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Why do earbuds hurt my ears?

Listening to music should be enjoyable, but not for some.

Do your ears hurt when you wear earbuds? There are many reasons your ears may feel like they are throbbing, but can you pinpoint the direct cause? If you’ve noticed a slight pain in your ears during or after using your earbuds, you may want to consider a few things. Everything from tinnitus, volume, and size and shape of your earbuds could be causing more pain than enjoyment. Earbuds like the BLXBuds review (or this other BLXBuds review) are especially comfortable but could still cause pain if you are blaring music at 100% for hours on end.

Here are a few of the main reasons your ears hurt:

No cushioning

Some earbuds are made without any cushioning or soft layer. Many earbuds are made of pre-molded plastic, carbon, metal, and other hard materials. To feel some kind of comfort, a soft rubber cushion could help or earbuds that are made in a convenient shape that fits in your ear. You could easily test them out in store before buying.


Frequently listening to music at a loud volume for long periods of time can cause permanent damage to the inner ear. Studies show that noise levels over 85 decibels can damage cells and the auditory neural system. Audio devices do not exceed the recommended volume, and suggest a comfortable level is between 10- 20 decibels.


What is tinnitus and how does one develop the condition? Tinnitus develops when there is damage or loss of the protective sensory hair cells in your inner ear. This can naturally happen as you age, or the condition can be accelerated if you are exposed to loud noise on a regular basis. It could be from music, a loud work environment, or living conditions. This is mainly why people who have jobs that involve loud machinery wear protective equipment for their ears.

Ear infection

If you have exhausted all other options, you should consider seeing a doctor. A professional may give you more information based on a physical exam. If this is the case, you may want to rethink your earbuds completely. Sometimes headphones that cover the entire ear might feel better on your ear and alleviate any pain you may be feeling. If you have an ear infection, your earbuds might be making it worse.

How to tell which earbuds are comfortable (before buying)


Closely review pictures of earbuds before you decide to buy them. Use your common knowledge of earbuds and headphones that you have used in the past to compare and contrast the size and shape to best suit your ears.

Comfort features

It’s important to do a bit of research before making any major purchase. Read the technical specifications and instruction manuals.

Customer reviews

Customer reviews are one of the main resources you can easily access. There are usually thousands of reviews on one particular product. If there are a pair of earbuds you are interested in, try reading some online reviews and see what people are saying about them. Although there may be many 1 star reviews, the ones you can trust are usually the 2-3 star reviews. These ones are unbiased and truthful.

Try different styles of earbuds

If you’re still trying to figure out why your earbuds aren’t feeling quite right, you may want to try other styles of earbuds. Not all earbuds are made the same and not all ears are shaped the same. There are many different styles that you can choose from:

Over- ear

Over the ear headphones are great for people who are into physical fitness, love to hike, and listen to music during vigorous workouts. These earbuds are designed to fit snug around your ear, making it almost impossible for them to fall out, even when you are dripped in sweat and scaling the side of a mountain. These are also great because they are wireless and will not snag on anything while you are wearing them.

On- ear

On ear headphones are great for casual listening or talking a walk around the block. A lot of people like these because they are comfortable, usually layered with soft cushion, and noise cancelling. These are usually more expensive because of their amazing quality, but if you have the money and are in the market to buy something long lasting, these may be perfect for you.
These are not great for working out. The sweat, moisture, and constant moving may ruin the structure and permanently damage the interior audio functions.

Bone conduction

Bone conduction earbuds were once made for military purposes. That being said, they are great for everyday audio use. People still rely on bone conduction listening devices for the hearing impaired and other medical reasons.

What kind of earbuds should you buy?

I guess this depends entirely on your wants and needs. You could experience discomfort with any type of earbuds if you are reckless or ignore the early signs of pain. What’s important is to choose wisely and do your research. A lot of earbuds also come with a great warranty. This is good to know in case you decide they are not the right fit for you or you notice there is something off about the product itself.
If you’re still unsure, your best bet is to buy something that fits the “gold standard” of earbuds. The ones found here in this BLXBuds review are great for all lifestyles and any level of activity.

How can you avoid a painful listening experience?

As mentioned above, don’t exceed the recommended level of sound. If you really need to listen to your music loudly, try using a speaker instead. Loud music is not as damaging if it is not right against your ear. You should also avoid listening to loud music for long periods of time. Take a break in between sessions to give your ears a break. Your ears will thank you in the long run.

October 7, 2020


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