I recently picked up an interesting gadget - a pair of Vonia EZ-4200P Bone Conduction Headphones. These look like a set of over-the-ear headphones, except that instead of being completely covered by a foam pad, the center of each headphone is a hard plastic pad. Instead of wearing them over your ears, you actually place them a bit forward so that the plastic pads are resting above your cheekbones. The sound is then transmitted through the bone into your head, rather than blasting directly into your eardrum. Supposedly this will give you good sound, while at the same time reducing the possibility of hearing loss.
Since I am rapidly becoming deaf as a post and I listen to music quite a bit during the day to block out the noises of my fellow cube dwellers while I focus on the tedious minutia that is the life blood of the auditing work that I do, trying these things out seemed like a pretty good idea.
There is very little information about bone conduction music headphones. Nothing really about where to buy them in the US, and no reviews to speak of. Even more discouraging, the only product line I was able to find any information about was Vonia, which is manufactured by Thanko, a company better known for a wide variety of USB powered devices covering the full range from seat warmers and warming slippers to a USB hub shaped like a gold bar. My confidence was not inspired..
However, theirs was the only product that I could find for sale in English. Unfortunately only their lowest end product was available, but I figured if it worked at all it was probably worth $90.
After using the headphones for several days I have mixed feelings about them. The headphones definitely have their problems - The sound quality is not perfect; it's a little distorted and "bathroom-echo-y" and it looses a lot of the low end. The headphones themselves press pretty tightly against your face, which becomes a little uncomfortable after a while.
That said they show a lot of promise. The sound is not awful, by any means, and I can certainly tell the difference at the end of a day from not having my eardrums battered all day. Also, because they don't cover your ears you actually are more aware of what is going on around you - if say, someone comes into your cubicle - while still over powering just about all environmental sounds and distractions.
Overall it's enough to make me want to keep using them at work and to look forward to seeing future iterations of the technology. I would definitely consider paying a few hundred dollars for a really good set of bone conducting headphones based on this experiment, though I would like to be able to actually try them before buying.
(I should also mention that according to the instructions you can wear the headphones over your ears, if you want to. I tried it and it does improve the range and quality of the sound, but it also defeats my goal of sparing my ear drums (though it's probably still better than shoving in ear buds)).
(I also wonder whether or not these things sound heavy on the high end because the bone conduction is overcoming the fact that I have lost a lot of hearing at the higher range over the years...)