Why Do Earbuds Hurt My Ears? [8 Reasons]

Ever had a surprise ear infection or felt a painful, suction-like feeling when taking out your earbuds? You aren’t the only one. If you’re a regular earbud user, you likely have a few of those stories. Listening to music should bring joy, not infection or pain. Despite being portable and convenient, earbuds aren’t always the best buddies for our ears.

They sit right in your ear canal, causing irritation, pressure, and sometimes even pain to your ears. Also, are you increasing the volume to reduce background noise? That is a major reason for possible hearing damage. 

In this blog, we will discuss the possible reasons behind “Why do earbuds hurt my ears?” We will also share tips on how to prevent these issues. Stay with us, and let’s care our ears the way they deserve!

8 Reasons Why Earbuds Hurt Your Ears

Many of us use earbuds as a common accessory for enjoying music, podcasts, or making calls conveniently. They come in various types, and depending on the one you pick, the chances of them hurting your ears also increase. 

Before buying earbuds, it’s crucial to understand why they can cause ear pain. Below, we will discuss 8 reasons why your earbuds can cause discomfort to your ears:

1. Allergic Reaction to Earpad & Earbud Materials

Earbuds can hurt your ears because of an allergic reaction to the earpad or the materials they’re made of. Some people can be allergic to the earbuds’ materials, like silicone or specific types of plastic. These materials are used to keep the earbuds soft. 

The allergic reaction can lead to redness, pain, itching, and dry skin inside your ears. Besides, scratching your ears because of itchiness might even lead to scars, causing more ear pain. 

2. Compression of Your Ear’s Cartilage

The compression of the ear’s cartilage can bring about discomfort when you use earbuds. Your ear’s cartilage is not designed to bear something nestled inside for many hours. When you wear earbuds for more than 90 minutes at once, it might lead to aching pain

Your ear’s cartilage is flexible but may get sore if it is continuously under pressure. Wearing earbuds, particularly for a long time, puts pressure on the cartilage, resulting in discomfort and pain over time.

3. Inaccurate Size of the Ear Tips

Every earbuds box comes with different sizes of foam or rubber ear tips. If you use earbud tips that are too big, they can make your ears hurt moderately to severely, particularly if you wear them for a long time. This can strain your ear muscles, and you can begin experiencing pain after a couple of minutes of using them.

On the flip side, if the ear tips are very small, they may not sit correctly and could fall out, which can be irritating. Using earbuds that do not fit well makes it more likely to damage the ears because people tend to push them in more and listen at high volume levels. 

Apple’s AirPods Pro models come with various ear tip sizes, including small, medium, and big. Traditional AirPods only have medium-sized tips, but you can buy small and big tips separately online.

4. WAX Buildup Inside The Ears

An amazing fact about our ears is that they can clean themselves. Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a substance made by your ear canal’s glands. It cleans and protects your ears.

However, covering the ear canal for many hours with products such as earbuds can disturb this process. This hinders moisture and wax from getting out and pushes the wax deeper into the ear canal. It results in more wax buildup, causing muffled hearing and an increased risk of infections. 

ENT specialist Dr. Nicholas Stowell offers wise suggestions for those aiming to avoid ear infections. “Ensure your ears get a break from earbuds. Remove them from your ear every couple of hours and don’t wear them for a minimum of 15 minutes to let the ear canals ‘breathe’,” advises Dr. Stowell.

5. Improper Placement of The Earbuds

Putting earbuds too deep in your ear canal can make your ears hurt. Regrettably, many people don’t know that earbuds and earbud tips should stay out of the ear canal. 

When you wear earbuds this way, the vibrations from the earbuds get very close to your eardrum, and that can give you headaches and earaches and even lead to ear infections. So, put your earbuds gently at the beginning of your ear canal, which creates a comfortable seal at the entrance of your ear canal.

6. Listening to Sounds at A Loud Volume

It’s important for people who use earbuds to keep an eye on how loud the volume is. This not only helps prevent hearing loss but also keeps away the pain. Listening to music for a long time, especially at high volumes, can cause a phenomenon known as listener fatigue or ear fatigue.

When you use earbuds for a long time, particularly with the volume level is high, your eardrums get stressed out. The louder the volume, the faster your eardrums will develop ear fatigue. Listening to very loud sounds, particularly all the time, can result in problems like muffled hearing, ringing in the ears, or even hearing loss

Research says around 17% of teens aged 12 to 19 already have some hearing loss. Experts suggest that it’s safe to listen at 85 Decibels. So, if you want to enjoy your favorite songs for a long time, keep the volume lower than the maximum suggestion level. Also, don’t forget to take periodic breaks from all the noise around you.

7. Ear Infection

Ear infections can make your ears ache, and earbuds can be the reason for it. When viruses or bacteria get into your ears, infections can happen. Earbuds might carry these germs, so putting them in your ears increases the chance of infection.

