5 Tips to Stop Headphones Hurting Your Ears

Tips to Stop Headphones Hurting Your Ears

It’s a great feeling to be able to tune the world out while working or relaxing and turn up some good music, an audiobook, or a podcast. With noise-cancelling technology, being able to tune out is easier than it ever has been. However, what isn’t great is experiencing discomfort or ear damage as a result of your headphones.

This pain and damage could come as a result of a variety of factors, including dry skin, high volume, incorrect headphone sizing, and more. We’ll be covering some tips to save your ears from this pain, and we’ll cap off the article by suggesting some great pairs of headphones to keep you listening comfortably. 

#1 Make sure your headphones fit correctly

If you’re having trouble with your headphones fitting, you first have to pinpoint which part of your headphones are causing you trouble. Some possibilities are that the in-ear buds are too big and are hurting your ear canal, the wire is being tugged as you do certain activities, your sport earbud clip is rubbing your ear, or your over-ear headphones are too tight.

If your in-ear buds are too tight, it’s likely that your headphones came with multiple sizes of buds, in which case you should replace them with a smaller size. If they didn’t come with extra buds, or if a smaller size still isn’t fixing the issue, you can purchase “comply” tips, which conform to your ear shape like memory phone when heated by your body heat.

If your wire is being tugged, consider switching the wire from front to back or from back to front, or find a new pocket or place to put your phone to keep the wire from being tugged. If you have sport earbuds and the clip is rubbing your ear, there might be alternative fits such as clipping it under your ear rather than over the top of it, or you might be able to adjust the clips depending on what model of earbuds you have.

And lastly, if your over-ear headphones are too tight, see if they have an adjustable band to give you more room. Over-ear cups could cause an issue as well, and unfortunately aren’t as easy to switch out as earbuds, so make sure when you buy a pair of over-ear headphones that the cups form a seal around your ears without smashing them or rubbing them wrong. Buying over-ear headphones that have more adjustments means a higher likelihood that they’ll be more comfortable, which includes ear cup rotation and band extension. You don’t want the band to be pressing against the top of your head too hard or clamping against your ears too hard. 

#2 Dry or sensitive skin could be giving you discomfort

If you’re noticing that your headphones are causing your skin to itch, irritate, or flake, then your problem might be that your ears are dry or sensitive to your headphones. Dry skin might flare up on particularly dry days and you should fix it by applying lotion to your ears and ensuring your ears aren’t sunburnt. Also, improper fit (refer to tip number one), and dry skin can be an especially bad combo, since improper fit will cause the headphones to irritate your skin even more.

Another issue is that your ears could be sensitive or allergic to a material used in the headphones. If your dry or irritated skin problem persists even when your headphones fit well, you’re applying lotion, and they aren’t sunburnt, then you should perhaps consult a dermatologist to determine if you have some sort of eczema or allergy to a property of the headphones. Your eczema could be weather-related and have nothing to do with your headphones. 

#3 High volume could be causing ear damage or discomfort

Many of us are guilty of cranking up our headphones to jam along to a favorite song or to ensure that our surrounding noise is drowned out. However, this could be causing serious damage to your ears. Most experts suggest keeping the volume in a range of 60 to 85 decibels. If you do want to crank up a particular song, you shouldn’t turn up the volume past 100 decibels for longer than 15 minutes at a time, so make sure to turn it back down after your favorite song is over.

If you’re noticing ringing in your ears and you suspect it could be from your headphone volume, take a break for a couple of days from your headphones, then go to a quiet room and use your headphones for a few minutes. The following day, you can use your headphones as you usually would, and then repeat the quiet room technique that night.

If you notice the ringing is worse than the night before, the headphone volume you’re using throughout your day is probably too high. For most devices, your threshold for safe listening should be kept to no more than half volume. 

#4 Limit how long you use your headphones

It was mentioned earlier that you shouldn’t be listening to volume greater than 100 decibels for more than 15 minutes, but you also shouldn’t be using headphones, even at safe volume levels, for more than an hour straight without giving your ears a break. Even the most comfortable headphones are still not meant to be used for incredible lengths of time. So, ensure that you’re taking off your headphones, even just for a few minutes, before you reach that hour-straight mark. 

#5 Change your headphone type

In-ear earbuds might be more compact and easier to use for activities such as working out, cleaning, or anything that involves a lot of movement, but they do pose a greater risk to your ears than headphones. Earbuds are closer to your eardrum, which compounds the damage done from prolonged use or high volume. Limit your use of in-ear earbuds to moments when you need to use them, such as when working out or when you’d otherwise run the risk of headphones falling off your head. 

Comfortable Headphone Suggestions:

Over-Ear Headphones:  Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

Beyerdynamic DT 1990

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro headphones are pricey at just under $500, but you’ll see them all over “best-of” headphone lists for a reason. This German company has found a way to engineer a pair of headphones that not only sound incredible but are durable and comfortable.

They are also fitted with replaceable earpads, which should come in handy as they wear over time, and the earpads are made from a comfortable velour that should offer maximum comfort and softness. These headphones are often used by professionals such as producers or sound engineers who need crisp and responsive headphones for their livelihood. 

On-Ear Headphones: V-MODA XS 


The V-MODA headphones are much more affordable than the Beyerdynamic headphones described previously. They are foldable which makes them extra compact and easy to carry. They’re also known as the most comfortable on-ear headphones for their price point, featuring V-MODA’s “mind the gap” comfort and style combination. This combination focuses on decreasing the space between your head and the band, meaning that they’ve found a way to keep the band from being annoyingly large and have found a way to keep the band tight to your head without causing discomfort of any sort.

They’re built on a steel frame that is guaranteed to last and can resist humidity and high and low-temperature ranges. If your head size is larger than most, you should probably try these on before purchasing them, since the “mind the gap” technology can be irritating to some, and absolutely perfect for people who have smaller or more average-sized heads. 

In-Ear Earbuds: Beats Powerbeats Pro

If you’re yet to experience the beauty of wireless headphones, you should absolutely check out the Beats Powerbeats Pros. No longer will you have to deal with the annoyance of a wire catching on something and yanking your earbuds out of your ears.

Also, Beats have managed to make an over the ear clip that seems to universally fit on pretty much any ear, making these perfect to use as a workout or mobile earbud pair. They’ve also created intuitive and functional controls on the sides of the earbuds so that you won’t have to pull your device out each time to skip a song, control the volume, or pause.

If you prefer wires, you should check out the Bose QuietComfort 20, which are also an incredibly comfortable pair of earbuds, perhaps even more than the Beats, but the lack of a cord gives the Beats a slight edge since wires are half the battle when it comes to comfort. 

Hopefully, you’ve come away from this with some helpful tips to ensure that your audio experiences are comfortable and don’t cause long term damage, and maybe you even came away with a new pair of comfortable headphones. Keep rocking on in a safe and comfortable manner. 

Difference between Bluetooth versio... x
Difference between Bluetooth versions

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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