How do I Choose the Best Earbuds for Small Ears?

B. Miller

Choosing the best earbuds for small ears can be a challenge, because ones that are too large often lead to discomfort and pain, if the earbuds will even stay in the ears; some people find they cannot wear this style of headphones at all and must instead opt for more traditional headphones that rest on top of the ears or fit over them. If you do want to use earbuds, however, there are some considerations to keep in mind. One option is to choose earbuds with interchangeable tips in different sizes; some people find that the smallest size makes it possible to wear these headphones. Another option is to choose ones with an extended aperture arm, meaning the small tip fits inside the ear canal, but with the rest of the earbud extending slightly outside the ear, which should prevent pain.

Handheld MP3 player with earbud headphones.
Handheld MP3 player with earbud headphones.

When choosing earbuds, do not choose ones that are made of hard plastic; these are almost universally uncomfortable for people with small ears, and will often just fall right back out. Instead, choose those that feature soft silicone or, the best choice for small ears, compressible foam tips. Molded silicone can be an acceptable choice, but some still find it fairly uncomfortable. Most headphones in this style come in just one size, but choosing a pair for small ears with interchangeable tips is another option.

A close up of earbud headphones and headphone jack.
A close up of earbud headphones and headphone jack.

These earbuds will generally feature a few different sizes; some deluxe models range from extra small to extra large, but most just come with three sizes ranging from small to large. The smallest size is often acceptable. Children should typically not wear this style of headphones, but the smallest option will often work for them as well. If neither of these options work for small ears, it is possible to order specially made ones designed to fit your ears; these are fairly expensive, but they will likely be the most comfortable.

Large earbuds for small ears may cause discomfort and pain.
Large earbuds for small ears may cause discomfort and pain.

Purchasing earbuds for small ears with an extended aperture arm is another option. These will not sit exactly flush with the ears, as most other styles of earbuds will. Instead, the small earpiece will sit inside the ear, and the rest of the earphone will extend outside the ear. Some people find these to be more comfortable, since less of the actual headphone piece is touching the side of the ear, which is what typically leads to pain.

Earbuds are commonly worn by runners who want to listen to music while exercising.
Earbuds are commonly worn by runners who want to listen to music while exercising.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - It's the headphones that make my ears hurt. The hard plastic presses on them too much. My soft, wireless earbuds work much better. And you can get them so that they cannot be played louder than a safe level. Safe levels of sound are surprisingly low though.

Just going to a rock concert is going to cost you a few ear drum cells, but even using a lawnmower, or driving in heavy traffic or whatever can help to damage your ears.

We all get a little bit deafer for every year we live. The only thing you can do is try to slow down the effect and yes, not listening to your music too loud is one way to do that.


I just can't wear ear buds at all, they always end up hurting my ears. I have also heard that they are much worse for your hearing than normal earphones that are worn over your head, or even the over the ear headphones.

Ear buds direct all the sound from your music or radio directly to the air drum, which can slowly damage it. With earphones, the sound is diffused so that it doesn't do as much damage. They are also more effective at noise-cancelling than earbuds as they cover the ear.

I know they look more dorky than earbuds do, but I would rather look dorky now and not need to wear a hearing device later on.

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