How To Wear Headphones With Glasses

I spend a lot of time wearing closed back studio headphones, and even without glasses, I experience some discomfort occasionally. On the other hand, my partner wears glasses and she has complained of discomfort regularly. So I’ve gathered all the information I could to deal with this common issue.

In this guide, I’ll cover the most common symptoms and what causes them, along with a range of things you can do to maximize comfort regardless of what headphones you own. I’ll also cover why certain headphone types might be a better choice.

So, grab your glasses and headphones, and let’s find the perfect setup for you!

Table of Contents

Symptoms Of Discomfort

If you wear glasses with headphones, you may experience a range of discomfort symptoms. The most common symptoms include headaches, sore ears, and general discomfort like overheating and sweating around your ears. Let’s dissect these common symptoms and what causes them.

Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of discomfort when you wear glasses in tandem with headphones. Generally, you’ll experience pain or discomfort in the head or neck region, which can vary in intensity and duration.

Common symptoms include throbbing or pulsating pain, sensitivity to light or sound, nausea, and difficulty concentrating.

Man wearing glasses and headphones experiencing a headache.

Headaches are one of the most common symptoms.

Wearing headphones with glasses can exacerbate headaches due to several reasons. Firstly, the pressure exerted by the headphone’s headband can cause discomfort and tension around the temples, worsening the headache.

Secondly, the weight of the headphones can strain the neck and shoulder muscles, contributing to headache symptoms. Lastly, if the headphones are too tight, they may press against the temples and the sides of the head, increasing headache intensity.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms when you wear glasses and headphones, you’ll need to take some steps to mitigate the issue so you can be comfortable and productive.

Sore Ear Cartilage (Auricular Chondritis)

Sore ear cartilage, also known as auricular chondritis, typically involves symptoms like pain, tenderness, redness, and swelling in the outer part of the ear.

Various factors cause this, including trauma, pressure, infection, or underlying medical conditions.

Side view of a man wearing glasses with sore red ears.

Ear irritation can lead to pain and discomfort.

If you wear glasses and headphones, you can exacerbate these symptoms due to the additional pressure exerted on the already sensitive ear cartilage. The combination of the headphone’s tight fit and the pressure exerted by the glasses can further irritate the inflamed cartilage, leading to increased pain, discomfort, and potential worsening of the swelling and redness.

It is usually best to avoid wearing headphones when experiencing sore ear cartilage to help with healing and prevent further irritation. But if you must wear headphones, there are things you can do to minimize the potential of worsening your symptoms.

General Irritation

General irritation from wearing headphones can manifest in various ways. Common symptoms include discomfort or ear pain, pressure or tightness on the head, and a feeling of warmth or sweating in the ear area.

Close up picture of an ear with a heat glow.

Heat build-up and inflammation can also negatively impact comfort levels.

In some cases, prolonged headphone use can lead to ear canal inflammation, itching, or even ear infections. Wearing headphones with glasses can heighten these symptoms. The pressure exerted by the headphone’s ear cups can push the glasses’ arms against the temples, resulting in additional discomfort.

Finding a suitable headphone and glasses combination that works for you is crucial. Ignoring the issue can not only lead to discomfort and irritation but will also make you less likely to enjoy your time listening to music or make you less productive in a studio setting.

How To Increase Comfort

Now that we have covered some of the most common symptoms that glasses wearers will experience when wearing headphones let’s dive into the steps you can take to minimize or eradicate these symptoms.

For some people addressing one area might be enough, while for others, you might need a combination of the below to achieve maximum comfort.

Explore Different Frames

One of the easiest ways to relieve discomfort is to explore different frames. A staggering amount of choice is available when buying a pair of glasses, so if you are experiencing pain and looking to buy new glasses, opt for thinner frames. Usually, the thinner, the better, but I can understand the need to balance thinner frames with some level of durability.

Close up photo of a pair of glasses with thin frames.

Thin frames are ideal when wearing headphones.

Thinner frames help to distribute pressure more evenly on the ear cartilage and temporal bone, making them an ideal choice to minimize discomfort. Thinner frames also feature lightweight materials that can further mitigate issues with ear cushions pressing against your head’s side.

Reduce Clamping Force

Clamping force is the amount of pressure a pair of headphones exert on your head and is often one of the major sources of discomfort.

