Skip to Content

7 Ways To Stop Headphones From Hurting Your Ears (2022)

How To Stop Headphones From Hurting Your Ears

Headphones are supposed to provide joy, not pain.

That’s why it can be so frustrating if your ears are hurting from using them.

But you know what, there are solutions to that.

And no, it doesn’t involve taking pain relievers.

Continue reading to find out:

  • 7 effective ways to stop your headphones from hurting your ears.
  • 5 highly-recommended headphones for those with sensitive ears.
  • The most common reasons why headphones can sometimes cause ear pain.
  • And a lot more…

How to stop headphones from hurting your ears – 7 ways


#1: Adjust the length of the headphones’ headband

This might be obvious to some. But I also know of some people who are unaware that headbands are actually adjustable.

You see, when designing headphones…

Manufacturers always aim for their devices to fit almost all head shapes and sizes. That’s why they always include the option to increase or decrease the headband’s length.

And your ears are possibly hurting because your headphones are too tight or loose. 

For that, you should try to maximize the headband’s size. You may do so by pulling down each side. Then try to use the headphones again.

For many, simply increasing the headband’s length was enough to improve the comfort level. 

#2: Stretch your headphones

Headphones have a strong clamping force so they don’t fall off when you use them. And they’re especially tight when they’re new.

However, over time and with frequent usage…

Headphones generally tend to stretch a bit. And that decreases the clamping pressure as well.

But you don’t need to wait weeks or months for that to happen.

There’s a way to easily accelerate the process of stretching your headphones. And that’s by placing them onto an object that’s a bit wider than your head.

You may follow these steps on…

How to stretch your headphones properly:

Step #1: Get a tape measure

Gauge the width of your head from one ear to another.

Step #2: Grab several books.

Stack them together until their combined width exceeds your head a little bit. 

Ideally, their total width should only be about 2 in (5 cm) wider than your head. 

If the difference in measurement is even greater… 

You run the risk of overstretching your headphones.

That might make your device too loose to wear. And you wouldn’t want that.

Note: You may also use materials other than books. Just ensure that they’re solid enough to withstand the headphones’ clamping force.

Step #3: Place the headphones onto the stack of books

Leave them there overnight while you’re asleep. And keep doing this for 7 to 10 days.

Your headphones should then feel much more comfortable to wear afterward.

Now, if you’d like a visual guide on how to stretch a headphone… 

You may check out this video:

#3: Wear your headphones properly

Another easy way to prevent your ears from hurting is to wear your headphones properly.

Now, the way to do it varies depending on your headphone design. There are actually 3 types, namely:

  • In-ear.
  • On-ear.
  • Over-ear.

In-ear headphones or earbuds are those that you plug directly into your ear canal. The most widely-known example of these is the Apple AirPods.

And if this is the type of headphones you’re using…

Ensure that you don’t insert them too deep inside your ear. Also, see to it that you’re using them in their designated ear. 

There should be a label on the earbuds. It’ll indicate which one goes to the left ear and which one goes to the right.

Now, on-ear and over-ear headphones are pretty similar. Their only difference is in the size of the ear cups.

With on-ear devices, the cups should be directly pressing against your entire ear.

As for over-ear headphones…

Ensure your ears are firmly inside the cups to maximize your comfort level.

#4: Check for damages in the ear pads

The ear pads are the soft cushions in your headphones’ ear cups.

Over time, these pads start to thin out or get damaged due to wear and tear.

And when that happens, you’ll experience discomfort when using your headphones.

So inspect the ear cups of your device. And if you notice that they’re no longer as thick or as soft, look for a replacement.

You can visit your headphone manufacturer’s online shop to order a new pair of ear pads.

In addition, there are also 3rd party companies that sell ear pads for various brands. You may find these sellers on sites like Amazon and eBay.

#5: Lower your headphones’ volume level

It’s also possible that the pain in your ear isn’t due to the headphones’ design. Rather, it can be because your volume’s too loud.

You may be listening to music at max level loudness. And that’s not healthy at all.

The truth is that human ears aren’t built to withstand blaring noises for long periods.

So if you’re constantly subjecting your ears to loud music…

You won’t only experience pain. But you’re also increasing your risk of permanent hearing damage.

“So what’s the ideal headphone volume, then?”

It should only be around 60% of its maximum level. That’s what many ear doctors are recommending, as per Mayo Clinic.

#6: Limit your usage

There’s such a thing called listener fatigue.

It’s not exactly an illness. But it’s a phenomenon that happens when you expose your ears to non-stop music for many hours. Symptoms include:

  • Ear pain.
  • Tiredness.
  • Numbness in the ears.

So it’s quite possible that your ear discomfort is due to this.

And the solution is to limit your headphone usage.

I already mentioned that ear doctors recommend listening to up to only 60% of volume capacity.

But they also advised that users should take a few minutes of rest after every 60 minutes of listening. 

#7: Replace your headphones with something that fits better

So you’ve already adjusted your headphone’s length. And you tried to stretch it for several days.

You’ve even lowered the volume and limited your usage.

