Earbuds Hurt My Ears

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Updated October 17, 2022

The biggest question when considering the best headphones is whether to go in-ear or over-ear. For those prioritizing portability, the best wireless earbuds are the most appealing. This choice is significant and comes with its unique consequences. Sometimes, earbuds can be uncomfortable, and many don’t understand why they sometimes cause an aching pain. So, if you’re asking yourself, “why do earbuds hurt my ears?” keep reading, and we’ll explain.


  • The principal reasons for experiencing pain while using earbuds are poor placement, sizing, or leaving them in for too long.
  • Selecting properly sized earbud tips makes a huge difference in avoiding ear pain.
  • Constantly monitor the volume levels, as listening to ear devices at excessive volume causes the eardrums to become stressed.

For those still searching for an audio device, we have a great resource comparing Apple Airpods Pro vs Bose Sport Earbuds.

Why Are My Earbuds Hurting My Ears?

Earbuds come in many forms, and depending on which you choose, the likelihood increases that they’ll hurt your ears. There are manifold reasons to explain why earbuds cause pain, and it’s essential to understand these reasons before purchasing ear headphones.

Insider Tip

Purchasing active noise-canceling earbuds allow users to listen at lower volumes and reduce the likelihood of ear discomfort.

There are a lot of great tips that we offer those earbud owners. For example, users can learn how to wrap earbuds correctly for wired devices. We also have another guide on keeping earbuds from falling out.

Improper Placement

One of the common causes of ear pain is pushing the bud too far into the ear canal. Unfortunately, many aren’t aware that the earbud shouldn’t be going into the ear canal at all.

Instead, it should be gently placed in the ear’s opening, creating a comfortable seal where the ear canal begins.

If you need help understanding proper earbud placement, we have an article explaining how to wear earbuds with wings.

Incorrect Size

Some earbuds come with sets of rubber or foam tips of varying sizes. Using an earbud size that’s too large can cause moderate to severe pain, especially if the earbud tips are left in for an extended period of time.


Using earbuds that don’t fit increases the likelihood of ear damage because they tend to make users push them further and listen at louder volumes.

Length of Wearing

Even if the earbuds are appropriately sized, wearing them for too long can stress out the ear and cause significant pain. Take breaks from listening to your earbuds if possible; this will help avoid ear pain.

Loud Volume

There are many reasons why headphone users should monitor volume levels. Not only does it help lower the likelihood of developing hearing loss, but it also can help avoid pain.

Eardrums become stressed during periods over an extended audio experience. The higher the volume, the quicker the eardrum will develop listener fatigue. To prevent this, take periodic breaks from active noise.

STAT: Many health experts say that using earbuds for over ninety minutes can cause ear pain. (source)

Why Do Earbuds Hurt My Ears FAQs

Does using earbuds lead to higher levels of ear wax?

Not always, but if used too much, earbuds can restrict the airflow into the ear, which causes earwax buildup.

Can earbuds cause ear infections?

The earbuds themselves cannot. However, sharing earbuds or failing to clean them can cause infection. To avoid this, clean your earbuds with isopropyl alcohol frequently.

Why do cheap earbuds hurt my ears?

Cheap earbuds have poor design, meaning they must be shoved further into the ear canal to stay in place. A better-quality pair will likely fit better.
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