September 12, 2012 at 11:24 am

How To Wear In-Ear Headphones Properly

in ear headphonesDespite suffering a now-infamous trip to the emergency room due to a rubber earbud tip getting lodged in my ear canal, I maintain that in-ear headphones offer the best combination of sound quality, portability, and blockage of outside sounds, although I now use the foam tips instead of the rubber ones.

You can keep those white (or whatever color) earbuds that came with your phone if you want. They look good against your outfit. But if you want the best sound quality, you definitely need to upgrade. And in a small form factor, the only way to go, at all, for sure, is with earbuds that form a seal with your ear canal. Otherwise you’ll lose precious bass frequencies, the highs won’t come through cleanly, and outside sounds will mar the experience (unless you want them too — see our suggestions for iPhone or Android). You can even find in-ear headphones in white, if that’s your thing.

There is one big problem with in-ear headphones, however, although its severity varies by model. The problem: The headphone cord. It swings and sways, and every time it hits your body, you’ll hear a thump, due to the headphone’s tight seal with your ear canal, and that gets in the way of the music.

The fix is quite simple, and relies on a part of your anatomy that you carry around everywhere. Yet judging from the people I see walking around New York City, and on the subway, almost nobody knows about it, which is why I’m posting this advice, even though this is primarily a publication about music apps.

The trick is actually quite simple: Use your outer ear as a vibration-dampening mechanism. To do so, simply grasp the earbud, lift it over the back of your ear, and insert it into your ear as usual. When you’re done, it should look like this (unnamed model pictured here due to my own ear being too ugly close-up):

how to wear in-ear headphones

Update: Apple’s EarBuds solve this problem and two others by including little holes on the outside — here’s why.

Happy listening.

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Top image courtesy of Flickr/oliverchesler


  • Damien

    Great tip. I do worry, though, about the model listening to the Left headphone in her Right ear. ;-)

  • greg

    This technique has always frustrated me as someone who wears glasses it is extremely uncomfortable. Some brands make their headphones to only be worn like this, Shure.

  • marcus

    it’s upside-down. doesn’t that fix it? ;-)

  • Barry

    Picture was taken in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Fredzer

    It looks terrible..

  • HU Huh

    Mmmm ears…… yum.

  • St. Lucifer

    Their is something wrong with the picture

  • Derry

    I almost thought, “Won’t the music be upside down?”