As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read full affiliate disclaimer.

4 Common Reasons Why Earbuds Are Uncomfortable (+ Solutions)

It’s heartbreaking to pull out your earbuds to play your favorite songs and discover that instead of letting you enjoy the music, they sit uncomfortably in your ears or even make your ears ache. The discomfort caused by wearing earbuds often results from four common factors. 

Here are 4 common reasons why earbuds are uncomfortable:

  1. The earbuds don’t fit your ears.
  2. You aren’t wearing the earbuds properly.
  3. You have worn the earbuds for too long.
  4. You are listening to loud music.

Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll give you an in-depth explanation of why your earbuds might feel uncomfortable. I’ll also tell you about a few things you can do to make them feel better in your ears. 

Woman using uncomfortable earbuds

Why Earbuds Are Uncomfortable

Before trying to fix the issue, I think it’s essential that you understand why your earphones are uncomfortable in the first place.

Some of these issues are easy to solve, while others will require you to look for a different pair of earbuds. Sadly, that’s just how it is with these devices—but before you jump the gun, let’s go over each reason in detail.

1. The Earbuds Don’t Fit Your Ears

It’s essential for your earbuds to fit snugly in your ears. This lets you experience the best sound quality and comfort possible. Earbuds that are either too big or too small for your ear canal won’t form a proper seal, which means they’ll fall off often and won’t provide good sound quality. 

When your earbuds are too big, they may stretch and strain the ear cartilage, which can obviously be painful. Too big earbuds will fatigue your ears or make them hurt after using them for a short while. 

Moreover, putting on earbuds that are too wide for your cartilage—especially if you apply a lot of force or constantly turn them around inside your ear canal—creates a lot of friction that can make your ears itchy. Sometimes people who do this experience in-ear bleeding.  

Earbuds that are too small for your ears will fall out frequently, which may be annoying and cause discomfort. They could also make you push them too far into the ear canal, straining it and causing in-ear pain.

Related article: Can You Wear Earbuds With a Daith or Tragus Piercing?

2. You Aren’t Wearing the Earbuds Properly

The way you wear your earbuds could make the difference between enjoying them or suffering from pain afterward. A common mistake many people make when wearing earbuds is pushing them too deep into the ear canal. 

Your ear canal is not made to stretch out for an extended period, and it can become tired over time, which can lead to pain. Not only that: positioning the earbuds close to your eardrums is detrimental to your ear’s health. You’ll be exposing your eardrum to stronger sound vibrations, which may lead to hearing loss.

3. You Have Worn the Earbuds for Too Long

Another common cause of discomfort from wearing earbuds is wearing them for a long time. In general, your earbuds are going to hurt your ear more the longer you wear them.

Wearing earbuds, even the more comfortable ones, stretches your ear canal up to a certain degree. You may not feel the strain when you wear them for a short time, but after a while, your ears will experience stress and end up being sore. 

4. You Are Listening to Loud Music

Having ambient noise around you can make you lose your concentration or simply stop you from fully enjoying your music. It’s common to react to this by turning up the volume of your earphones until you drown your surroundings. This helps you get immersed in whatever you’re doing, but it can also lead to discomfort and, worse, hearing loss.

Listening to loud music for a long time will eventually cause listener fatigue. Your eardrum becomes strained and sore, which temporarily decreases its sensitivity. This in turn may lead you to turn up the volume even further, which increases your risk of hearing loss.

How To Make Your Earbuds More Comfortable

Now that I have listed the most common reasons your earbuds may be uncomfortable, I’ll delve into different ways to make them more comfortable and enjoyable to use. Here are a few actions you can take to fix these issues:

Purchase Earbuds That Fit Well

Be careful with the tips of the earbuds you’re buying. This is the main factor that will affect comfort. Some models offer only one size, while others include several sizes you can choose from. If the latter is the case, you should be able to find a size that fits you well.

If you’ve already purchased your earbuds and the tips don’t fit properly, consider buying smaller-sized tips that will suit your ears.

If you choose to buy another pair, I highly recommend getting foam tips. They’re designed to offer more comfort by morphing into the shape of your ear canal. When using them, your ear won’t get strained as much, and you’ll experience less fatigue and soreness. 

Though some people complain that they get a dull sound when using foam tips, this shouldn’t happen with a quality product. However, if you’re having issues, you could improve your listening experience by rolling the foam tips between your thumb and index finger to make them thinner, then placing them in your ear and letting them expand. 

These COMPLY Earbud Tips (available on would be an excellent fit for anyone experiencing discomfort from their earbuds. They’re made of high-quality materials that are soft and comfortable. These tips stay in place, so you won’t have to worry about pushing them back in.

Finally, if using foam tips doesn’t alleviate the pain, you could opt for on-ear or over-ear headphones.

Wear Your Earbuds Properly

I mentioned above that the way you wear your earbuds plays a very significant role in whether they feel comfortable or not. First of all, don’t shove your earbuds too deep into your ear canal.

To ensure that your earbuds are comfortable, the tip of the earbud should sit against the opening of your ear canal gently but firmly, while the bud itself should rest on your concha. Earbuds should create a seal without going so far as to suction your ear.

Take Frequent Breaks

You should take breaks after every ninety minutes or as soon as your ears start to hurt. Ideally, you should find out how long your ears can hold out before starting to hurt and take a break before you get to that point.

Be sure to wipe off any moisture on the outside of your ears when you take a break from your earbuds. This prevents sweat and earwax buildup, which can cause discomfort.

Consider Getting Custom-Molded Tips

Custom-molded tips offer the most comfortable solution for your ears. You’ll need to visit a local audiologist, who will mold the inside of your ears and then use that to design custom tips.

The disadvantages of getting custom-molded tips are that making them takes a while and they’re more expensive than normal ones. Also, most of them aren’t universal and will only fit the earbuds for which they were created. 

Another disadvantage is that they break easily and need more care than other tips.

Related article: Are Headphones Better Than Earbuds?

Clean Your Earbuds Often

Earbuds can be a recipe for bacterial infections. They spend a lot of time in humid, dark places—whether it’s your ear or wherever you put them when you’re not using them.

Cleaning your earbuds often will help you avoid ear infections, which will be worse than any discomfort normally caused by poorly fitting earbuds. Don’t just wipe them off: use isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab to clean the inside of the tip.