Looking for People Like Me

Am I the only person in the world for whom earbuds won’t seat securely in their ear? Thanks to the iPod, earbuds have been the preferred mode of earphone for five years now, but personally I can’t keep them in; they fall out unless I keep my head absolutely rigid. Which is not what happens to all those silhouettes doing calisthenics in the iPod commercials.

I’m just wondering if I have freakish ears, or if everybody has the same problem and are simply waiting for someone else to come out about the problem. If it’s the latter, well, here I am.  Join me.

167 Comments on “Looking for People Like Me”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. I have even tried the more expensive, in ear buds made of soft silicone, and they still fall out. Maybe we are a sub-speces – Homo Sweaty-ears. Either way, I have to go with around the ear head phones if I want to do anything active (like walk) while listening to music.

  2. I’ve always preferred ear buds. You just need to practice ear kegels.

    Over the ear phones have always made my ears/head to hot or fallen off somehow.

  3. I have the same problem, but then, earbuds are really bad for your ears anyway (especially the ipod ones) so it doesn’t bother me much.

  4. Some stay in, some don’t.
    My iPod ones fit okay, but some fancy Sony ones I bought kept falling out.
    How many different shapes have you tried?

  5. Welcome to the Secret Association of Freakish Ears (SAFE). Your new name is Fruitbat.

    BTW “me too”.

  6. I bought some of the aftermarket (heh) earbuds that have different, cone-shaped fittings that go into the ear canal. You change them out depending on what fits and feels best, and you can turn down the volume on Ye Olde iPod since there’s a lot less wasted sound – it channels it more directly against the eardrum, and cuts out more outside noise.
    Some folks like the loop-outside-the-ears ones; I can’t stand ’em, and they interfere with the fit of sunglasses (or regular ones, for the eye-impaired).

  7. No, you’re completely normal. The ear bud is bad tech. I can only retain mine in position by wearing a woolly hat and cycling helmet. This is fine when cycling on a cold morning, but the comedic effect of doubled headgear can undermine one’s composure in other contexts.

    And if anybody disputes the horribleness of these devices, can they let us know with what alacrity they would borrow somebody else’s? Eww.

  8. John C. @ #8: I have the exact same ones as you, since the standard iPod earbuds were too big for my ears. I think they’re made by Griffin, and I love them to death. If you really want, John (Scalzi), I will google for them right now, although it is 7 in the morning…

  9. Oddly enough, they work fine in one of my ears, but the other one spits earbuds out like they were meatless chili. I’m an asymmetrical kinda guy, is what it is.

  10. Yeah me too.
    I wear a radio headset at work (like you see helicopter pilots wear) and I’ve found that the earbuds work ok when I pop them in the earmuff pockets. That way I don’t have to stick them in my ears and I can still hear music while I work.

  11. The new ones work pretty well for me, as long as I’m not trying to exercise. The old ones (with the foam covers) wouldn’t stay put for anything.

    I’ve been through about eight sets to find something I could wear while running, before settling on a Nike set. I bought a high-quality in-ear set from E2C for flying, but even with the smallest cushions they barely stay in place.

    I have a great pair of AKG over-hear phones that I use at work. Love ’em. But they’re the size of a full-on Leia ‘do.

  12. They stay in, but I can’t wear them for long. My ears are abnormally small (child-sized outside, infant-sized canal-side) so putting in earbuds for extended periods make them ache. Same thing with my Bluetooth cell phone headset.

    Sad thing is, the only earbuds that ever worked for me were the Game Boy version, circa 1990. And mine stopped working at least a decade ago.

  13. See, here’s what you do: Go to your local electronics store/surgeon, and have them install blue-tooth software in your brain. Then, not only can you hear your music with crystal-clear quality, you get to walk around saying, “Sarah Connor?” in a funny accent!

  14. I jam those suckers in tight, but once the slightest bit of sweat begins to lubricate them, they slide out. I only listen when I jog, and somewhere around mile 3 or 4 of my roadwork they start sliding out. I spend the next 3 or 4 miles playing a version of whack-a-mole with them as I feel them start to slip out.

