They don’t go in your ears. And they don’t cover them. But what are they? From bone conduction headphones to Bose headphones with OpenAudio™, explore the latest headphone technologies and learn the difference.

A new way to listen

Open-ear wireless headphones are headphones that don’t block or cover your ears, so you can hear your music and your surroundings at the same time. This unique experience makes them a top choice for running headphones and workout headphones as they allow you to fuel your exercise with music, without losing awareness of your surroundings.

Let’s take a closer look at the different technologies, how they work and why many are falling in love with open-ear headphones.

Bone conduction vs. Bose OpenAudio™

A model of open-ear headphones and the use of bone-conduction technology showing vibrations to the inner ear


Most open-ear wireless headphones use bone-conduction technology to send vibrations directly to the inner ear, bypassing the eardrums. While effective, it requires a tight fit between the bone conduction headphones and the wearer. Plus, it has significant audio-quality limitations. Bone conduction technology can’t produce sound as clearly and consistently as traditional audio technologies that send sound through the air. And between the fit and the vibrations, some find bone conduction headphones to be simply uncomfortable.

OpenAudio technology showing sound waves of the Bose Sport Open Earbud


Bose’s solution to open-ear wireless headphones is different. Instead of sending sound waves through the wearer’s bones, they send sound waves through the air for a more natural listening experience. Proprietary Bose OpenAudio™ technology delivers rich, full-range sound while minimising what others nearby can hear—reducing the issue of sound spillage caused by open-ear designs. Plus, they don’t require a tight fit. They’re designed to rest securely on the natural curve of the ear, while precision-placed acoustic ports channel sound directly into the ears.

Bose OpenAudio™ technology in action

Precision ports direct sound from two 16 mm drivers—one in each earbud—into the ears, while an innovative dipole design minimises the spread of sound, reducing what others hear.

Man running by a lake wearing Bose Sport Open Earbuds

What are open-ear headphones good for?

So now you know what open-ear headphones are, and you know a little about the different technologies that power them—but what are they good for? Well, they’re good for just about any time you want to listen to music without closing off the world around you, but where they really shine is outdoors as running headphones or workout headphones. Being able to hear your surroundings while exercising outside has some unique advantages. Not only can you hear any potential hazards better than if you were running with in-ear headphones, but you can also hear and stay connected to the world around you, whether for you that means your running buddy or the gentle crash of the ocean on a morning run. Adding a soundtrack to the world rather than blocking it out is a unique, inspiring sensory experience. Also, if you’re a race enthusiast who prefers running to music, open-ear headphones may be your only option as some races don’t allow runners to wear anything in their ears.

But maybe you’re not specifically looking for running headphones or workout headphones, maybe you just find wearing in-ear headphones for an extended period of time uncomfortable. Well, you’re not alone. And if a unique sense of comfort is what you’re after, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds may be your best bet. They make no contact with the entrance to the ear or the inner ear, and they don’t require the tight fit needed for bone conduction. It’s a more natural listening experience that still produces high-quality sound.

Explore all Bose open-ear products

Bose Sport Open Earbuds

Bose Frames Tempo style

Bose Frames Tenor style

Bose Frames Soprano style

Bose Frames Alto style

Bose Frames Rondo style

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