Proper Earbud Fitting / Sizing Guide

Related Categories

Wireless Headphones

Noise Cancelling Headphones

Fitness Headphones

Headphone Amps


Perfect Fitting In-Ear Headphones Are Out There!

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.

Snug or Loose?

There seem to be two main camps when it comes to fitting earbuds: 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.

Snug-Fitting Benefits

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. Runners especially should think twice before using tight fitting headphones when jogging or biking around traffic. Although snug earbuds will provide an immersive experience for the athlete, the inability to hear surround motor vehicles or pedestrians may result in a dangerous situation. For individuals who don’t need to hear their surroundings, however, snug fitting earbuds can offer deeply isolating and immersive experience without the clunky over-ear design of traditional headphones.
Bose-SIE2i-Green Sport Earbuds

Loose Fitting Benefits

Loose earbuds, on the other hand, are only inserted near the entry of the ear canal and offer maximum comfort. While true isolation is difficult with this style of headphone, wearers usually have no problem hearing the music while still being aware of their surrounds. This variety of in-ear headphone is extremely popular for sports or running and often has flexible gel-like tips rather than stiff round buds. Higher quality earphones may come with both gel tips and rubber tips in various sizes allowing the wearer to decide which tips to use. While each side has valid points, the ultimate decision of comfort is determined by the wearer.

Sport Earbuds

Earbuds falling out or becoming dislodged is a common problem for active and athletic individuals. To overcome this issue, some manufacturers have designed a rubber clip that extends around the back of the ear and locks the headphone in place. 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.

This works very well in most cases, but an alternative design seems to be gaining popularity. In an effort to design earbuds that stay in place yet are extremely comfortable for the wearer, some manufacturers are designing silicone tips that hug the inside of the ear bowl. This design avoids pressure points in the ear cup resulting in a snug fit that lasts for hours.

Bone Conduction Headphones

If you’re an active individual but hate the idea of anything in your ear, you may consider bone conduction headphones. These remarkable devices wrap around the rear of your head and gently rest in front of your ear on the temporal bone. Once in place, the headphones transfer sound waves directly to your ear drum using your bone structure. Because there is nothing in your actual ear canal, wearers can easily hear their surroundings while enjoying their favorite artist or playlist. This design is ideal for sports but may be beneficial in many different environments including work, home and more.

Bone Conduction Headphones

Over-The-Ear Cable Design

Westone-W50-Headphones 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.