  15. I’m with you. They don’t fit right, they don’t fit comfortably, and they’re hard on your ears anyway. My sons use regular old earphones. I just use the buds and bitch about them.

    My wife likes the earbuds.

  16. I can’t wear them either. I keep thinking about having molds made and using professional monitors, but that is an expensive option. Instead, I just use the over the ear thing and spend a lot of time shoving the earpiece back in.

  17. I use Etymotic ER-4P in-ear phones with custom molds. Because Etymotic is a hearing aid manufacturer, there is a nationwide infrastructure of places that will take a mold of your own personal (very personal!) ear canal and then produce buds that Just Fit. Pricey but well worth it for me.

  18. Joe Crow:

    “Oddly enough, they work fine in one of my ears, but the other one spits earbuds out like they were meatless chili. I’m an asymmetrical kinda guy, is what it is.”

    Yes. I can never keep one in the left ear, and when the left one goes, it takes the right one with it.

  19. Not only do earbuds fall out of my ears, but I see no purpose in putting music in my ear if other noise can get in and ruin it. That’s why I have a pair of these:


    Sure, I might look like I’m wearing robotic earmuffs, but traffic, solicitors, screaming babies, and zoo animals cannot interfere in my enjoyment of the Cats soundtrack. I mean, metal. Really manly heavy metal.

  20. Thank you John for saying something I’ve been afraid to admit for far too long — I too have unnaturally small, deformed ear holes. You are a brave, brave man.

    It feels good to finally be out with this.

  21. iPod earbuds only fit well if I use the little foam covers–I can actually run while wearing those. I lost the cover for the left bud, and now they don’t feel as secure. The nice Bose noise-cancelling earbuds with the caps in S, M, and L? None of the caps fit properly, and those buds fall right out unless I’m very careful. This is annoying because of 1) the price, and 2) the fact that music sounds many times better when heard with them.

  22. I have the same problem, so I just use regular earphones.

    JDC @ 21 is probably on the right track. JDC, are they easy to take in and out?

  23. Yup. My husband and I fight over the one pair of these we have. Which is silly, since they’re so cheap…and come in many colors! Think I’ll order a second pair right now…

  24. I’ll add to the chorus of Earbud Failure, in the category of “First One, Then The Other”. Tried the in-ear ones as well, and they were worse, and made my ears hurt, to boot. (On all sizes.) I use headphones now – the Sennheiser PX series, which are good quality, not clumsily large, and easy to take on the road, which is where most of my listening takes place.

  25. I too have that problem, Fruitbat, albeit a less acute version. The iPod buds stay in most of the time but they’re too big. They hurt after an hour or two and the moment I do anything strenous – like getting off my … chair – my overactive sweat glands lube my ears enough that the buds shoot out at impressive speeds. I got the in-ear type for x-mas with interchangeable bud sizes and that seems to work well. I can even wear em while doing cardio, as long as I don’t start shaking my head around.

    Interesting thing I discovered with these new buds: I found the best effect when I used a smaller-sized bud on my left hear than on my right.

  26. Yes, my left one falls out. I often don’t bother putting it in: I either loop the cord over my left ear with the bud left dangling behind my ear, or I drop it in my shirt pocket. Either approach stops it from pulling out the right bud.

    I listen to a lot of (mono) podcasts while walking around – so this keeps me in audio contact with my surroundings.

  27. They drive me nuts, too. The in-ear buds — the ones that actually stick in the ears like plugs — work better for me, but my last pair broke, and I haven’t gotten around to getting new ones.

    My daughter has no problem with hers, so I’m guessing they’re just designed for smaller ears.

    On really cold days, the regular iPod buds are fine, as earmuffs keep them in place nicely. :-)

  28. Either they fall out or I have to kind of screw them in so hard that my ears start to ache after a while.

    OTOH, because I have a pinhead that is also an odd shape, headphones that are tight enough to fit start to hurt the outside of my ears after a while.
    Naturally, I work in a job that requires me to wear a phone headset for 12 hour nightshifts (IT helpdesk), proving I am either a masochist or…hang on I’m on a helpdesk… never mind, there is no ‘or’.