Whether you have over-ear headphones or on-ear headphones, opt for a pair of headphones with an adjustable headband to alleviate discomfort caused by clamping force. You’ll be able to customize the fit to reduce the pressure on your temples and the cartilage of your ears. This adjustment allows for a more comfortable experience, especially when wearing glasses.

Some headphones will, by design, have a more forgiving clamping force than others. For example, DJ headphones often aim for a tighter fit to ensure stability and maximize passive isolation. On the other hand, Studio headphones might have a more relaxed fit as you’re not as likely to move about as much and might not need extreme isolation.

Change The Ear Padding

Ear cushion padding can also play a pivotal role in maximizing your comfort levels when wearing glasses with headphones. Thicker ear padding on headphones can provide better comfort by alleviating the pressure from the frames, which can cause discomfort and pain in your ears and temples.

Photo of a pair of headphones with thick ear padding.

High-quality headphones will feature replaceable thick padding.

Thicker ear cushions help provide a soft and comforting break between your glasses and the headphones. The extra padding creates a barrier that reduces the contact between the glasses frames and your ears, minimizing any discomfort caused by the combination of the two.

This type of ear cushion padding can also help distribute the headphones’ weight more evenly, reducing the strain on your ears and head. But not all padding is created equal. Just because the pads might appear thick, they might not offer enough give to help with your issue. This is where it’s essential to read reviews for the headphones or replacement headphone ear pads you are looking to buy.

Look For Flexible Ear Cups

Choosing headphones with flexible ear cups is another way to help minimize the comfort impacts of wearing headphones with glasses. Flexible and padded ear cups can conform to the shape of your glasses frames, reducing pressure and discomfort.

When ear cups are rigid, they can create a gap between the headphones and your ears, causing your glasses to press against your head. This can lead to headaches and discomfort over time.

Ear cups that offer flex won’t cause this issue, as they more naturally adapt to the shape of your head. Generally, high impedance headphones made for studio use will feature flexible earcups since they see a lot of use in a studio setting where comfort is paramount.

Choosing headphones with flexible ear cups ensures a better fit and minimizes the chances of your glasses causing discomfort. Look for headphones that specifically advertise flexible ear cups. Headphones with a pivot point where the ear cups meet the headband are ideal.

Change The Placement

Adjusting the positioning of your frames and ear cups can also improve your comfort levels when wearing glasses with headphones.

Start by placing your glasses on your nose in the desired position. Make sure the frames are not too high or too low on your face, as this can affect the fit of the headphones.

Woman wearing headphones and glasses in a recording studio.

Adjusting the placement of your glasses and earcups can help.

Next, adjust the ear cups of the headphones so that they sit comfortably over your ears without putting too much pressure on the frames of your glasses. You may need to tilt the ear cups slightly forward or backward to find the right balance. Once again, this is where flexible ear cups are critical.

While not ideal, you can also play around with the positioning of your glasses. In some cases, you might be able to tilt the frames to sit above the ear cups or at an angle that compliments your headphones’ clamping force and ear padding.

This can lead to awkward positioning, so it’s not the best way to resolve your problems long-term. Still, in a pinch, it can help reduce pressure until you find a longer-lasting solution.

Take A Break

Regardless of what you do to minimize discomfort, there will still be situations where you might have issues. Often there can be nothing further you can do, so the best option is to take regular breaks.

Give yourself a break from wearing your glasses and headphones to alleviate discomfort. Constantly wearing both accessories can put mechanical pressure on your head, leading to discomfort and potential issues like compression headaches and auricular chondritis.

Take breaks from wearing glasses and headphones throughout the day. This will allow your head and ears to rest and recover from the pressure. During these breaks, try to avoid any activities that require the use of glasses or headphones.

I know what it can be like when you get into a zone and want to keep listening or working away in the studio. I’m particularly prone to losing track of time and trying to ignore any discomfort. But if you ignore pain, you’ll end up losing focus quicker. Plus, some fresh air and a short time out can go a long way to maintaining motivation and keeping you engaged in what you are doing.

Types Of Headphones

I’ve covered the most common symptoms of discomfort from wearing glasses with headphones and some steps you can take to mitigate issues. But the types of headphones themselves can also play a critical role. Understanding how these different types can impact your comfort levels is essential when buying a new set of headphones.

