Ear pain from headphones: causes, remedies & prevention

I hear the cliche’ that hearing problems are for seniors. In fact, most people believe that hear loss only happens to the elderly.

For sure, you will be shocked to learn that one out of every five teenagers does suffer from some level of hearing loss worldwide. Also, the hearing loss rate in teenagers is 30% higher than what it was in the 1990s.

These statistics make it important for each one of us to learn how to reduce ear pain from headphones and adopt some preventive measures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) found out that up to 1.1 billion young adults and teens do suffer from ear pain majorly caused by headphones.

Causes of ear pain from headphones

Although there are several causes of hearing loss like going for concerts and noisy sporting events without hearing protection, unsafe use of headphones posed the greatest threat.

One of the main causes of ear pain is high volume beyond what the eardrum can tolerate. Setting your headphones to more than 85 decibels is capable of causing pain on your ears and permanent hearing loss.

Another cause is using headphones or earphones much more frequently than normal. Try bearing in mind how often people listen to music since music devices became transportable.

People do listen to music at home, in the car, at their place of work, gym, drifting for a sleep, while running or working and much more. People do combine music in almost every aspect of their lives.

If not cautious, the exposure level can quietly and slowly steal your hearing.

Easy remedies to reduce ear pain from headphones

Here are important ways one can use to help reduce ear pain and hearing loss from the headphones. Here are 7 quick ways of reducing ear pains from headphones.

1. Limit the volume of your headphones to safe levels

High volume causes ear damage or pain. However, you need not purchase a sound meter by yourself to help in measuring the decibel levels.

The best idea is to ensure you keep your music player volumes at levels not louder than 60% of the maximum volume. Going higher than that will mean you are past 85 decibels.

Just listen at the safe levels. You can learn more about safe headphone volume for iPhone and that of Android.

For example, when the MP3 players are at their loudest, they are able to pump out over 105 decibels.

Keeping in mind the decibel scale just like the Richter scale, 105 decibels is 100 times more intense as 85.

During normal conversation, 60 decibels are usually registered. Hence, when listening to music and have to raise your voice whenever you are speaking to someone that is a sign that you need to lower your music volume.

2. Limit the time you listen to your headphones

Ear pain is not only the volume’s function. It can also be caused by time. The longer you will be exposing your ears to louder sounds the higher and more intense the pain can be.

This brings us to the 60/60 rule. Previously, we did suggest that you can keep the volume of your MP3 player at 60% of the maximum volume.

Ensuring that you limit the time of listening to music to under 60 minutes a day is the other aspect. You need to keep in mind that low volumes will help in making the listening times longer.

It is also advisable for one to take routine breaks from the sound since having 2 hours of uninterrupted 60 decibels can be very damaging when compared to four and a half hour intervals that are spread throughout the day.

3. Choose the right type of Headphone

Choosing the right headphones is important since there are some that are more risky to the ears and to some people.

Also, choosing high-quality headsets is important because of the sound quality. Quality sound is better for ears rather than poor-quality outputs.

The best remedy to consider many factors before buying yourself a headphone. In the guide on Buying Bluetooth or Wireless Headphones, you will get knowledge on how to select the right headset or earphone.

For example, using the same guide, you can select a noise cancelling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II.

You can always limit the sound volume when the noise at the background is mitigated enabling you to enjoy high-quality music at lower volumes.

The problem of using of low-quality earbuds

However, the low-quality earbuds are known to have the dual disadvantage of being closer to the users’ eardrum and incapable of regulating the background noise.

Sound quality is also diminished and is combined with the environmental sound that is distracting with increasing the volume being the only way to compensate.

It is much worthy to invest in premium headphones especially those that do have a noise cancelling technology.

With that, you are able to stick to the 60/60 rule without having to compromise the music quality and your hearing level down the road.

4. Go for over the ear headphones

There are earbuds which are up to nine dB louder when compared to the over the ear headphones.

This will help in reducing the safe listening time from 2 hours to 15 minutes in case you were listening at 91 dB!

In case you are a great fan of the headbanging music effect and deep vibration, you can consider using an equalizer on your device to help you in turning up the bass.

Even when you reduce the volume, you will still get that pleasing feeling.

5. Get up and Move

Yes, I know is a surprise, but walking is a very effective way to reduce ear pain from headphones. Very few people are aware that exercising is good for the years.

Performing cardio exercises like running, walking and cycling will help get the blood pumping to all the body parts together with the ears.

Imagine it is easy, it is all about the flowing of blood in your body. Good flow of blood to the internal parts will help the ears stay healthy and ensuring that they work to their maximum potential. However, ensure that you stay safe by wearing a helmet. 