  29. I’ve had some Bose earphones for a while, and my girlfriend had the regular iPod earbuds. I took her to a local audiophile store to try on some new headphones – she told me that she’d felt like she’d never listened to her iPod before. If you’ve spend the money on the iPod, I really really recommend you spend 50 bucks (or more) on a good pair of headphones, they can significantly improve the listening experience.

    One other caution – I understand the appeal of the noise canceling headphones, and if you’re just going to use them in the house and at the gym, they make sense. But if you’re going to be running on public streets, walking late at night, etc, you probably don’t want the headphones that cancel all noise.

  30. Yes. And they hurt, too. Give me ones that look like the ear protective gear baggage handlers wear. I don’t care if I look like a complete dork.

  31. There…there are others out there, just like me? Others who have the earbuds fall out of their ears?


    I thought I was the only one. I was so lonely.

  32. Earbuds have never worked for me, either falling out, hurting or just being an irritation. I prefer the over-the-ear and round-the-back-of- the-skull option even though they do interfere with optimal placement of sunglasses.

  33. Its not just you! I cannot use the iPod ear buds for anything! I’ve been using the Sony in-ear headsets that come with 3 different sized caps.

    Pioneer makes a great set too!

  34. Unfortunately my mom wasn’t experienced enough (I’m the firstborn) to make me symmetric: the left earbud stays firmly in place even if I jump, the right one falls every 30 seconds even if I’m sitting.

  35. I hate earbuds. They dig into my ears, fall out constantly. What genius thought these would be an acceptable way to put speakers in your ears?

    I use the clip-ons. You don’t have that annoying metal band over your head, but you don’t have these stupid little things that won’t stay in your ear.

  36. Nope. I’ve been unable to use ear buds since I was 12. I just get normal headphones and leave it at that.

  37. I use canalphones. Those are similar to earbuds, but they have squooshy fittings that go into the ear canal and fit any shape. Aside from not falling out, they have good passive noise elimination, so you can hear the music well with the volume much lower.

  38. John, have you tried Gumi brand earbuds? In my opinion they’re the most comfortable buds on the market and I find that they slip out a lot less. $10 at most stores.

  39. I also HATE earbuds. HATE them. I do not like having things stuck in my ears. (My husband likes them, but he has big ears or something.)

    I use a set of foldable headphones: which are increasingly hard to find. (I have been ordering them over the internets most recently.)

    Also, years ago, you could go to a store and buy replacement foams for your headphones. Grrr. So now, do I have to buy a new headset when my foam gives up?

  40. I’m one of those weird people who hates having noise funneled directly into my ear from an inch or less away, whether it’s through over the ears headphones or earbuds. This makes me immune to the lure of an iPod.

  41. me too! me too!

    And those Sony buds don’t work for me either. The left one ALWAYS falls out. I almost LOST MY MIND while I was trying to shovel snow yesterday, because I kept taking off my glove, shoving the darned thing back in, then continuing to shovel, then it would fall out….

  42. Obviously your ears do not conform to the Jobsian “ideal ear”. Nor do mine. Worse than iPod earbuds falling out is Apple’s Bluetooth headset which also will not remain securely in either of my ears.

  43. I had the same problem as you — my ear canals were too tiny for the ones i bought. i don’t have an iPod because those things are evil.

    Anyway, I bought a set of Sony ones (that aren’t the super-fancy $50 ones everyone told me I should get) that cost about… $40? Anyway, they come with 3 different silicone things in different sizes, so they’re much more likely to fit. Mine now fit perfectly and I can dance around all I want. I’ll find the product # if you want.

    Also remember that there’s a stupid pet trick you have to do to get in-ear buds to work. You reach across your head with your left hand and tug up on your right ear, shove it in, then let your ear go snug fit. repeat on other side. don’t do so in public as people will stare.