When it comes to choosing headphones that are comfortable to wear with glasses, there are three main types to consider: supra-aural (on-ear), circumaural (over-ear), and earbuds (in-ear). Let’s check out each type in more detail.

Supra-aural (On-Ear)

The clamping force of Supra-aural headphones can cause discomfort, especially for glasses wearers. When wearing on-ear headphones with glasses, the pressure exerted on the sides of your head can cause your ears to press firmly against the side of your head and, as a result, apply greater force on your frames.

Man wearing on-ear headphones while playing a guitar.

Aim for on-ear headphones that are light and flexible.

If you want to buy a pair of on-ear headphones, opt for headphones with lower clamping force and flexible ear cups that you can comfortably adjust. Stretching your headphones can help loosen the clamping force, but depending on the headphones, they might not be robust enough to handle excessive stretching.

To stretch out your headphones, you can clamp your headphones over a stack of books wider than your head and test the comfort level periodically. Remember to avoid overstretching to prevent damage to your headphones.

Circumaural (Over-Ear)

Wearing over-ear headphones is usually the best choice for people that wear glasses and want to comfortably wear headphones.

A pair of over-ear headphones sitting on top of a drum kit.

Over-ear headphones do an excellent job of distributing pressure.

Over-ear headphones encompass the entire ear, which reduces pressure on the temporal bone and ear cartilage. This design is particularly beneficial for glasses wearers as it minimizes discomfort caused by the constant pressure of both accessories on the head.

When choosing over-ear headphones, opt for ones with thicker ear padding as it provides better cushioning against the pressure from the headphones. Likewise, over-ear headphones with flexible cups are ideal in this situation.

Earbuds (In-Ear)

Now let’s explore another option that might seem like an obvious answer: earbuds, also known as in-ear headphones.

In-ear headphones can be a great solution to avoid discomfort and pain caused by the interaction between glasses and headphones. Earbuds don’t make direct contact with your glasses, eliminating any potential pressure points.

Side profile view of a women wearing earbuds.

Earbuds are great for people that wear glasses but can cause other discomfort issues.

But before you run out and buy some new earbuds, you should consider what you need your headphones for. Earbuds are a poor choice in a studio setting since they lack the dynamics and spatial positioning of dedicated studio headphones. But they can be ideal for a workout session or casual listening.

It’s also essential to clean your earbuds regularly to maintain sound quality and hygiene. If you keep having comfort issues with over-ear or on-ear headphones, earbuds can be an excellent alternative to help eliminate the discomfort of wearing headphones and glasses.

However, it’s important to note that the comfort level with earbuds can vary depending on your ear shape. Some people may find them more comfortable than others. I’ve owned some amazingly comfortable earbuds, but equally, some truly woeful ones that would instantly cause irritation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How To Reduce Clamping Force Of Headphones?

You can stretch out your headphones by wearing them in a different position or clamping them to a broader frame than your head size. Be careful with low-quality headphones; they may break if you stretch them out too much.

What Happens To Your Ears If You Wear Headphones Too Much?

Excessive use of headphones can lead to hearing loss, tinnitus, ear infections, and damage to the eardrums or inner ear. But if you keep your headphones clean and the volume below 85dB, you can prevent these issues.

Eradicate The Pain

More and more people are wearing glasses than ever before, and even people that don’t need them are opting for blue light glasses to help minimize eye strain from staring at digital screens all day. Being able to see clearly is essential, as is looking after your eyes, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of discomfort when you wear headphones.

Headphones can be an integral part of day-to-day life for a music lover. I use them daily for long stretches. And with the boom in working from home, many people are finding themselves working in a not-so-ideal environment and relying on headphones to block out exterior noise. But with that can come discomfort.

Thankfully you now have all the tools and information up your sleeve to increase comfort if you wear glasses and headphones. By considering the various strategies and experimenting with different combinations, you can find a comfortable setup that provides maximum sound quality and comfort.

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Article by Robert Calabrese
Article by Robert Calabrese

Robert has over 15 years of experience working in the digital marketing industry. From a very young age he was influenced by music theory as part of his education and played a variety of instruments. From there, his passion moved into electronic music and the equipment used to create it. Using his education and experience, Robert started his own digital marketing company and successfully operates his business in the music industry.

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