Every time you stick something inside your ear, you take a risk of ear infection. Dirt, debris, and objects from outside can go into your ear canal and cause ear infections

If you have a scrape or cut in your ear, it’s even easier for an infection to happen. Earbuds, with their hard plastic material, can be particularly good at letting in these germs since they are often left out in the open.

8. Barotrauma Injury

Barotrauma happens when water or air pressure increases, like when you dive underwater or during the landing of a plane. It is not so common, but wearing earbuds during these activities can make the pressure changes worse, causing barotrauma. It can lead to ear discomfort, muffled hearing, dizziness, or ear pain.

How Can You Stop Earbuds from Hurting Your Ears?

As we said before, earbuds can make your ears hurt for many different reasons. We can prevent most of these reasons, but not all of them. In this part, we will share some tips to help keep the ears from hurting while wearing earbuds. 

Avoid Listening to Songs at Loud Volumes

If your ear hurts along with ringing continuously after you listen to music, then it is recommended to lower the volume. Loud music can make your ears uncomfortable right away and cause long-term damage to your hearing. Find a quiet place to enjoy your music where you do not need to turn up the volume too much. 

You can also use noise-canceling earbuds to block out outside noise. Keep the volume around 60% to stay in the safe zone so that you can listen to music all day without worrying. Just remember, not all earbuds are equally loud.

Don’t Use Earbuds for A Long Time

If you enjoy wearing earbuds for long periods, it is wise to take breaks. This helps prevent ear pain and reduces stress on your ears. Wearing earbuds for a long time can block airflow to the ears, leading to itching and dryness. You should follow the 60/60 rule: keep the earbud volume below 60% for around 60 minutes at once.

After that, take out your earbuds, gently massage your ears, and allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes before putting them back in. If you still experience ear pain, give your ears a longer break.

Wear Earbuds the Proper Way

When inserting the bud, pull your earlobe down a bit and gently place the earbud into the ear. Then, turn the earbud’s long side downward to rest alongside your earlobe. To hold your earbuds in place, twist them once they are in the ears.

Make sure the earbud forms a gentle seal between the ear and the ear canal. Properly wearing earbuds is crucial, especially since they can be a little heavy. In several cases, you can check the manual for instructions on how to wear them correctly.

Clean Your Earbuds and Earwax

Your ears naturally make earwax, which, combined with sweat, body warmth, and dirt from the outside, can create a perfect environment for bacterial growth. Dirty earbuds can make this situation worse. It’s crucial to keep your earbuds clean for good ear health and sound quality. It is recommended to clean them every six months or at least one time per year.

Also, cleaning your earwax is just as vital as cleaning your earbuds. Sometimes, pushing earbuds inside your ear can push earwax deeper. This could lead to ear pain and even hearing problems. So, clean the earwax at least one time each week. 

Don’t Share Your Buds

When you share earbuds with someone, the bacteria in the earwax of that person can mix with your earwax via the ear tips. This mixture can cause different types of allergies. If you or your friends don’t practice good hygiene, particularly when sharing earbuds, it may lead to infections that cause inflammation.

So, it’s a good idea not to share your earbuds to avoid these issues. However, if you make sure to keep both your earbuds and your ears clean, you don’t have to worry about obtaining an infection.

Use the Accurate Ear Tips

Picking the accurate ear tip size is really important for both comfort and good sound quality with your earbuds. If the tips are too large, the seal and sound quality worsen. Also, they try to make your ear canal wider. If you’re feeling uncomfortable like that, give smaller ear tips a try. 

The right-sized tips will seal off the ear canal without making it feel too tight. Just do not go too small, or your earbuds might end up slipping out from your ears.

Don’t Use Earbuds When You Have An Ear Infection

If your ears have an infection, it is wise to skip using earbuds until it gets better. Earbuds can make the infection worse and slow down the healing process. Also, they might get contaminated with germs, which could cause the infection to come back.


We are hopeful that now you better understand “Why do earbuds hurt my ears?” If you use the wrong type of earbuds, then it can lead to long-term ear discomfort. So, it is vital to check everything before purchasing any earbuds and try different kinds of buds until you get one that does not cause discomfort or pain.

For a comfortable listening experience, pick one of the most comfy earbuds, particularly if you’re okay with the in-ear fit. Also, make sure to clean your ears and earbuds regularly. 

It’s essential because the dryness and itchiness inside the ears can be caused by bacteria. By following the above-mentioned tips, you can enjoy listening to songs or talking on your phone without worrying about pain or discomfort.

David Huner
David Hunerhttps://yourtechscholar.com
I have completed my graduation from The University of Phoenix. Being a graduate, I’ve been writing on tech tips and products for several years. I love to write about all the latest trends in technology, as well as give my personal take on new products. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just want to read more articles like this one, check out our website!
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