Listening to music via headphones is among the most relaxing activities.
That’s why I feel for those with sensitive ears…
Who can’t listen for long periods.
And while I can’t offer a cure…
I can at least recommend the best headphones for that condition.
Keep reading to find out:
- 3 tips to keep in mind if you’re shopping for ear-friendly headphones.
- 7 of the finest headphones that are perfect for those with sensitive ears.
- 5 possible reasons why your ears hurt when wearing noise-canceling headphones.
- And a lot more…
7 best headphones for sensitive ears
Just a quick note before I get to the list.
I arranged the items based on their prices, from the cheapest to the most expensive. But rest assured that all of these are excellent for sensitive ears.
I’ll also be going over their main features first. And then I’ll discuss what particularly makes them great for your ears.
With that, let’s begin.
The Philips Audio Fidelio X2HR is the most affordable on the list. It costs around $150 each.
“Wait, that’s not exactly cheap.”
I totally understand. I know you can find many headphones under $100. But none of them are particularly great for those with sensitive ears.
Now, as far as the X2HR’s sound quality goes…
Its bass is perhaps its best quality. It’s both powerful and extremely clear. So it works well on bass-heavy genres like hip-hop and electronic dance.
As to why it’s great for sensitive ears…
This headphone model was built with listener comfort in mind.
And it shows. The X2HR ear cups’ covering is made of velour. It’s a really soft and somewhat silky fabric. And it feels good around the ears.
Moreover, the X2HR uses memory foam as ear pads. It’s a dense foam typically used in mattresses. And it’s both thick and soft.
So when you combine that foam with the velour fabric cover…
The result is an ear-friendly headphone that you won’t mind wearing for hours.
The Beyerdynamic DT 880 is the only other sub-$200 entry on this list.
At $180, this headphone produces a relaxed sound. Nothing is overpowering. So it’s great if you enjoy listening to jazz or other classical music.
Moreover, it has a semi-open build. This allows ambient noise to escape. So you can listen distraction-free. And that’s even with its lack of noise-canceling technology.
The DT 880 is also popular for its comfort level.
Like the Philips X2HR, this headphone also uses velour fabric for its ear pads.
And the headband is also soft and flexible. That’s why you won’t feel like it’s squeezing your ears.
Finally, it’s pretty light. It only weighs 11 oz (312 g). And that’s another plus point to its overall comfort level.
#3: JVC HAS100N
JVC is a popular home electronics brand. Although it’s not exactly known for its headphones.
However, that doesn’t mean it has terrible listening devices.
As a matter of fact, its high-end model, the HAS100N, is right up there among the most ear-friendly.
But before I get to that, let me mention a few of its other great qualities first.
The HAS100N is a Bluetooth headphone.
It’s priced at $250. And it has sophisticated noise-canceling technology. So you’ll really be able to enjoy music with little outside distraction.
It also has touch control. So every operation is done through finger swipes.
But more importantly…
It has very thick memory foam cushions for its ear cups. And it’s covered in smooth synthetic leather.
Moreover, even the headband has foam in it.
So it’s another great choice for those with sensitive ears.
#4: Sony MDR1AM2
When it comes to headphones brands…
Among the very best and most popular is Sony.
And the truth is, pretty much all of their high-end headphones are comfortable for the ears.
But if there’s 1 Sony headphone that’s especially known for that…
It’s the MDR1AM2.
But what makes the MDR1AM2 worth buying is its pressure-relieving ear pads.
They’re made of soft synthetic leather that’s really pleasant to the ears. And they become even softer as you wear them due to your body heat.
The headband also provides the perfect amount of clamps. Just tight enough to secure the headphones but you’ll barely feel any pressure against your ears.
And the MDR1AM2 also happens to be among the lightest high-end headphone there is.
It weighs just 6.6 oz (187 g). You’ll almost forget you even have them on.
And at $256…
It’s another excellent buy for those with or without sensitive ears.
The Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X is yet another headphone that’s known for ear comfort.
But let’s talk about its main specs first.
At $300, the ATH-AD900X has an open-back design. This allows it to produce a clearer and more natural sound. And it makes this headphone best for acoustic music.
