Are your ears hurting when you use earbuds for some time? It is quite a common thing to happen, but you still can’t ignore it. It is because mild pain can turn into something serious at any time if you are not careful. That is why the first thing to do when the ears start hurting after you wear earbuds is to find the reason why it is happening. This is where I come in!
Earbuds hurt the ears because of poor fit, bad structure, too high volume, wearing them for hours, and skin irritation. Other reasons might include a phenomenon called Listener’s fatigue and Earwax buildup. In addition, you can’t also rule out ear infections if you feel pain in your ears after you wear audio gadgets.
Want more info? In this guide, I am explaining the reasons in detail and also providing you with the best possible ways to get out of this unpleasant situation. So, stay till the end.
Ear pain is indeed bad, and one of the leading causes of it is the earbuds or any audio equipment which people wear around the ears.
The reasons behind this are:
If the earbuds don’t fit properly, then it is a no-brainer that your ears will feel the pain. Why?
Well, the Earbuds should not go beyond the tip of the ear canal. This fit is enough to provide the best listening experience. But if the earbuds have long tips and they get inside the ear canal, then they cause unnecessary pressure there. The ear canals start to resist and the ears start to hurt.
Therefore, it is crucial you use such earbuds that have perfect tips.
One of the main reasons behind ear pain due to earbuds is the flawed structure of the audio device.
There are three main things that make up a structure- Shape, Material, and Chemical.
If the earbud is not appropriately shaped (un-contoured), then it will cause trouble in the ear canal. Similarly, most audio equipment is made from plastic. If the manufacturer uses a low-quality plastic material, your ears won’t like it very much as well.
In addition, some companies have launched colored earbuds that are sprayed with chemicals. There are chances that your ear canal and cartilage might be sensitive to it. If so, you can start feeling pain there.
One of the most common reasons why your ears start hurting after using earbuds is the high volume of the audio device.
But how much volume is considered high? In general, any volume that starts to cause a little pain in the ear or head can be termed as high.
But let me be more specific.
If the earbuds have more than 85 dB of volume (more than 60%), then they are bad for the ears.
When you turn on the volume to 100%, more sound is produced by the audio device, which is “bombarded” on the ear drums. This can damage the eardrums, and you start feeling pain. A lot of mobile models now also give you the warning/alert that the sound volume is too high and you should immediately reduce the volume whenever you see this message.
If you wear the earbuds for hours, your ears are definitely going to hurt. The reason? Your ears are not meant to be closed for a longer period. They need to breathe, too, which they can’t when you “plug in” the earbuds.
But there’s more to it.
Top-quality audio gadgets don’t go beyond the tip of the ear canal, while the cheap ones might go even further. But still, the audio device touches the canal, and wearing them for hours will put more pressure on it. As a result, your ears start to hurt.
Earbuds can cause a fairly common phenomenon called listener fatigue, which leads to ear pain. What is it?
In listeners’ fatigue, it is the eardrums that get tired. When the high-frequency sound goes inside, the eardrums work harder to protect the other parts of the ears from this much sound. Hence, they get “fatigued,” and the ears start to hurt.
Another reason why you feel pain after wearing earbuds is the role they play in building up earwax and dirt in the ears. If you leave your earbuds in the open, they get dirt on them, and let’s face it. Not many of us clean our audio gadgets before wearing them. When you use such earbuds, the dirt goes into the ear canal, which causes complications.
In addition, ears have their own natural wax, which is removed naturally. But when you wear any audio equipment, wax can’t move out. As a result, it starts to accumulate in the ear along with dirt.
When it reaches dangerous levels, the ears start to hurt a lot, and you will need to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Audio gadgets also hurt the ears if you have sensitive skin. It is because most earbuds are made with plastic and are sprayed with chemicals to look stylish. These two things can cause skin irritation in any sensitive-skin person.
When it happens, you feel a little pain along with itching sensations.
If you have an ear infection, then your ears will hurt if you wear earbuds. It is a rather rare reason for the ear pain but still, a lot of people go through it.
The best way to find out whether you have an ear infection is to get an appointment with an ENT doctor and let him examine your ears.
So, these were the eight big reasons why your ears hurt due to earbuds. It’s time for you to know which things you can do to prevent this from happening.
