Dangers of Distraction: How to Improve Earbud Safety
Listening to music through earbuds or headphones can be a pleasant distraction while walking, running, or riding a bike.
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Listening to music through earbuds or headphones can be a pleasant distraction while walking, running, or riding a bike. Many people feel that it makes time go faster when they are exercising. Unfortunately, the practice can also put people at risk because it makes them less aware of their surroundings. Distraction can result in one of many frightening situations, such as colliding with another person, not hearing an emergency vehicle, or even becoming a crime victim.
How Big of a Problem is Earbud or Headphone Distraction?
Audio Analytic conducted a survey in May 2019 to learn more about this depth of this problem and how to resolve it. To the publication’s surprise, more than 37 million Americans responded that they felt they had put themselves in danger at least once in the past year due to divided attention. The problem was far more prevalent among younger people than older people.
One-quarter of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 felt they had created a dangerous situation for themselves several times over the past year while listening to music on the go.
Despite these responses, most people feel that they are aware of the potential problems associated with wearing earbuds or headphones while participating in another public activity.
The following responses seem to directly contradict people admitting to the fact they have jeopardized their own safety through earbud or headphone use:
96 percent feel that wearing earbuds or headphones while driving is dangerous.
91 percent feel the practice is dangerous while riding a bicycle.
86 percent feel they should not wear earbuds or headphones while running.
72 percent feel that listening to music through personal amplification could be dangerous while using public transportation.
Transparency Mode Earbuds Could Be the Ideal Solution
Transparency mode refers to the use of external microphones that enable the user to hear surrounding noise, such as traffic flow or an emergency siren. Users have the option to blend external noises with the music coming through their earbuds to increase situational awareness.
These earbuds use the same type of technology found in products with active noise cancellation (ANC). The microphones attached to the earbuds use ANC to detect and process sounds around the user, and the earbuds mask or cancel the noise using amplitude and frequency features.
Many earbuds that previously had only the ANC feature now come with a customizable transparency mode. The earbuds play the outside sounds inside of the earbuds along with music the user has chosen. However, the earbuds prioritize the music and users only hear the sounds they select. Transparency mode allows earbuds users to go about their normal daily routine and hear what they need to while still listening to their preferred music.
Transparent Mode Earbuds Available
Apple’s AirPods Pro are perhaps the best-known example of earbuds featuring transparency mode. However, Australian company, Nuheara, released their own transparency mode earbuds back in 2016, long before the Apple AirPods Pro came on the scene in October 2019.
Over the past five years, Nuheara has released several new versions of the IQbuds earbuds with even stronger abilities to blend music with world sounds. The earbuds also come with settings for home, work, and other everyday environments. People can even use them on a plane, and they are fully customizable to the user’s hearing profile.
Other manufacturers such as Jabra, BOSE, Sony and Sennheiser also all feature their own versions of transparency mode earbuds. Hopefully the adoption of this technology will help limit the distraction dangers of earbuds and headphones in the future.