  44. Earbuds bother me – I use a pair from Sony that hang over my ear.

    My wife can’t use them at all – they fall right out.

  45. Me too, and the Griffins don’t work, either.

    I’d like to find something like the headphones in my ski helmet–a Salomon Foil. I can still hear important noise around me (such as the scrape of an approaching snowboarder flying down upon me at lightspeed, people yelling stuff, even the croaks of the ravens just waiting for some skier/rider to stop moving long enough to become food) while still getting good sound.

    But I have extremely tiny ear canals. Hmm. Thanks for putting this up, I’ll try the kind that wrap around my ears.

  46. Earbuds just fall off my ears too when I move, and even if I don’t they don’t sit tight enough to have decent bass. I’ve been happy since I found the Etymotic ER-6i earphones that you stick inside the ear. They are a bit more troublesome to use (you have to adjust them just right to get good sound), but stay put and have good sound quality (and isolate surrounding noises pretty well, which is especially nice on a train or a plane). Of course, they don’t fit every ear either (even with a couple of differently-shaped eartips included).


  47. Happens to me all the time. My DJ headphones work well, but they are huge and it’s not possible to take them around with me all the time. I’ve heard good comments about some Kenwood and some Shure earphones. Haven’t tried them out.

  48. The earbuds that came with my iPod fall out if you breathe wrong…but my daughter got an iPod Nano for $WINTERHOLIDAY, and *those* earbuds fit just fine. They’re actually contoured

  49. I’ll second the praise for earphones. I use Shure. They have the huge advantage that you can listen to your music or podcasts at much lower volume, and still hear all the subtlety.

    Plus they get rid of the urban soundtrack. Obviously not a problem in rural Ohio, but here in urban Hong Kong silence is golden.

  50. I got the Griffin EarJams and they solve 95% of the problem for me. If there’s a pull on the earphone cord, the buds still come out of my ears, but for normal walking/jogging they’re fine.

    The EarJams clip on to the existing iPod/iPhone earbuds, so I can still use my iPhone mike/control, and they come with three sizes of ear-canal doodads, so they fit almsot any earsize. Best $9.95 I spent on iPod add-ons.

  51. I HATE earbuds. I guess I’ve got freakish ears too, because they always hurt and would never stay in. I’ve got a style similar to this which hook over your ears and the band goes around the back of your head, and I love it. Nothing poking into my ears (except the pieces of metal I chose to stab through them), and nothing falling out of them! Win win!

  52. I chose to use my handy earhairs to hold mine in. Take the plastic cover off the ear buds then catch the thicker hairs and snap the cover back over them. They hold pretty well and it isn’t as messy or painful as wood screws.

  53. You are not alone at all… my friends and I have had multiple discussions about how iPod ear buds are about the worst ever designed. I can only use them when I’m sitting down and not moving… and even then they fall out every minute or two. Sometimes I just hold them in there.


  54. I highly recommend Ultimate Ears UE10 or 11 customs. Get an audiologist to make your impressions, grit your teeth, and send them the money. Expensive but worth it. As an added extra bonus, the cord is easily and cheaply replaceable.
    Next time you are watching a live music video, pay close attention to the bandmember’s ears. See something odd there? It’s not a ceti eel! It’s UE10’s. They OWN the pro music monitor market.
    Ya, I’m a headphone geek….

  55. Yeah, I quit using earbuds a long time ago. Now when I listen to music I just turn on my speakers. Headphones tend to fall off my head and earbuds don’t stay in, plus they irritate my ears. Speakers just sit there where I put them.

  56. Hate ’em. They make my ears hurt and they fall out. I picked up a set of the multi-sized in-ear silcone jobbies at Brookstone, which also has a retractable coil and clips to my clothes, which reduces the tugging on the cord when I jog. Works pretty well.

  57. I can’t stand having anything in my ears. I’m not fond of using a headset of any kind. Since I prefer to stick my nose in a book over listening to music, this does not bother me – I just don’t use either.

