You will agree with me that headphones are convenient. However, they can also be harmful. 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 related post, we explored how to reduce ear pain from headphones, but today we go a little deeper to know the causes and the applicable remedies.
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:
- 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.
- Get Larger 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.
- 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.
- Switch to Ear-Buds
Unlike on-ear and over-the-ear headphones, earbuds 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 earbuds also cause a myriad of ear-related health problems – 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 earbuds.
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. 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 on 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 such as 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:
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II
- Sennheiser Momentum Wireless Headphones
- Bowers & Wilkins PX Headphones
- Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2
- V-Moda Crossfade M-100
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.
It is common for headphone users to suffer from outer ear pain. 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, outer ear pain may be severe, so never ignore any symptoms.