(Last Updated On: October 8, 2020)

Learn the proper way of wearing headphones, depending on its type, for the best listening experience.

Learn how to wear your headphones and earbuds in the most optimal way. (From: Raisa Kanareva/123rf)
You will be surprised how many people are wearing their headphones and earbuds wrongly. (From: Raisa Kanareva/123rf)

Imagine you’ve just bought a new pair of headphones and you’re eager to try them out. You wear the headphones, but something just doesn’t feel quite right about it. You feel a bit of discomfort – not so much so that it hurts, but just enough for it to be noticeable and annoying that it distracts you.

Because of that, you often find yourself adjusting and readjusting your headphones just to get a better fit, but even after doing so, you end up constantly catching the headphones from falling off your head.

As silly as this sounds, a lot of people experience this issue, especially if they’re dealing with headphone models that they’re not used to. In most cases, this is the result of not wearing your headphones properly.

That’s why this article will serve as a guide that will help you wear your headphones correctly to get the best overall comfort while retaining the full functionality of your device. We’ll also discuss some tips for you to keep in mind to avoid experiencing any discomfort during your listening experience.

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Why Is It Important to Wear Headphones the Right Way?

Can you imagine trying to immerse yourself in your favorite album while having to constantly readjust your headphones, or watching a movie but having to keep your headphones from falling off? Doesn’t exactly sound like the most ideal scenario, right?

These are just some of the problems that can happen if you aren’t wearing your headphones the right way.

A person wearing the earbuds the wrong way. (From: cbs4indy.com)
A person wearing the earbuds the wrong way. (From: cbs4indy.com)

But it doesn’t end with that. Improperly wearing your headphones can lead to headaches, with the possibility of your ears experiencing pain or discomfort. Wearing your headphones the wrong way can also affect you during some activities such as working out or going for a run due to the cable getting in the way of your movement.

You might be thinking to yourself that it’d be near impossible to have fun under these circumstances, and you’d be right!.

That’s why wearing your headphones correctly can drastically improve your overall listening experience. But aside from letting you enjoy the most of what you’re listening to, wearing headphones correctly can also let you enjoy the most of what the headphones have to offer.

The Bose headphones is being worn wrongly in this commercial. (From: Henrik929/Reddit)
The Bose headphones being worn wrongly in this commercial. (From: Henrik929/Reddit)

Properly wearing your headphones will help with its maintenance and longevity since you’ll be using it in the way the manufacturers intended it to be used. You can also expect better sound quality from the headphones because a proper fit ensures a more reliable seal for good sound isolation and breathability based on the headphone design.

How to Properly Wear Headphones

In addition to your personal preference on how to wear your headphones, the proper wearing technique will depend on the type, build, and overall quality of the headphones you’re using.

Since headphones come in different size, form, and design, they also require different techniques to wear your headphones for a perfect fit.

Here’s a quick guide on the best practices to follow per headphone type.

How to wear on-ear and over-ear headphones correctly

On-ear and over-ear headphones may look similar at a glance, but it’s important to know they have distinct differences that can affect your overall experience with them.

On-ear headphones are generally smaller and more compact than over-ear headphones. These headphones have small ear cups that rest on top of your ears without fully covering them. An example of a great pair of on-ear headphones is the Bowers & Wilkins PX5.

A model wearing Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless on-ear headphones correctly (From: bowerswilkins.com)
A model wearing Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless on-ear headphones correctly (From: bowerswilkins.com)

On the other hand, over-ear headphones have larger ear cups that encompass your ears. The padding on the ear cups is large enough to fully cover the ears and provide a reliable seal around them. One of the more iconic over-ear headphones this year is the Sony WH-1000XM4.

