike standard air-conduction headphones or earbuds, the D4 Bluetooth headphones use bone conduction to create a full-fidelity listening experience for all people, including those with hearing loss.

Bone conduction is the channeling of sound to the inner ear through two bones on each side of the head: the zygomatic bone in front of the ear and mastoid bone behind the ear.

Dome Audio’s technology uses four speakers (two on each side of the head) that sit on those bones to deliver sound directly to the inner ear through sound vibrations.

The vibrations bypass the outer ear, eardrum and middle ear – where many hearing issues lie – and activate the sense of hearing, even allowing wearers who are deaf in one ear to enjoy stereo sound.

It’s the ability to receive vibrations directly in the inner ear that allows people with hearing difficulties to hear more clearly through the D4 headphones. In the inner ear, nerve endings transform the vibrations into electrical impulses that travel along the auditory nerve to the brain.

Another variation: While conventional headphones cover the outer ear canal, bone-conduction headphones rest behind the outer ear, leaving the ear canal exposed.

Though Daniel’s hearing aids allow him to hear music, he says he never heard music as clearly as he did the day he tried the D4 headphones.

“Different hearing aids allowed me to hear different things in the music,” Daniel says. “With some, the voices were clear, but the music was not. With others, I could pick up the instruments – the drums, guitar and bass – but the voices weren’t clear.

“With the D4 headphones, everything was clear. The sound was perfect. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. It was a very enjoyable listening experience, and that’s partly because it was a comfortable listening experience.

“The reason I say that is because of the way these headphones fit around your ear. With other headphones, because of the way they cover your ears, they would crush my hearing aids against my head, and it was very uncomfortable. It actually gave me headaches.

“Not only that, but the headphones and hearing aids would interfere with each other and create feedback. I always got this high-pitched whining sound that would hurt the one eardrum I do have. It was so bad it even affected my vision.

“There was none of that with the Dome Audio headphones. The sound I heard through them was great. The sound was connected to my hearing aids through Bluetooth, and I could hear everything perfectly.”

Coming Soon

Dome Audio is also developing a multifunctional app for its D4 headphones that can be used to adjust the Bluetooth connection and control operations such as taking phone calls or switching devices.

The D4 headphones that Daniel tried were a prototype of the headphones that are expected to be available to the public by the end of 2022.

Dr. Breese, who wears hearing devices and tried out the Dome Audio D4 headphones with Daniel, is a member of Dome Audio’s advisory board, and she believes these headphones can indeed revolutionize hearing.

“Anyone can use these headphones, but as far as how it helps the hearing-impaired, Daniel’s reaction said it all,” she explains. “When he popped those headphones on for the first time, his face lit up and within a few minutes he was actually dancing.

“It was awesome to see his response, and I was blown away by the sound, too. In addition to being an audiologist, I’m a musician and a percussionist, and I could not believe how amazing the quality of the sound was that I got from these headphones.

“I’ve tried bone-conduction headphones before, but these Dome Audio D4 headphones are light years ahead of anything else that’s out there.”

A Sound ‘Revolution’

Tim Wright, co-founder and chief strategic officer of Dome Audio, says the D4 headphones are designed “to revolutionize the way the entire world experiences sound.”

“That’s our mission,” says Tim, a former pro football player. “These headphones are for everybody, but for people who are hearing-impaired, it can provide an experience they’ve never had before.”

Tim says Dome Audio D4 headphones also have completely customizable “covers” that can be added to give them the look of traditional headphones. While these may not work for wearers of hearing aids, for others they can amplify the sound and block outside noises.

“Anyone can use these headphones, but as far as how it helps the hearing-impaired, Daniel’s reaction said it all,” – Dr. Breese

“Our Dome covers are a patented component that attach to the frame of the Dome Audio D4 headphones,” Tim explains.

“The other thing that’s really cool about our Dome covers is that they’re a blank canvas that we call headphone real estate. You can use that space to do anything you want. You can promote your brand or another brand you want to partner with or make a deal with.

“Our Dome covers also give the wearer the chance to change their look on the fly. The idea is that you have one pair of Dome Audio D4 headphones, and you can pop different covers on and off depending on what you’re wearing or promoting that day.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings.Photo courtesy of Hearing Aids of Sarasota. mkb
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    • Hearing Aids of Sarasota

      Hearing Aids of Sarasota want to be your anchor in all hearing healthcare needs. Dr. Kelly Breese will provide honest, caring, patient-centered, evidence-based, up-to-date treatment and education.... Read More

    • Kelly Breese, AuD

      Kelly Breese, AuD, is a board-certified doctor of audiology who specializes in the treatment of hearing loss and tinnitus. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 2011 and her doctorate degree from the University of A... Read More