As far as the design goes, it’s mostly made of plastic. And it actually doesn’t really have a solid headband.
Instead, it uses 2 narrow plastic strips to connect the ear cups.
Speaking of which…
The ATH-AD900X has among the largest ear cups you’ll ever see on a headphone.
And because of that…
Most ears will fit perfectly inside them. So there’s no pressure whatsoever against the ears.
And if that’s not enough…
These ear cups are also covered in silky velour material. And that boosts the headphone’s comfortability even more.
For those that don’t know him…
Dan Clark is a California-based former electrical engineer. He worked for major companies like Apple and Compaq.
But his passion for audio engineering led him to create his own company.
And now, the Dan Clark Audio is among the leading firms in high-end headphones.
Its products are especially known for how comfortable they feel.
According to Clark himself, uncomfortable headphones get in the way of musical enjoyment.
So he made it his mission to create the most comfortable headphones.
And a great embodiment of that is the Aeon Closed X.
This headphone costs $500. That’s more expensive than other more well-known brands.
But the price is worth it for how well-engineered it is.
First of all, the audio is superb. Every song comes out sounding clear and powerful.
But as far as ear comfort levels go, it’s as good as any headphone brand out there.
One big factor for that is the design of the ear cups. They are built in a teardrop shape. And this allows the cups to contour perfectly around the ears.
Moreover, the paddings are quite generous. And like the ATH-AD900X, it also uses 2 slim, flexible strips in lieu of a solid headband.
And as a result, the headphones are as comfortable as it gets.
#7: HIFIMAN Ananda
The HIFIMAN Ananda is another high-end headphone that’s excellent for sensitive ears.
The Ananda is a wired headphone. So it’s louder than wireless ones.
And it uses what’s called planar magnetic technology.
It’s a complex sound technology for eliminating distortions. And it’s also used to produce the purest and most accurate studio-quality sound.
And like the Aeon Closed X…
This one also has asymmetrical ear cups inspired by the shape of a human ear. So you can say it’s also engineered with ear comfort in mind.
Moreover, the Ananda also uses a weight-dispersing strap as a headband. And that helps eliminate any pressure on the ear when you wear it.
As for the price…
The HIFIMAN costs $700.
And while it’s twice the cost of high-end Sony or Bose…
Its top-notch sound and fantastic comfort level make it worth your money.
Why are my ears sensitive to headphones?
Your ears are sensitive to headphones because you might have an infection. It’s best to consult an ENT doctor to check your ear problem. Also, your ear sensitivity can be due to the poor-quality headphones you’re using. So consider getting one with better specs instead.
Your ears’ headphone sensitivity is mainly due to either of the following:
- Ear infection.
- Poor-quality headphones.
Now, if it’s an infection…
The only advice I can give is for you to seek medical help as soon as possible.
As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
So even if it’s a mild illness, you should still act with a sense of urgency. Have it treated as early as possible rather than wait for it to turn serious.
On the other hand, your ear sensitivity can also be due to your headphones’ subpar quality.
For that, I can give you 3 tips to help you shop for a better pair of headphones.
#1: Go for over-ear rather than on-ear or in-ear headphones
There are 3 different types of headphones:
In-ear headphones are also known as earphones or earbuds. These are those that you plug directly into your ear. And perhaps the most popular of these is the Apple AirPods.
Meanwhile, on-ear and over-ear headphones are pretty similar. Their main difference is in size.
On-ear devices are smaller. And their ear cups are directly pressing against your ear.
Meanwhile, over-ear headphones are generally big. And they usually cover entire ears.
Now, of these 3 types…
The most comfortable to wear by far are the over-ear headphones. All 7 models that I mentioned in the previous section are examples of these.
And while they’re also the most expensive of the 3 variants…
The level of comfort they provide makes them worth it.
Now, if you’d like to see a more thorough comparison of those 3 headphone types…
Watch this video below:
#2: Thoroughly read reviews from actual users
Another helpful tip when shopping for headphones is to know the feedback of users.
Don’t just buy a pair of headphones because you saw an ad for them. Instead, find out what the actual users are saying about it.
As you may know, Amazon has a section full of actual reviews from product buyers.