  58. I use the Shure E2g’s, and they fit great. They fit differently from other earbuds, in that the cord goes from the earbud, over the top of your ear, and then down, so they stay in much better. Also, they come with three pairs (small, medium, large) of disposable Foam Sleeves, and three pairs (small, medium, large) of Flex Sleeves to “ensure the ideal personalized fit.” If these don’t work, the next step is to get the customized ones, but those are really expensive.

    And they have noise canceling, which works really well. On Southwest, I always sit near the infants, because I can’t hear them, and they are the last seats on the plane to fill up, so I get more legroom, if the plane isn’t totally full.

  59. I’ll join the chorus of nasssty earbudss, we hates them, precioussss! I’ve yet to use a pair that actually fit and didn’t hurt my ears. I prefer something that covers the entire ear and drowns out everything around me anyway. I usually don’t go for over the ear styles, but I found the $2 pair I bought from Delta airlines when my regular earphones broke on a fight worked beautifully and didn’t interfere with my glasses.

  60. I use the Sony MDR-EX51LP earbuds. The little silicon jobby on the end there does the trick of keeping them in my ears where regular earbuds just won’t fit and stay. I can generally keep regular earbuds in with a watch cap on, but that’s only good for colder temps.

  61. You guys have it all wrong – they don’t fall out, they crawl out on little legs and laugh at you.

    What I really hate is how I get them to stay in for a while and then I snag the cord and I’m listening to my favorite tune in wonderful monophonic (ah the 60’s).

    I was just looking in my desk junk drawer for the pair that came with my Sony Walkman cassette player. They were not much bigger than an earbud but sat out side the ear on a very thin metal headstrap. Comfortable, stayed on and sounded great. Now if I could just find them….

  62. Another non-earbud person, here. Haven’t tried the ones with the silicone jobbies on the end, so I can’t comment on those, but the standard foam-encased little earbuds won’t stay in for anything.

  63. I must add myself to the earbudless throngs. I’ve tried every variety that I can find out of every material. They don’t stay in, they feel very uncomfortable after a short time and I just find them crappy. I gave up about 2 years ago of ever finding some that work for me. I’m now quite happy with my over-the-whole-earphones. Better sound quality too!

  64. I use Etymotic earphones, with the custom fitting. There’s no comparison with anything else I’ve tried.

    Most companies try for a flat response from their units. Etymotic goes for the same response curve at the eardrum as sound in free air. I don’t get the “band playing inside my head” effect from them.

  65. Earbuds suck. They hurt, they make my ear raw, and I hate them.

    I will second the recommendation of Griffin’s EarJams. They stay put, and don’t make my ears bleed.

  66. I think the problem is the exact shape of the outer ear canal and the little cartilage flap that sticks out toward it. If that flap points too far outward, the ear buds won’t work. They were designed for people who have ears the same shape as the designer’s, and no thought was given to slightly different shapes.

    I also can’t get them to stay in. No amount of scrunching or anything else will make them stay. But I am not sure how much outside noise should be blocked out. I think I really need to hear things like police sirens, firetrucks, people yelling that I dropped my carkeys, etc.

  67. I loop the cord over my ear before putting in the earbuds, for some reason, this helps them stay in, and if they do fall out, they just dangle, rather than fall to the floor.

  68. Pre-iPod era experience of earbuds is one of the reasons why my reaction on first seeing an iPod ad was “*Why* would anyone want that thing?” So I’ve no experience of actual iPod earbuds…

  69. Earbuds do NOT work for me. Fall right out. And most Bluetooth phone earpieces are almost as bad. Even with the over-the-ear loops they flap around and try to fall off.

  70. I hate earbuds. They hurt and don’t stay in, and I’ve tried all sorts of solutions, inlcuding sized pads and the ones that hook over the ear.

    I use headphones now. The oldfashioned kind that used to come with Walkmen. There’s nothing in my ear, the sound is fine and t hey’re comfortable. And I’m much happier.