A model wearing the over-ear Sony WH-1000XM4 correctly (From: Sony.com)
A model wearing the over-ear Sony WH-1000XM4 correctly (From: Sony.com)
The instructions below apply to both on-ear and over-ear headphones.
  1. Determine the left and right sides of the on-ear/over-ear headphones. You can usually find “L” and “R” markings on each side which suggests the proper orientation.
  2. With the proper orientation in check, put on the headphones. Place the headband over the middle of your head and each ear cup right on the ears.
  3. For on-ear headphones, play around the area where the earpads rest on the ear and find a position that allows you to properly hear the audio without it feeling too constricting or awkward. For over-ear headphones, make sure that the earpads completely encompass your ears. It helps to adjust the placement of the headphones so that your ears are at the center of the ear cups, with no part of your ears protruding from the pads.
  4. Make the necessary adjustments with other parts of the headphones. You can adjust the height of the headphones, the clamping strength of the headband, and even the placement of the cable (for wired headsets) so that it doesn’t get in the way. Feel free to play around with the positioning until you find the most comfortable fit.

How to wear in-ear headphones and earbuds

The same thing can be said about in-ear headphones and earbuds, with both devices looking quite similar, but having noticeable differences that set them apart from each other.

In-ear headphones are specifically designed to stay inside the ear. These headphones usually have soft material (such as silicone and foam) ear tips that help keep the device in place while forming a reliable seal inside the ear.

There is a cable compartment surrounding the earbuds in the case.
Tin HIFI T2000 IEM

Contrastingly, earbuds don’t actually stay inside your ear canal. Instead, these are specifically designed to stay on the space just outside of your ear canal (concha). Earbuds usually don’t have any soft ear tips and simply have the small drivers sit just outside the ear.

VE Monk+ Earbuds

For earbuds

The steps for wearing earbuds are almost identical to wearing on-ear/in-ear headphones, with the only difference being that you should make sure that the earbuds are sitting comfortably on the crevices of your ear-folds to keep them from falling off.

A model wearing the Airpods earbuds correctly. (From: Apple.com)
A model wearing the Airpods earbuds correctly. (From: Apple.com)
  1. Determine the left and right sides of the earbuds. You can usually find “L” and “R” markings on each side which suggests the proper orientation.
  2. With the proper orientation in check, put on the earbuds. Place each earbud on the corresponding side of your head while making sure that it fits snuggly on the concha of your ear.
  3. If you’re still having trouble keeping earbuds on your ears, then you might want to look for accessories that you can pair up with the earbuds that can keep them from falling off. There are a lot of options available such as getting ear hooks or wingtips, so look around for what might be best for you.

For in-ear headphones

Depending on how they’re made, there are two main ways on how you can wear in-ear headphones. These are the over-the-ear/around-the-ear method and the straight down method.

Examples of over-the-ear in-ear headphones and regular in-ear headphones are the KZ AS16 and the Sennheiser CX 300S respectively.

The main difference between the two is that the former has special ear tips that require the headphone drivers to be positioned in a way that allows the wire to loop around the ear, while the latter uses regular ear tips.

If you’re still having trouble determining if your in-ear headphones should be worn over-the-ear or straight down, it’s always best to refer to the user manual that came with the product for instructions.
Straight down in-ear headphones

Standard in-ear headphones are usually worn straight down with the cable left hanging on the front or back. Because these are in-ear headphones and not earbuds, it helps to wear them snugly by pulling on your earlobes while you insert the ear tips to create a reliable seal inside the ear canal.

Man using 1More Quad Driver earphones (From: Amazon)
Man using 1More Quad Driver earphones (From: Amazon)
Be careful not to shove the in-ear headphones too hard in the ear canal! Apply adequate pressure to secure the headphones in place, but not so much so that you experience pain or discomfort.
  1. Determine the left and right sides of the in-ear headphones. You can usually find “L” and “R” markings on each side which suggests the proper orientation.
  2. With the proper orientation in check, put on the in-ear headphones. Place each ear tip on the corresponding side of your head. Pull your earlobe with the other hand to create enough space to gently push the ear tip inside your ear canal.
  3. Depending on your personal preference, position the wire in front or behind you.
Over-the-ear/around-the-ear headphones

These in-ear headphones are made with wires that loop around your ears for better security and to prevent them from falling off during movement. As mentioned earlier, these headphones usually have wingtips or ear tips that require a different positioning to keep the drivers in place.

