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Proper Earbud Fitting / Sizing Guide

High performance earbud headphones have quickly become the standard in music listening devices. They now come standard with nearly every mp3 player available, including the ever ubiquitous iPod. Some people even utilize earbuds when using their hands-free phone sets or listening to messages on their smartphones. One of the biggest challenges with earbuds that has not had a need to be addressed in the past is their fit – should they be tight or loose? Where exactly in the ear should they sit? Are they harmful to my hearing? These questions and more are a few of the many concerns people have about their headphones, so find below some simple tips on achieving the ultimate balance between comfort and performance.

Bose In Ear Headphones
Snug or Loose?

There seem to be two main camps when it comes to earbud fit: those who say they should fit snugly inside the ear canal to obtain optimum sound quality, and those who maintain that a looser fit better protects the delicate ear muscles and allows for more physical comfort. While each side has valid points, the ultimate decision of comfort is determined by the wearer. Those who say earbuds should fit tightly attest that a slight bit of gentle pressure maximizes the absorption of sound, allowing for the best listening experience. However, some people find the sensation of hard plastic rubbing against their inner ear unnerving and sometimes even uncomfortable. On the other hand, looser earbuds, while undoubtedly more comfortable, allow less sound to penetrate the skin and therefore make for less of a “surround sound” experience. The best solution to each of the issues is to seek out earbuds that have flexible, gel-like tips rather than hard, round buds, as the softer headphones mold well to the shape of each wearer’s ear. Often, this type of headphone is available with rubber or silicone tips, both of which are far more comfortable and actually help block out much of the incoming sound that interferes with the music being played.

Earbuds for Sports

Another common problem in earbud fit is that these smaller headphones tend to fall out or slip out of place as the wearer moves about, as in cases of running or exercising. The easiest solution to this problem is to purchase a set of sports earbuds that are shaped similarly to the human ear and curve along the outside of the ear itself. These clips help hold the earbuds in place while still allowing the user to comfortably move about and not interfering with one’s hairstyle or hat.
Some headphone manufacturers have also designed silicone tips that hug the inside of the ear bowl.  This design avoids pressure points in the ear cup to ensure a comfortable snug fit.  These silicone tips eliminate the clip behind the ear and are preferred by some active individuals.

Over-The-Ear Cable Design

Often used by professional musicians, over-the-ear cable headphones offer superior comfort by not having the weight of the cord pull on your ear canal.  This type of earbud usually fits snugly in the ear canal while the cord wraps over the top and back behind the ear.  In addition to less stress on the ear, over-the-ear cable design provides listeners with isolation from cable noise.  Some of these earbuds have multiple drivers giving the user the most accurate and dynamic sound available with an in-ear headphone.

Whether looking for standard, inexpensive earbud headphones or the higher-performance, custom molded type; many find that the fit and comfort of headphones is truly in the “eye of the beholder.” What works for some may not work for everyone, so be sure to research each model you’re considering in order to properly discern its pros and cons. There is no universally perfect headphone out there, but there are many specially designed models on our site to choose from that make the sensation of wearing headphones easier and more palatable.

Consider your options carefully to find what fit works best for you and your ears.