Over or in your ears. Job done; you can move on with your life now.
Obviously, if the answer was that simple you wouldn’t be searching for it in the first place. In reality there are some nuances to wearing headphones or earphones, and it can be especially tricky if you wear glasses with them.
This helpful guide will keep your headphones (or headsets) in perfect condition longer than Joel’s daughter survives in The Last of Us.
Why is it important to wear headphones correctly?
You want to maximize your listening experience! If you learn how to wear headphones correctly you can:
- 🔊Take full advantage of the sound: Headphones worn incorrectly, for example earbuds in the wrong ears, can have a negative influence on the quality of the audio delivered. You want to hear like you really are in the middle of World War II during COD, not like you’re 10 miles downriver.
- 🧘Take full advantage of the moment. Live for the now, man! To feel fully immersed in your audio, your headphones need to be put on correctly. This is especially true if you like to listen to music, podcasts or text-to-speech Horus X’s latest article while exercising. We all know how annoying it is to feel like an earbud is slowly slipping out of place.
- 👌Avoid discomfort. If you’ve ever shoved an earbud in incorrectly, then you’ll know it can range from simply a bit uncomfortable to actually painful over time. Headphones can have similar issues, causing headaches and discomfort across your temple, ears, and skull. Like the Princess and the Pea, the longer it bugs you, the worse it becomes.
- 😎Nail that style. And I don’t mean Harry. But let’s be honest, wearing headphones incorrectly can make you look a bit silly.
How to wear headphones correctly
For this, we’re going to look specifically at headphones. The bit that goes over the top of your head is known as the helmet, and there are several different types of these headphones that you can purchase.
🎧The open helmet (supra-auricular)
With grids present on the shells, this helmet doesn’t provide total soundproofing. It offers a more crystalline sound than closed headphones but does not completely cut you off from the sounds surrounding you. Try saying that ten times fast. They’re usually smaller and lighter than circum-auricular headphones but it’s good sometimes to be aware of your surroundings and if people are trying to get your attention.
🎧The closed helmet (circum-auricular)
Totally closed, these headsets immerse you in your own world and let you ignore your partner, dog or small child begging for attention. Circum-auricular headphones are great for those who listen to music with heavy bass, or low-to-mid range frequencies in general. It’s perfect for hearing almost nothing around you and immersing yourself in the Resident Evil 4 Remake (and also for terrifying you during the Resident Evil 4 Remake). Add a microphone and you have the ultimate gaming headset for your ultimate gaming setup.
For the undecided you could also try out the hybrid helmet. These have a semi-open, semi-closed design that combines the best of both worlds from the other two headsets (and sometimes, the worst of both worlds too – so be wary which you purchase).
How to wear headphones correctly: Step-by-step guide
Step 1: Choose your good side
By that we mean, make sure your headphones or earbuds are in the right ear. A lot of headphones will have a little L and R on them to tell you which goes in which ear. L is for left, and R is for right, funnily enough.
Step 2: Put your helmet on properly
Preserve your helmet and keep your headphones in better condition for longer. I bet this sounds familiar:
You take your headset, rest the band on top of your head, stretching out the ears to accommodate your noggin’ and then clap them in place.
“Yeah… how else are you supposed to do it?” I hear you ask.
Well, actually, doing this over time affects the durability of your headset and deforms the arch so it no longer fits as comfortably or as snugly across your skull.
The best way to wear headphones correctly is passing the helmet across the back of your head.
- ⏫👤⏫ Slide the headphones on your neck and then over your ears.
- 🙉 When the headphones are in place, rotate the headband upwards on the head.
- 📏 Adjust the telescopic notches to change the diameter of the helmet arch to the size of your head.
Headphones are a bit more techy than you thought! Maybe that’s why we still see them in futuristic sci-fi’s…
Step 3: Properly position the helmet according to the model
I’m not calling you a model, you cheeky thing you, – I’m referring to the headset itself. If its an over-ear headset (circum-auricular), the ear padding will completely enclose your ears. If it’s an on-the-ear headset (supra-auricular) the ear padding will rest specifically on your ears.
If you have the ears positioned correctly and you’re still feeling uncomfortable then maybe the headset as a whole just isn’t the right fit for you, or needs adjusting! Or maybe your head is to blame. Either way, we recommend trying a few different pairs on to see what’s comfortable for you.
[BONUS 1] How to wear headphones with glasses
Those with glasses know how awkward it can be to wear headphones with them. Glasses can cause headphones to press on the temples of the glasses and quickly become more uncomfortable than Chris Rock at the Oscars.