So if the headphone you’re planning to buy is on that website…
Do your due diligence. And read as many of the reviews as possible.
From there, you can find discussion threads related to headphones. And you can also ask questions or suggestions if you’d like.
Furthermore, you can also ask for suggestions from people you personally know.
Their feedback should help give you a clearer idea of which headphones to buy.
#3: Test the headphones before buying
Once you’ve made up your mind on which headphones to get…
It’s also much better if you buy them in person. This is so you can test the product. And actually get a feel for it before you eventually purchase it.
You won’t be able to do that if you simply order online. So there’s a chance you might end up with a buyer’s regret.
And even if online shops generally have a return policy…
It can be quite a hassle to have to ship the product back to them.
That’s why when it comes to buying headphones…
It’s much wiser to get it from a physical store instead. Take some time to try it out. And if it feels right, only then should you buy it.
Why do my ears hurt when I wear noise-canceling headphones?
Your ears hurt when you wear noise-canceling headphones due to pressure pain. It can happen if the headband part of the device is too tight. Also, your ears will hurt if there aren’t enough cushions on the ear cups. And turning up the headphone’s volume to unhealthy levels can also cause ear pain.
#1: The headbands are too tight
Pressure pain is the most common cause of ear pain in noise-canceling headphones.
It usually happens if the headband isn’t flexible enough…
To the point where it’s almost like it’s squeezing your head so the headphones don’t fall off.
So what exactly can you do about it?
Well, you don’t have to discard your headphones just yet. An easy fix you can do is stretch the headband. It’s something that many have attested to be effective.
“How do you do that?”
Just follow these steps to stretch your headphone:
Step #1: First, measure the width of your head from one tip of the ear to another. You may use a ruler or a tape measure for that.
Step #2: Look for an object that’s a bit wider than your head. It could be a box, a book, or anything similar.
The idea here is to have that object wear the headphones. So ensure that it’s not too wide.
Otherwise, your headphones might snap.
Step #3: Carefully pull the headphones’ ear cups apart.
Step #4: With the headphones stretched out, place them onto the object.
Step #5: Leave the headphones in that position for about 1 to 2 days.
After that, try wearing your noise-canceling headphones again. It should no longer be as tight as it was. But if it still is, just repeat the whole stretching process.
#2: Problems with the ear pads
Another possible cause of your ear pain is the ear pads.
These cushions that cover the headphones’ ear cups are crucial for your comfort level.
And if they’re problematic…
You’ll inevitably experience discomfort when you wear your headphones.
Now, the usual issue with ear pads is wear and tear. Over time, it may start thinning or losing its softness.
And the solution to that is to get a replacement.
The best place to buy new ear pads is through your headphone brand’s official site.
That way, you can ensure that the replacement you get will actually fit.
#3: Your headphones’ volume is too loud
There are people who love maximizing the volume of their headphones while listening.
If you’re among those…
I’m afraid that’s one more reason why your ears are hurting.
You see, our eardrums aren’t built to withstand prolonged exposure to noise.
If you listen to loud music for too long…
Your ear won’t just start hurting. You’ll also increase the risk of permanent hearing damage.
So what you should do instead is to practice the 60/60 rule.
It means never go higher than 60% volume level. And take breaks from listening every 60 minutes.
It’s a practice recommended by audiologists worldwide.
And it’s highly effective in minimizing ear discomfort when using headphones.
#4: You’ve been listening for too long
This is also related to the previous point.
Even if your headphone volume isn’t loud…
Listening non-stop for hours will also lead to ear pain.
So again, make it a habit to do the 60/60 rule.
If you must listen to music for several hours….
Take around 10 to 15-minute breaks after every 60 minutes. And allow your ears to rest.
This habit will go a long way in preserving your hearing health.
#5: You actually have an ear infection
There’s also a chance that the ear pain you’re feeling isn’t due to the headphones.
Rather, you may have some underlying ear infection. And the use of headphones is only making it worse.
Now, there are a wide variety of ear infections. And the causes vary greatly.
So if you suspect there’s something wrong with your ear…
Stop listening to your headphones immediately. And consult an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor as soon as you can.