  71. I don’t have a problem with earbuds, but my huband does. He has a freakishly large head (for all those BRAINS, according to him) but his ears are, like, flat to his head. There is no place to really park those buds. He likes the ones that have the plastic arm that wraps around behind the ear, like eyeglasses.

  72. This comment thread bears a striking resemblance to pretty much every conversation I’ve ever witnessed wherein motorcyclists complain about earplugs (sans that one guy bitching about how earplugs are for sissies, and no one gets to tell him how to ride).

    I can’t do ear buds either. First of all, they’re apparently terrible for your ears, and second of all, they’re made to fit the fictitious ‘standard ear.’ When I reach for a new pair of ear plugs for a ride, I always have to cut them down so that they actually fit well enough to block sound. With ear buds, that’s not really an option. I stick them in; they fall back out.

  73. I have the Bose earplugs. The sound quality is great, and also they come with a set of different-sized slip-over cones which are supposedly to fit different ear sizes. I use the small size, and I have the nifty stabilizer gadget that Bose came up with to try to stop them falling out, but they still do. Also the cones fall off the earpieces. For some inexplicable reason this always happens when I am in a grocery store check-out queue.

  74. John,

    I listen to audiobooks while I work – sometimes 8-10 hours a day, 7 days a week. I went through all kinds of earphones/headsets before I found the one that works perfectly for me.


    They are cheap. I usually buy a few sets so I have spares. What I like about them is that they go over my head so I don’t have to worry about them falling out of my ears, no matter what I’m doing. They’re light. Nothing fits uncomfortably around my ears. And I can wear them under a baseball cap in the summer and a stocking cap in the winter.

  75. One more thing that I forgot – – they’re all plastic, so there’s nothing to decay and/or smell bad from my I sweat. Gross? Yeah, but for my line of work, a valid concern.

  76. Sadly I can’t join your new club. The standard Apple earbuds have always sat comfortably for me – guess I’m lucky that way – but it slowly dawned on me how bad the sound quality was ….

    I’ve noticed a world of difference (sonically) in my new Sony MDR-EX71 ear buds, but it’s still taking a bit of getting used to the fit. They wedge physically much further in your ears and block out so much external sound that you become unusually aware of the ‘internal’ sounds in your head – like chewing, breathing, gnashing of teeth, etc.

    The big problem with earbuds, of course, is how to try before you buy! And if you buy a pair and don’t like them, there’s not likely to be much second hand market, is there? “One careful owner. Comes from a wax free home.” Gross.

  77. Dude, I’ve always had the problem. One of my ears must be a different shape, because it tends to lose the earbud more often than the other.

    I used to have the earbuds that came with the original Gameboy. Same deal.

  78. Freaky!

    I hit the submit button and the whole web-site template / theme updated. Wonder if it’ll work again this time …

  79. i have the same problem and it drives me fucking insane. INSANE. so i bought this cool pair of ear clip headphones with a retractable cord (from japan no less) and they were awesome. until they stopped transmitting sound two weeks ago. feh.

    ear buds are the devil.

  80. Earbuds fit into my ears, but they’re useless to me. I have a severe hearing loss in both ears, and wear in-the-ear hearing aids (now with more cpu power than all the computers in 1973!), which sort of get in the way. I have to buy special connectors that fit on the hearing aids and adapt them to what’s called a Euro connector, and an adapter cable to connect that to the earpiece jack on my iPod. Costs about $80 USD all told (about the same as my Shuffle) and not available from Radio Shack.

  81. Wow. I must have freakishly normal ears, because I LOVE earbuds.

    I’ve used them since they first came out (for my cassette playing walkman) and the only time I have problems is when I move my arm and accidentally yank one out of my ear. This occasionally happens when I’m exercising.

    Whereas I hate regular headphones because they don’t want to stay on my head, and make my ears all sweaty and are just plain uncomfortable

    And I can wear earbuds with hats, which I wear year round.

