What Are Earbuds?

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Updated July 26, 2022

Earbuds are something that we like to keep to ourselves. For those looking to purchase a new pair of the best headphones, the ability to distinguish between earbuds, earphones, and in-ear headphones is essential. So, below, we’ll explain what are earbuds.


  • Earbuds are audio devices that rest just outside the ear canal and are used for a wide variety of listening purposes.
  • Unlike earphones and in-ear headphones with silicone tips, earbuds don’t seal off the canal, which lets in some ambient sound and decreases the perceived volume level.
  • Earbuds are usually made in a one-size-fits-all model and are typically made with rigid plastic material.

And as a follow-up, you can also read our article discussing what are headphones.

Earbuds Explained

Earbuds are commonly known for being small in-ear devices. But most don’t know that there is an informal anatomical definition. Technically, earbuds rest in what’s known as the “cavum,” which is the opening in your ear just before the canal. It’s the ear placement that separates earbuds from earphones. Where earbuds sit just outside the ear canal, earphones and in-ear headphones extend into your ear canal via silicone tips.

Insider Tip

Because earbuds let in some ambient noise, they can be better for ear health than earphones.

Because they’re very lightweight, earbuds are easy to carry with you wherever you go. There are also wireless earbuds that can be great for exercise.

As far as the speaker goes, all earbuds have a driver. The driver, just like any speaker, takes electromagnetic energy generated from mobile listening devices and translates it into mechanical energy, which ends up creating sound waves and producing music. In addition, this driver is responsible for volume control and creating various sound frequencies.

Also, we’re not going to get into all the safety precautions that come with in-ear devices. But as a follow-up, it’s best to read this guide on how to wear in-ear headphones to practice safe listening.


Because earbuds tend to use a more rigid material, many people can find them uncomfortable.

Sound Quality

Earbuds come in a wide range of sound quality. Because they sit away from the ear canal, they tend to let in more ambient noise than earphones. However, more ambient noise doesn’t automatically mean lower audio quality. Some people prefer some external noise in the background. But you won’t have a completely sealed-off sound experience like you would with earphones.

Another thing is that because drivers are tiny, earbuds tend to have less bass control. However, you can adjust the sound settings on your personal listening devices. Still, you won’t have the same bass audio quality that you will get with a pair of headphones.

Size Options

Another thing to note about earbuds is that they are usually one-size-fits-all. Such designs typically make them more affordable, but it can also be disappointing to find that the “one-size-fits-all” turns out to be “one-size-fits-all-but-you.”

STAT: Medical experts recommend that a healthy amount of in-ear listening is at an 80% volume level for 90 minutes a day. Anything different, you will have to adjust your volume/listening time. (source)


How can I avoid damaging my hearing with ear devices?

The primary way to avoid ear damage is to monitor volume control and listening time. Avoid listening at maximum volume for over 30 minutes every day.

What are the common signs of hearing problems?

The most common signs of hearing issues are continual muffled or ringing noises.

Are earbuds worse for the ears than other types of headphones?

Earbuds are usually not as harmful as earphones because they sit further away from the ear drum. However, over-ear headphones are the best ear devices to avoid hearing damage.

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