This is sometimes the case with circum-auricular headphones and helmets in particular. They tend to have a larger shell and peripheral cushion which pushes against glasses, particularly those with thick temples.
If so, you might need to adjust your headset, or even look at which headphones go best with glasses.
Likewise, if you wear gaming glasses for filtering blue light from screens, it’s better to choose flat temples to avoid giving yourself a headache.
[BONUS 2] How to wear headphones with a hearing aid
There should be no major issues wearing headphones along with your hearing aid.
🦻If you have a system with an ear contour: It will probably be easier to wear supa-auricular headset as its speakers are placed directly on the ear.
👂If your device is in ear: you might find the circum-auricular headphones more comfortable as they rest around your ear instead.
Pro Tip: If you find you’re suffering with a lot of static noise or interference, it could be because you’ve connected your headphones up via Bluetooth. Try turning off electrical devices nearby to see if that helps fix the issue.
[BONUS 3] How to wear headphones with long hair
Those with long hair will know how easy it is to get it tangled with your headphones. Rather than do a Rapunzel and chop it all off, there’s several, simpler solutions.
- You could try wearing your hair tied up
- Use product to keep your hair in place and in style
- Loosen the headphone arch so it doesn’t sit as snugly on your head
None of these are foolproof, but if you try one (or all three!) you’ll find wearing headphones with long hair generally more comfortable.
How loud should your headphones be?
We know headphones and earphones aren’t great for your eardrums. Especially if used consistently over long periods of time. And especially especially if you like to blast your music like you’re at a Metallica gig.
Normally sound should be set to less than 85 Db to avoid any long-term negative health effects. For those of us who don’t carry a sound meter around with us, there are simple ways to tell if your music is too loud.
The most obvious of which is, you can just tell. Yes, it’s obvious, but it’s also something a lot of us subconsciously acknowledge, then ignore. So if you know you’re blasting your music, or yelling as loud as possible at your buddy in Overcooked, try taking it down a notch or two.
How long per day can you wear headphones?
👉 Incredibly the American Osteopathic Association actually only recommends 1 hour per day at max 60% volume. If you stick to that – well done!
How to reduce the discomfort caused by wearing headphones
When there’s discomfort, there’s less enjoyment. Just ask anyone whose had an unfortunate romantic encounter.
To be fully relaxed and ready to enjoy your audio, make sure you:
- 🎧 Choose the headphones or earphones that are best suited to your listening desires (especially for things like bass rendering), but also to your personal requirements (if you wear glasses or hearing aids for example).
- 👌 Check that everything is properly adjusted before you start your game session or crank up the tunes.
- 👂 Avoid gigantic jewellery that could be painful pressed against your head by headphones, or otherwise impede your listening enjoyment.
- ⭐️ Choose good headphones to get good sound. That doesn’t mean you need to run out and drop $159 on a pair of Beats by Dre, but too low-end and your audio quality will be ruined. Look for a well-priced, solid pair of headphones
- ⏳ Give yourself a time limit. Listening for too long could potentially lead to long term damage.
How to wear earphones correctly
As well as headsets and headphones, there are also those most commonly known as earbuds.
Like headphones, these also usually fit into two categories:
- Simple earphones that sit on the surface of the auricle (usually more old school).
- In-ear earbuds that fit squarely inside the ear canal (like AirPod pros).
And like headphones they work in similar ways. The simple earphones don’t provide full immersion, allowing you to still hear the sounds of the outside world.
The in-ear ear buds are more encompassing, allowing you to fully drown out your partner asking you to please pay them some attention for a change.
The issue with these is they often get tangled (if you’re old enough to still have a pair with wires), easily fall out, or one touch in the wrong place and you find yourself on the phone with a distant relative you didn’t mean to call.
There is a way to ensure they fit comfortably in your ear, though.
- Present the earpiece in front of the ear canal, like you’re giving a very strange introduction.
- Pull the ear upwards (from the top of the ear pavilion).
- To insert the earpiece without forcing, then to pivot it a quarter-turn forwards.
If it doesn’t fit, the earbuds might be too small for your ears; in which case we’d recommend checking out if the manufacturer has other size options available.
For intra-auriculars ear buds, you can sometimes buy interchangeable tips of different sizes, allowing them to be perfectly adapted to your ear.
How to wear headphones correctly: Final thoughts
Whether it’s a headset, headphones or earphones, its relatively simple to ensure you’re wearing them correctly.
- Try not to repeatedly stretch the headband as it will over time impact the shape
- Try not to spend hours and hours every day with headphones on
- Don’t put the volume up to 100 like every day’s a party day
- Choose Horus X gaming glasses with flat temples
- Choose the type of helmet according to your hearing aid type, if you wear one.