I’ve been dealing with severe dizziness and nausea episodes for the past few months. Although not a constant issue (most days, anyway), when one of the dizziness spells happens it’s completely debilitating for at least a few hours. I’m still in the process of determining why these issues are happening (I’ve had MRIs, angiograms, and echocardiagrams, and so far everything is checking out okay - waiting for an ENT appointment next month), but in the interim, I’m trying to do all I can to prevent the episodes from happening, and trying to reduce the severity when they do.

It seems to be related to issues with my ears. For several weeks, I had a significant ear infection that took a while to resolve. They gave me antibiotics, and I’m already on steroids for my kidney disease, but on first glance they didn’t seem to correct the issue. Even after the antibiotics, the infection remained. Thankfully, that at least has cleared up in recent days. I suspect that it cleared up not only as a result of those medications, but also due to some lifestyle changes as well.

To try and get ahead of the issue, I decided to stop wearing headphones and earbuds as much as possible. Between the pressure inside my ears, and the hot and sweaty feeling of my ears not being able to vent to the outside air while wearing them, I came to the conclusion that the earbud use was negatively affecting my ears and, by extension, my dizziness.

With the decrease in usage, I’ve noticed a significant improvement not only in terms of the number of episodes I experience, but generally in just how my ears and sinuses feel. My ears feel so much better! The problem is, I really, really missed being able to listen to audio privately. I have a few Bluetooth speakers around my home and office, but I don’t like to disturb my partner or others at my coworking space, so I find that I am only able to use them occasionally.

Determined to find another solution, I began to search the web for options. The most prevalent option I saw that might avoid the issues cause by headphones and earbuds were bone-conducting headphones. These are headphones that physically make contact with the side of your head, and channel the sound through the bones in your skull (staying outside of your ear canal). I’ve tried them in the past, but never liked them. They never got loud enough for me, and they always made my teeth feel like I was chewing on aluminum foil.

But then I remembered a design for a set of earbuds I had seen a while ago. This is where the Sony Linkbuds come in. Sony Linkbuds are unique and somewhat strange. They are earbuds, but they don’t fit inside your ear canal. They rest right at the entrance, forming a small ring (almost like a donut) around the ear canal but never going in. They’re also, oddly enough, completely open in the middle. It’s strange to think of an “open back” earbud, but that’s what they are.

Depending on your point of view, the downside of this is that you don’t get any noise cancellation or sound isolation. The sounds in your environment are still noticeable with them in.

But, it can also be a plus. Rather than the “transparency modes” of most noise canceling headphones, which essentially “pipe in” the sounds from outside, you’re getting the sounds directly and authentically.

And, most important of all, there is no feeling of pressure like with the other earbuds. There’s nothing in your canal, and nothing plugging anything up. You get sound, you get airflow, and your ears can breathe.

They are incredibly comfortable to wear. I could do with them being one notch louder, but they get plenty loud enough. And the sound is pretty good. They’re not as good in the sound department as noise-canceling earbuds, but you can’t expect them to be. And the health and lifestyle benefits you get in return are well worth that trade-off.

So if you, like me, find yourself having issues with normal earbuds and headphones, it may be worth giving the Linkbuds a try. I’m absolutely loving mine, and am overjoyed to be able to go about my day listening to music and podcasts again.