  82. I’m not a fan of earbuds either. I’ve got the bandless ones from Philips that slide over each ear, and I love them. Also…the not-white not-earbud headphones don’t immediately scream “I’ve got an iPod! Come get it!”

  83. i was just having this conversation with a friend yesterday. not only do they not stay in, but if it’s too cold outside, the cord/wire/whatever goes rigid and then they are even MORE difficult to keep in. they fit marginally better with the sponge covers, but as i found out when i went to purchase a second set of headphones recently, apple doesn’t include them anymore.you’d think they could at least better insulate the wire or something?! they can put a man in space but……….whatever.

  84. John, I too understand your frustration, as much as everyone else here who has commented on the situation. I have been using over-the-ear headphones recently, due to the buds not staying, or when they do they can cause some discomfort.

  85. I find earbuds very uncomfortable and eventually settled on the Sony MDR-Q68LW, which are over the ear phones with retractable cords. Pretty cheap, comfortable on my head even if I’m wearing glasses or a winter hat, and the retractable cords make them nicely portable and keep them from becoming a tangle, which is another problem I have with earbuds

  86. They don’t fit me. It sucks because they don’t really make anything else that is small and remotely comfortable so I carry around my huge headphones…

  87. You have freakish ears… or I do. I’ve been using earbuds for years (since the mid 80’s), and prefer them to other headphones. I regularly do runs and Triathlons with them in (excluding the swim), and they never fall out.

  88. Hello, my name is Lefty.

    I too have freakish earbud-repellent auditory canals. It’s been five years with my iPods, and I still can’t get earbuds to stay in place. I’m so glad to have finally found a support group. Thank you.


  89. Obviously, this is not as uncommon as any of us thought. I use the earbuds that came with the ipod when xc skiing, for my fleece hat holds them in and I can hear other skiiers approach, avalanches tumble, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t get them to stay on under my bike helmet, so I’ve got the entonomyics too. Bought those for airplane rides, as they are sound canceling, but the standard foam piece doesn’t fit in my ear, so I had to special order the small size plugs. Still uncomfortable, but I can ignore it rather then cry out in pain and agony. Don’t like not being able to hear cars, so I turn the volume way down, which is better for your hearing anyway.

  90. Earphones are the only way to go. No matter how unstylish. Ear buds have NEVER worked for me and I only wear them if I want to get pissed off because all they do is fall out. It is probably no help that I have ears that are strikingly similar to Dopey of the 7 dwarves.

  91. earbuds never fit in my itty bitty ears, plus they *hurt*

    i gave up on them years ago and bought a pair of comfy over the ear headphones for my ipod.

  92. Earbuds just fall off my ears, as there is nothing to hold them in place.

    You can use in-ear-monitors that you shove inside your ear canal. They don’t even have to be very expensive, the ER-6i are quite affordable in fact. They also act as earplugs and filter out outside noise, which makes them unsuitable when you need to pay attention, like when driving or walking in the street, but are heavenly in an airplane.

    Another option is those that come with an over-the-ear hook like the Bang and Olufsen A8 or those from Audio Technica, and copycat products. Unfortunately these don’t always provide enough pressure to make the transducer stick to your head.

    Sennheiser makes a compact folding over-the ear headphone, the PXC-150, that actually has pretty decent.

    The best quality comes from full-sized circumaural headphones like the Sennheiser HD-650 or the AKG K701, but you need to use a small battery-powered or rechargeable amplifier as an iPod doesn’t have enough juice for them. I normally boycott Sony, but they make a very light and comfortable yet full-size model called the MDR-F1 that can be powered from an iPod, although it also benefits from amplification.

    For more tips, I would strongly advise you to trawl through the Head-Fi forum (www.head-fi.org).

  93. YES! Finally people who share my pain. I have noticed that the earbuds i got with my new nano seem to be worse fitting in my ears than previous ipod earbuds…I wonder if they changed the design or something?

  94. I’m part of a majority for a change! I can’t use regular ear buds either because my ears are unusually small, so they sit half way in and hurt, until they fall out. I’ve found some that clip around the ears and they work fine for me.

