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AirPods and other brands of wireless earbuds have become the must-have accessory for music and podcast lovers of all ages — and for good reason. Wireless earbuds deliver a seamless, hands-free, sonic experience, and their convenience is hard to beat.

But using headphones as a way to drown out the world as you go about your day does carry some risks of its own. If AirPods hurt to put in your ears, then you’re probably not enjoying your audio experience the way that you’d like to.

This article will cover the reasons why AirPods can hurt your ears, the correct way to use them, and how to avoid health complications from using this popular device.

AirPods and other brands of wireless earbuds have a simple, circular shape that’s sometimes buffered by silicone or foam. Each type of earbud is slightly different, but almost all of them maintain that same basic design.

The circular shape probably works great for a certain percentage of the population, but everyone’s ears are shaped slightly differently. As a result, AirPods often hurt your ears because of:

  • how they’re placed
  • how they fit
  • how long you’re wearing them

You’re placing the AirPods too deep inside your ears

Wireless earbuds are meant to create a gentle seal between the entrance of the ear canal and the headphone’s surface. Earbud and earbud tips aren’t meant to be placed inside the ear canal itself.

Wearing your AirPods in this way places the vibrations from the headphones too close to the eardrum, which can cause earaches, headaches, and contribute to ear infections.

Solution: Try this insertion technique

When you insert an earbud, pull your earlobe down slightly and gently insert the bud into your ear before turning the long side downward to sit alongside your earlobe.

The earbud should create a gentle seal between your ear and your ear canal. Earbuds aren’t meant to be worn deep in your ears, so don’t insert the earbud into your actual ear canal.

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The AirPods tips aren’t the correct size for your ears

Wearing the wrong size AirPods tips for your ears may contribute to ear pain. If your AirPods don’t sit comfortably in your ears, you might want to switch out your tips to the next size down.

Apple’s AirPods Pro model comes standard with small, medium, and large-sized ear tips. Standard AirPods only come with medium-sized ear tips, but small and large-size tips can be purchased separately online.

Solution: Try switching the size of your AirPods tips or purchase tips with extra padding

Try experimenting with the different sizes of AirPods tips until you find the one that works the best for you. Apple’s wireless products also come with a tool you can use called the Ear Tip Fit Test. It’s designed to help you find the right size.

You can also purchase additional padding for your AirPods to make them more comfortable. Silicon or foam covers for your earbuds may provide a better wearing and listening experience.

Purchase foam air tips for your AirPods.
Purchase silicone earbud covers for your AirPods.

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You’re using your AirPods for too long before taking them out

Using AirPods for over 90 minutes at a time may result in aching pain. The cartilage in your ears simply isn’t meant to hold something nestled inside for hours at a time. Using earbuds for too long can cause your ears to start to hurt.

Solution: Take a break from your AirPods

Remember to give your ears a break after every 90 minutes of AirPods use. Remove the AirPods, give your ears a gentle massage, and let them rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes before reinserting. Rest your ears for a longer period of time if you still feel pain.

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If there isn’t a solution that works for you, you may need to switch from AirPods to another kind of headphones. Different kinds of headphones might be more comfortable for the shape of your ears and your sensitivity to sound.

Traditional padded headphones

Padded headphones that are attached with a wire or headband aren’t going anywhere. The listening experience of these types of headphones is just as good as AirPods, and they can provide a more comfortable option if AirPods regularly cause pain when you wear them.

Noise-canceling headphones

Noise-canceling headphones can take some getting used to, as they create a pressurized feeling inside of your ears. If what you’re looking for is a way to block out background noise, these types of headphones can be a pain-free way to do it.

AirPods and other earbuds are only safe to use when you’re listening to them at or below the decibel recommendation. If you listen to AirPods regularly as a way to drown out the surrounding noise of your workplace or travel, you’re probably listening to them too loud. Over time, any type of headphones can permanently damage your hearing.

Hearing loss can also occur as a result of wearing headphones or earbuds too much. Once hearing loss occurs, it can’t be repaired. An estimated 17 percent of teens in the United States have some form of noise-induced hearing loss.

Over time, frequent headphone use can desensitize users to how loud and for how long they are listening, making complications more likely.

Best practices for using AirPods

Here are some best practices for using AirPods and other types of headphones:

  • Make sure that you can hear someone speaking to you who’s an arm’s length away. If you’re sitting on an airplane and can’t hear a question from the person next to you, for example, your headphones are probably too loud.
  • Keep your headphones at 80 percent of their total decibel level or lower.
  • Don’t listen to your headphones for more than 90 minutes at a time.
  • Use a health tracker app installed in your device to track how long you’re using your earphones each day and the average volume level.

AirPods, when used correctly, aren’t supposed to hurt your ears.

If you get frequent headaches or earaches from using AirPods, you should switch to another alternative, even if it pains you to leave your expensive wireless earbuds at home.

Your hearing is precious, and lost hearing can’t be restored. Treat your ears with care and respect as you make decisions about which headphones makes sense for you.