And yet your ears still hurt from using it.

What’s the next step then?

Well, I’d highly suggest that you get a new pair of headphones. The one you’re currently using just might not be a good fit for you.

And if you’re looking for recommendations…

I’ve created a section for that. Just scroll down. And you’ll see my 5 picks for the most comfortable headphones to wear to avoid ear pain.

BONUS: Have your ears checked by an ENT doctor

Have Your Ears Checked By An ENT Doctor

Now, even if you buy the most comfortable headphones to wear…

If you have some pre-existing ear condition, you may still experience pain.

That’s why if you’ve been feeling constant discomfort from headphone usage…

I’d also advise you to visit an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor. And have them check your ear.

It’s possible what you’re going through isn’t really a headphone issue. Instead, it can be an actual ear infection or disease.

And it may be something that needs treatment as soon as possible. 

Why do headphones hurt your ears?

Headphones hurt your ears because of their clamping force. They’re designed to grip your head tightly so they don’t fall off when you use them. Moreover, your ear pain may also be due to poor-quality ear pads. And it’s also possible you have an existing ear infection made worse by the headphones.


What headphones are best for sensitive ears?


The best headphones for sensitive ears are the Sennheiser HD600S and the NVX XPT100. 

The HD600S has ear pad coverings that are made of soft fabric that feels great on the skin. 

Meanwhile, the XPT100 has among the thickest ear pads you’ll ever see on headphones. Making them very comfortable to wear.

But those 2 aren’t the only ideal headphones for those with sensitive ears. I actually have 5 recommendations. And I’ll be breaking down each of my picks below.

#1: NVX XPT100

If you’re on a budget but still want comfortable headphones to wear…

Then you should go for the NVX XPT100.

You can buy one for only $60. And it’s the lone recommendation I have that’s under $100.

NVX headphones are particularly known for their oversized ear pads. And the XPT100 is certainly no exception.

This device’s ear pads are much thicker than your average headphones. And they’re covered in artificial leather that feels great when pressed against the skin.

In addition, the headband part also has cushions. So this headphone model will also feel comfortable on the top of your head.

The XPT100’s overall sound quality is decent enough, as well.

That’s why if you want a cheap but comfortable headphone with good audio…

This is a perfect choice.

#2: Bose QuietComfort 45

Bose is among the most recognized headphone brands. And one of its best products is the QuietComfort 45.

It’s priced at $299.

And as the model name suggests…

This headphone offers excellent noise-canceling technology. But more importantly, it’s also extremely comfortable to wear.

The QuietComfort 45’s oval ear cups are large enough to fit most ears. 

Moreover, the ear pads are really dense. And just like the NVX XPT100, they’re also covered in smooth synthetic leather.

The clamping force also isn’t as strong as others. So you don’t even really need to stretch these headphones.

It’s really comfortable from the get-go.

#3: Meze 99 Classics

Meze isn’t exactly a household name. But its 99 Classics model is worth mentioning when talking about comfortable headphones.

This wired headphone has a unique design. Nothing about this headphone is made of plastic.

The headbands are pure leather. 

The ear cups, on the other hand, were built using real wood. And they’re also big enough in diameter to cover average-sized ears.

But what makes this device comfortable are the ear pads that are made from memory foam.

If you’re not familiar, it’s the type of material used in beds and pillows. So the ear pads feel great even when pressed against the side of your head.

Moreover, the 99 Classics only weigh 9 oz (255 g). So you’d barely even notice that you’re using it.

As for its price…

It’s selling for $309.

#4: Sony WH-1000XM4

One of the most popular headphone models in recent years is the Sony WH-1000XM4.

There’s a lot to love about this $350 headphone.

For one, it has among the most advanced noise-canceling technology. 

It’s also capable of delivering rich and detailed audio. And, like the Meze 99 Classics, it’s also really lightweight, at only 8.9 oz (254 g).

As to why it’s great for those with sensitive ears…

The WH-1000XM4’s grip pressure is just right. It’s tight enough that it won’t fall. But you’ll never feel like your head’s being squeezed.

In addition, this device’s ear cups are also wider than the average headphone. And the ear pads are very soft to the touch.

And with the trusted Sony brand, you can’t go wrong with the WH-1000XM4.

#5: Sennheiser HD600S

Sennheiser is a popular German-brand headphone manufacturer. And this firm is particularly known for its high-end listening devices.

Each headphone model from this brand is carefully crafted to make the best audio quality. While also being supremely comfortable to wear for extended periods.

And that’s why some Sennheiser models go for over $1000 each.

However, you don’t need to spend that much to get quality headphones from this brand.

The HD600S already provides excellent ear comfort. And you can buy one for $399.

Now, what’s great about the HD600S is that the ear cups are much larger than other headphone models.

And they’re oval-shaped to perfectly cover the user’s ears.

Moreover, Sennheiser also included generous paddings in the HD600S. And the ear pads are covered in velour. It’s a soft and silky fabric that feels pleasant on the skin.

So while some Sennheiser headphones are bad

As far as sound quality and ear comfort go, the HD600S is definitely among the best.