6. Avoid the use of Cotton Swabs on your Ears

Most people are known to resort to using cotton swabs to help in cleaning wax out of their ear canal or after using headphones for some time.

However, this is never advisable. It is not only normal to have some wax in your ears but it is equally important.

never use Cotton Swabs to clean inside the ear

Ears are known to be self-cleaning body organs and wax do help in preventing dust together with other harmful items from getting inside the canal.

Inserting anything inside your ear canal can easily damage the sensitivity of the eardrum.

In case you do have excess wax, you can always clean around the ear canal by use of a damp and soft towel. You can also consider using ear wax removal solution for a few nights.

The solution will help in softening the wax so that it will flow out on its own. It is advisable that you always seek professional guidance and care whenever possible.

7. Go for Regular Checkups

You can always request your physical care physician to always incorporate screenings for your hearing while carrying out regular checkups.

This is because ear pains and hearing loss do develop gradually and it is always recommended that one you go for yearly hearing consultations by visiting a healthcare expert.

With that, you will be in a position to identify hearing loss sings and quickly take action.

Taking action is of great importance since untreated hearing loss apart from detracting from relationship strengths and life quality has been linked with other types of health concerns such as heart disease, dementia, and depression.

You will agree with me that headphones are convenient. However, they can also be harmful.

Outer ear pain from headphones: Remedies and Prevention

Millions of people around the world suffer from headphone-induced health problems with their ears. In some cases, headphone users even suffer permanent hearing loss.

One of the most common ear problems associated with headphones is outer-ear pain. Here is everything you need to know about the causes, prevention measures, and remedies of this problem.

In the first part of this post, we explored how to reduce ear pain from headphones, but in the next section, we go a little deeper to know the causes and the applicable remedies of outer ear pain caused by headphones.

Outer ear pain from headphones: Causes Remedies and prevention

You will agree with me that headphones are convenient. However, they can also be harmful.

Outer ear pain from headphones

Millions of people around the world suffer from headphone-induced health problems with their ears.

In some cases, headphone users even suffer permanent hearing loss.

One of the most common ear problems associated with headphones is outer-ear pain.

Here is everything you need to know about the causes, prevention measures, and remedies of this problem.

In a the first part of this post, we explored how to reduce ear pain from headphones, but in the second part, we go a little deeper to know the causes and the applicable remedies for outer ear pain.

Causes of outer ear pain from the use of earphones

On-ear and over-the-ear headphones are the leading causes of outer ear pain from headphones. On-ear headphones are those that rest directly on the outer part of your ears known as the pinna.

Over-the-ear headphones, on the other hand, cover the pinna so that it fits into the ear-cups. On-ear headphones are worse than over-the-ear headphones in this regard.

Pain comes from the pressure exerted on the pinna by the headphones. The soft cartilage on the pinna can only take so much, so too much pressure will eventually result in pain and fatigue.   

How to prevent outer ear pain

You can use your headphones without worrying about ear pain by taking the appropriate preventative measures. Here are some tips:

  1. Loosen the Headphones

As mentioned, outer ear pain is mostly caused by excess pressure on the pinna. The best way to avoid this is by loosening the headphones if they feel too tight.

You can easily do this by flexing the headband until it becomes more flexible.

You should also consider keeping your headphones stretched when not in use – this is especially recommendable if the headphones are new.

The headband will become more flexible over time and this will relieve some of the pressure on your pinna.

2. Get Over-the-Ear Headphones

Over-the-ear headphones go all the way over the pinna so that the outer part of your ear goes into the ear-cups.

This is better than having the ear-cups rest on the pinna, but over-the-ear headphones still cause outer ear pain if the ear-cups are not large enough.

In this case, you will need to get headphones that are large enough to accommodate the pinna depending on the size of your ears.

The ideal headphones should comfortably accommodate the pinna so that it is entirely in the ear-cups. You will also need to make sure that the pinna does not get twisted in the ear-cups as this will also cause fatigue and pain.

3. Minimize Usage

It is easy to get carried away and listen to music for hours on your headphones. However, your ears will eventually pay the price no matter how safe or comfortable your headphones are.

As such, cut back on your headphone usage time – it is not recommendable to wear your headphones for more than 4 hours at any given time, and the listening periods should be even less if the volume is higher than 85 decibels.

In fact, it is advisable you apply the 60/60 rule of headphone use as explained in the guide about how to use headphones safely. If you must listen to music for hours try to do it directly from your device’s speaker if the situation allows it.    