There are different things you can do to stop the earbuds from hurting your ears. The best ones are:
The first thing you should do is to check whether the earbud tips are fitting perfectly or not. They should just go in smoothly. You should never force them because if you have to, then size is not for you.
Generally, the earbuds come with three ear tips. You can put one by one on the earbud and try. Then, choose the one that fits perfectly in your ears.
In addition, you should only buy earbuds that come with silicone or foam ear tips.
It is better if these are made from silicone because it is durable and soft. The foam is soft, too, but it is not durable.
If the earbuds come with customized self-molding tips, then it’s a big plus! They will be really great for your health as such tips adjust in accordance with the ear canal and do not put unnecessary pressure.
You should never listen at high volume due to complications attached to it. Health experts recommend you put the volume at 60% and not more than that.
However, if you even increase it, don’t go above 80% and do it for a short period only.
If you don’t want earbuds to hurt your ears, don’t use them too much. ENT doctors suggest that you should never wear audio gadgets for more than 90 minutes. Furthermore, they also advise taking a break in between.
Dr. Nicholas Stowell, MD, has advised people to take a 15-minute break at least after wearing the earbuds for one and a half hours.
To keep track of the time, you should use a tracker app.
Another way you can protect your ears from hurting is to clean the earbuds frequently. Use a lint-free cloth or a soft towel and carefully clean one earbud at a time.
Some people like to make cotton or towel wet before cleaning the devices. It is not recommended in the case of earbuds because they are small, and moisture can damage them.
You should also keep your ears clean to prevent any unpleasant situation from arising. Earwax and dirt are more in those people that wear earbuds and headphones all the time. These two things can cause pain in the ears. So, you should also clean your ear with a cotton swab every week carefully.
You should also visit a doctor at least twice a year for an earwax checkup. The reason is that this earwax can stick with the eardrum, which can affect your hearing. If the earwax (and also dirt) reaches a dangerous level, your ears will start to hurt.
If the above measures don’t work, then you should change your earbuds as soon as you can.
But how to know which earbuds are the best?
For this, I suggest you do two things:
- Check specifications
- Read customer reviews
You should first check out the specifications before you decide which earbuds you should buy. In the specifications, check the material of the ear tips, how many ear tips you will get, size, shape, and Bluetooth range.
The earbud tip material should be silicone or foam. Plus, it should come with at least three tips so that you find the perfect fit. Furthermore, if the earbuds are contoured and have a wider Bluetooth range, then it is really best for you too.
Reading customer reviews is also a great thing to do before buying any audio gadget. These reviews are the customer’s experiences and you should take them seriously. If most of them are positive and people are praising the gadget, it means this product is good. If people are complaining about ear pain or any other factor, then don’t buy such earbuds.
If you follow every solution described above and still your ears hurt, then the last option is to use the Over The Counter (OTC) medications and Ear Drops.
Don’t just buy any medicines. Arrange an appointment with an ENT doctor first, and discuss the situation with him as you might have an ear infection. The doctor will then recommend the tests and then medicines.
Related: Does Sweat Affect Airpods?
Yes, earbuds can cause permanent hearing loss if you are not careful. If you keep on wearing them most times of the day, listen with high volume, and don’t clean them and your ears frequently, then your hearing is definitely going to be negatively impacted.
If you keep on doing this and ignore signs like (ear pain), then you are most likely to be affected by permanent hearing loss.
A study was also published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011, in which it was concluded that if both adults and kids use earbuds a lot, hearing loss can happen.
A lot of other research has been conducted on this issue, and all of them have stated that excessive use of earbuds can, in fact, cause permanent damage.
Related: Do Airpods Cause Headaches?
All-inclusive, earbuds hurt the ear when their structure is bad, they don’t fit properly, you listen with higher volume, and when you wear them for hours. In addition, listener fatigue, earwax accumulation, skin irritation, and ear infection are also some of the most common causes of ear pain due to wearing earbuds.
When the ear starts to hurt, you should lower the volume, give your ears a break, and always keep them clean. It is also better if you keep your ears clean too.
If these things don’t work, you should replace the earbuds with top-quality ones.
But if the ears still feel pain, then go to an ENT doctor, as you might have an ear infection. The doctor will examine you and then recommend medicines/ ear drops to ease the discomfort.
That was everything you need to know about why earbuds hurt ears!