If you’ve been using headphones for any amount of time, you are probably familiar with the pain that comes with using some headphones. This is especially apparent when you wear headphones for hours at a time, whether that be for gaming, work purposes, or an audio project that requires hours of listening. Ear pain is very common among headphone users and many people not only prefer to use earbuds but are forced to due to the discomfort. Headphone ear pain is a similar issue to those who avoid wearing headphones due to it messing up their hair.
Not all hope is lost, however, as we have taken a deep dive into the question of how to stop headphones from hurting your ears and have come up with a solid 7 tips on ways to not only prevent it but increase comfort. Some of these tips are as simple as wearing your headphones a different way, and some may require a small purchase. It is safe to say that at least one of these tricks should be able to help you and reinstate your love for headphones.
1. Breaking in the Earcups
Many people find great discomfort with their headphones earcups and that is largely due to the type of material of those earcups. If you don’t have headphones with a lush center then you most likely have headphones with a more tough leather texture. This means that in many cases, massaging the earcups and “breaking them in” will often loosen up the tightness of the earcups and provide a more comfortable fit.
If you have brand new headphones or headphones that you have had for a while but have never given a good massage, they may still be stiff from production. When breaking in your earpads, using your two thumbs in a circular motion will alleviate the fabric and break down the firmness. This may not be the solution for everyone, but if you feel this relates to your current ear pain, this could be an easy and free solution to your problem.
2. Strech the Headband
If you feel that your headphones are rigid and unable to form to your head shape, it could be that they need a little stretch to loosen up the plastic mold and gives them a bit more “flex”. Make sure to be very careful if you plan to use this method, many headphones aren’t built to be stretched, however, the better headphones that are worth the money usually have a good amount of flex to them. In order to loosen up your headphones frame, be sure to take some of the precautions listed below:
- Firmly grasp both ends of the headband frame.
- Slowly stretch the band a small amount.
- Give the headband a few small stretches before stretching it further.
- Before stretching further, hold the headphones by the earpads.
- In addition to stretching outward, stretch the headphones inversely.
3. Lower the Volume
If you are having internal ear pain, this is most likely due to a high listening volume that can be damaging your ears. A study by the Swedish Institue for Disability Research shows that participants that listened to music at higher volumes had worse long-term hearing, you can read more here. There is no doubt that if you are feeling internal ear pain, you must lower the listening volume of your music, games, or movies in order to prevent any further damage.
It is generally recommended that you lower your volume by at least 25% – 50% in order to hear and feel any noticeable difference in comfort. This problem is especially apparent in headphones and earbuds as they are closer to your ear canal and eardrum, which makes them more inclined to ear damage than something like car speakers or monitors. Adjusting to a change in volume can take time and it can be tempting to raise the listening volume back to previous levels, but the long-term benefits of lower your volume far outweigh the impact of loud audio levels.
4. Switch Out Earpads
Another common issue is that the stock earpads that your headphones come with just are not comfortable. This may be a tough one for some because not all headphone earpads can be swapped out, but many can. If you feel that your earpads get too hot or are too stiff, you may want to switch from leather to a more velvet fabric type. If you feel that your earpads make your ears itchy, then you may want to switch to a more leather-type material.
Amazon features many earpad replacement products that are compatible with a wide variety of headphones, and if not Amazon, eBay would be another great place to look for your replacements. As always, check the reviews and see what others say about the earpads and if they are high quality enough to make it worth changing out with the stock option.
5. Adding Fabric to Earpads
If you feel that your earpads are uncomfortable and lack proper airflow and breathability, a simple fix is to purchase a universal earpad fabric cover to improve the overall comfort of your headphones. There are many brands that sell these and can be found on Amazon, but as always, check the dimensions and stretchability of the product in order to determine if they will fit with your brand and model of headphone.
Another aspect to consider is whether or not these fabric covers will irritate your skin. Many materials may not be compatible with what your skin prefers, and similar to what the stock material is, paying attention to the type of fabric is vital in ensuring that you aren’t worsening the ear discomfort that you are already feeling. Many have found that this option is both the cheapest and most simple to resolve to.
6. Change the Equalization Profile
If you feel internal discomfort when listening with your headphones, a possible cause could be harmful and piercing frequencies. Many people are sensitive to certain frequency ranges and reducing these areas could improve the listening experience. This method has a bit of a learning curve to it, but nothing YouTube or Google can’t solve. If all else fails, jumping into software and changing the EQ response in areas could show you which areas are most harmful and where to turn them down.
Although there is paid software that can manipulate your listening experience, there are some great free options out there, such as FXsound or Voicemeter Banana. FXsound is a bit more straightforward and easier to use, but if you want some more advanced features, such as bus routing, Voicemeter Banana is a great software to explore. Another benefit to changing your headphone EQ profile is that you can customize your listening experience to what you personally enjoy.
7. Clean the Earpads
If you feel that your ears get itchy or irritated when using your headphones, this could be a cause of leftover bacteria or harmful substances that are on the surface of your headphones. Cleaning your devices is always good practice but giving your headphones a good cleaning could make them more enjoyable to wear. It is safe to use a micro fabric towel and some disinfecting spray or sanitizer in order to kill any of the bacteria.