Earbuds/Bone Conducting Headphones for Students with Visual Impairments

Students who use screen readers frequently use earbuds in the classroom so that the screen reader does not distract others or give away answers during a test!  Earbuds also enable the student to easily hear the screen reader in noisier environments.  Some students will wear only one earbud so that he/she can still hear the teacher and classmates; however, some apps work best when heard in stereo.  Students using GPS apps, especially when crossing streets, need to be able to hear all environmental sounds - including traffic - while traveling routes.  Bone conducting headphones are a great option for students with visual impairments and blindness.  Bone conducting headphones allows the student to hear sound through vibrations of the cheek or jaw bones. This means that the sound waves bypass the outer and middle ear and directly stimulate the inner ear.  Functionally, this means that the student can hear the information passing through the headphones (screen reader or music) while hearing the environmental noises (people talking, traffic or ambient environmental sounds).  Bone conducting headphones were originally created to help people with some types of hearing loss.  Recently, bone conducting headphones have gained popularity with sport enthusiasts who want to listen to safely listen to music while exercising.

There are a variety of bone conducting headphones to choose from.  Some are physically plugged into your device: these devices still require their own power source and must be recharged.  Other bone conducting earbuds are Bluetooth paired (no chords); these earbuds also require charging.  The Bluetooth headphones typically are slightly heavier/bulkier.

Best Bone Conduction Headphones of 2016:  A Complete Guide has more information and rates the top bone conduction headphones.

Young boy wearing a larger blue earbud that hooks around behind his ear.


Liz Eagan, a TVI, provides information about her experiences with Earbuds for Students with Multiple Disabilities.


Read more about: Assistive Technology