The TOTL Thieaudio Legacy 9 IEMs. (From linsoul.com)
The TOTL Thieaudio Legacy 9 IEMs. (From linsoul.com)
  1. Determine the left and right sides of the in-ear headphones. You can usually find “L” and “R” markings on each side which suggests the proper orientation.
  2. With the proper orientation in check, put on the in-ear headphones. Place each ear tip on the corresponding side of your head. Pull on your earlobe with the other hand to create enough space to gently push the ear tip inside your ear canal.
  3. For most over-the-ear in-ear headphones, the lower end of the headphone driver (the part that connects the cable to the driver) should be facing upwards when worn inside the ear.
    Wearing the over-the-ear Sony IER-M9 correctly
    Wearing the over-the-ear Sony IER-M9 correctly (From: Sony)
  4. Loop the wire over your ear and secure it snugly in place.
  5. After looping the wire over your ear, position the rest of the wire in front or behind you depending on your personal preference. 
Singer wearing in-ear monitors during a live performance (From: gramho.com/profile/twice.no.toliko/).
Singer wearing in-ear monitors during a live performance (From: gramho.com/profile/twice.no.toliko/).

How to Reduce Discomfort When Wearing Headphones

These are general tips for users that want to ensure a comfortable experience while wearing their headphones.

Choose the right type of headphones

The most reliable way to know the best type of headphones for you is to personally try different models on and get a feel for each of them. This allows you to accurately determine which headphones are most comfortable for you.

It helps if you have friends or family who have different headphones that you can try on or borrow for a few hours to see if you have any problems wearing them for that period of time.

Always check the fit

No matter how expensive or high quality your headphones are, it means nothing if it doesn’t even fit you well. Although this tip mostly applies to in-ear headphones with replaceable ear tips, it helps to be aware of the importance of having a proper fit for other types of headphones as well.

Here’s how you can find the best fit for your in-ear headphones:

  1. Put on the headphones with the stock ear tips and listen to any song.
  2. Remove the stock ear tips and replace them with differently sized, compatible ear tips.
  3. Listen to the same song you just listened to.
  4. Determine if the audio quality and your general comfort got better or worse.
  5. If it got better, leave the ear tips on and stop here. If it got worse, feel free to use another size.
  6. Repeat the steps until you find a pair of ear tips that improve the sound quality while being the most comfortable with the best fit.

Remove eyewear or jewelry that could get in the way

It’s not advisable to wear earrings or other ear piercings when wearing headphones as not only will these cause discomfort or pain, but these objects can also damage the ear cups or headphone padding.

Although it’s possible to wear glasses or eyewear with headphones, it may require a bit more effort so that it doesn’t negatively affect your overall listening experience.

If you’re looking for more details on how to do this, feel free to check out our article on how to wear glasses with headphones.

Choose the right material

Most people don’t know this, but you don’t necessarily have to stick to the stock headphone pads or ear tips if you’d prefer another. It helps to try out other materials to know which one you’d rather settle with.

If you’re looking for more information on how to find the right material and proper ear tips, you can check out our ultimate guide to selecting the perfect IEM ear tips.
Also, replacing headphone pads can get tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with what type of headphones you have and how the pads are attached to the drivers. If you think you need further help on this, check out our ultimate guide on how to replace headphone pads.

Be a responsible headphones user

Being a responsible headphone user means prioritizing your ear health and comfort above anything else. Even if you wear your headphones properly, there’s still a possibility that you’ll experience some level of discomfort if you keep wearing them non-stop for several hours at a time.

If possible, make sure to take breaks every hour or so by removing your headphones and lightly massaging your ears to let them breathe. It also helps if you can keep the audio of your device at no more than 80% volume.

Conclusion

With these tips and detailed instructions in mind, you should now be able to wear your headphones comfortably for the best listening experience. Not only are you able to wear headphones the way they were intended to be worn, but you should also know what to look out for to reduce overall discomfort when wearing them.

No matter what type of headphones you come across, finding the right fit for them just got so much easier.

How’d you like our detailed guide? What’s your favorite type of headphones? Are you still having trouble putting them on? Please feel free to let us know in the comments down below!