4. Switch to Ear-Buds

Unlike on-ear and over-the-ear headphones, ear-buds do not cause outer-ear pain. They are a great substitute if you are especially prone to this problem.

However, you should keep in mind that ear-buds also cause a myriad of ear-related health problems.

For instance, they may not cause outer-ear pain but they will likely cause ear canal pain and bacterial infections. As such, you should also limit listening time on your ear-buds.

Remedies for Outer-ear pain from headphones

If it is too late and you are already suffering from outer-ear pain from headphones there are several things you can do to make it go away.

Outer ear pain from headphones prevention and 4 easy Remedies
Outer ear pain from headphones: prevention and 4 easy Remedies

Here are several tested and proven remedies:

1. Lay Off the Headphones

The simplest solution to outer-ear pain is getting rid of what caused it in the first place. As such, you should take your headphones off once you feel your pinna paining.

This will give your ears some time to rest and give the cartilage some time to recover from the pressure. The pain should subside shortly thereafter.

2. Apply Hot or Cold Pads

You should also consider applying hot or cold pads on the ears if the pain is too much. Heat and cold help to soothe the nerves and overcome the pain.

Cold pads are usually more effective than hot ones, and if you decide to use the latter ensures that they are not too hot as this may increase the pain and discomfort.

The pads should be applied directly to the pinna and behind the lobes for efficacy. Leave them in place for some time until you feel the pain subsiding. 

3. Ear Massage Therapy

Outer ear pain is not limited to the pinna – it is common for the pain to extend to the temple and the areas around the ears.

The pain may also be so extreme that you develop headaches and migraines. In this case, you should consider going for ear massage therapy. 

The masseuse will massage the area behind the ears and around the temple. It will ease the pain temporarily, but massage therapy works best when coupled with other remedies.

You can combine massage with remedies like applying hot and cold pads. You may also need to take some medicine for the migraine.

5. Visit a Doctor if the pain persists

Outer ea pain from headphone use is usually mild and doesn’t persist. It may, however, become severe over time when coupled with other ea health problems.

In some cases, it is so bad that abrasions develop on the pinna and the tissue becomes permanently damaged. Therefore, it is always advisable to visit a doctor.

The doctor will prescribe treatment depending on the exact nature of the problem. Treatment options include therapy whereby the doctor will try to get the pinna tissue to heal naturally.

The doctor may also prescribe ointment medicine and drugs to relieve the outer ear pain from headphones.

In extreme cases, there may be a need for surgery in case the tissue is completely destroyed. 

Recommended Headphones for use after recovering from outer ear pain

Some headphones fare better than others with regard to comfort and safety. If you are prone to outer ear pain you should settle for nothing but the best.

Here are five over-the-ear headphones that won’t disappoint:

All of these headphones have several things in common. First, they all are over-ear headphones with ear-cups big enough to comfortably cover your ears so that they do not come under pressure, which is the leading cause of outer-ear pain from headphone use.

Additionally, they all are fitted with soft cushions around the ea-cups so that they feel comfortable around the ears.

These are the two most important factors to always take into consideration when buying headphones that will not hurt your ears.

Another beneficial feature of these headphones is noise cancelation and isolation capabilities so that you can listen to your music without distractions.

They are also wireless, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with messy cords. Their batteries are also long-lasting but don’t get carried away.

Remember, wearing headphones for prolonged periods is guaranteed to cause some degree of pain or discomfort.

Safe usage of headphones to avoid ear pain

To know how to reduce ear pain from headphones, you must know safer usage and the volume to adopt. However, safer hearing levels are entirely based on older research. 

In most cases, people used to think that muffled hearing together with tinnitus which was mainly experienced after attending a great club.

Also experienced after a concert was a mere partial hearing loss caused by loud music from the headphones.

It is now clear that even exposure to regulated noise levels can lead to permanent damage to the delicate ribbons between the ears hair cells.

The damage will only become visible after one or two decades when you will start experiencing trouble hearing conversations with lots of noise at the background.


It is common for headphone users to suffer from ear pain caused by headphones. However, you can enjoy your music and not have to pay the price for it by taking the necessary precautionary measures.

You will also need to ensure that the headphones you are using are designed for optimal comfort and safety.

Remember: in some cases, ear pain may be severe, so never ignore any symptoms. Consult your doctor in case of persistent ear pain, even if it is caused by headphones.

Watch this from National Science Foundation

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James Kanfer

James Kanfer is an all-round tech writer with a special focus on creative solutions and ideas on gadgets. I prefer reading about tech and sharing the same.

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