  95. Not only do they not stay in, they HURT. I hates them, I does.

    It’s because I have cute little ears. Instead of feeling frustrated by earbuds I simply think of them as a cultural reminder of my ear-superiority.

  96. Actually, iPod earbuds have been awesome for me. Over the ear headphones press my glasses arms into my head, which hurts over time. And most *other* inside-the-ear earbuds don’t fit inside my small ears, so they’d hurt too. The smaller buds with that came with my iPod Nano fit perfectly for me, so I have relief.

  97. Me! Ear plugs are torture, man. I wanted some for my cell phone so I could be one of those cool people rambling along in my car returning calls (because when else am I supposed to return calls?), but the darn things won’t stay in!

    Which goes to prove that cool is in the eyes of the perceiver and even if I don’t look cool walking around holding the cell phone to my ear – hey, it’s okay. I know I’m cool, anyway.

    You know. In other ways.

  98. Mine don’t fall out, they make my ears HURT. I can’t stand to have them in for more than a minute or two.

  99. I can’t do a thing with the iPod earbuds. I had to go the extra mile and get those foam earbuds that work like earplugs–you roll them between your fingers to compress them, insert them in the ear canal and let them expand.

    But I have bizarrely small ear canals.

  100. I can’t wear the Ipod (or any other ones) normally, but if I loop them over the back of my ear and put in upside down-ish, they seem to stick okay. Not perfect, but at least I don’t feel I need a wide strip of duct tape to keep them anywhere near my ear.

  101. Oh, good Lord, YES. I definitely have mutant ears. I even have a hard time with clip-on earphones. (though that may be an inherent incompatibility with glasses.)

  102. Man, I hate the ear canal ones. I swear I get more earwax, I can’t hear anything if someone comes up to me (yes, that’s the goal for some people, but I need to be able to hear SOMETHING if some idiot rides up behind me on their bike), and they feel really uncomfortable.

    The regular sort do fall out fairly frequently, but other than that, they don’t drive me nearly as nuts as the ear canal ones do, and I can still hear stuff around me if I have to.

    My current set of regular sort earbuds are on their last legs. The cover has come off the wires entirely, but they are still working. I will continue to use them until I’m forced not to, because guess what, I could only get ear canal replacements around here.

  103. They fall out of my ears too. Worse, I have yet to find a pair of headphones that don’t hurt. Yes, even the cushy noise-canceling ones. I have freakishly sensitive ears or something.

  104. Think about getting a set of Koss “The Plugs” and putting some of the crushable earplug style cushions on it. That might work. See http://www.headwize.com/projects/cmoy4_prj.htm

    I personally use a set of Phillips canalphones, because the “medium” silicones fit my ears perfectly, and they’re half the price of the Sony Fontopia EX71’s I used to use, and I can’t tell the difference, soundwise. There are reports that the triple-layer-buttplug style Etymotic cushions can be installed on the Sony’s for optimum, uh, immersion. http://www.headphone.com/products/accessories/headphone-replacement-parts/etymotic-er-6i-small-blue-rubber-tips.php

  105. CV Rick #87: I found those on sale at Big Lots last year for $0.99 (!), and bought all they had, a dozen or so. The sound quality is definitely wanting, especially in the bass, but the comfort level is great. And at the price I paid if they break (and they do–I have rowdy kids) they break, no big whoop.

  106. I’m the same way. Earbuds seem to force me to either wedge them in (and then be horribly uncomfortable) or perpetually have one wiggling loose. It may make me less trendy, but I’ll take my nice big squishy headphones any day over those things.

  107. John,
    I’m a long distance runner and I was always running into the problem of my iPod buds falling out after a while due to sweat. I also had to replace them every few months due to moisture problems. Basically, they got rusty inside. ;) The solution for me was to go to a hearing aid specalist and get a custom set of molds made. They fit my ears exactly and the iPod buds snap right into them. It’ll probably cost about a $100, but worth due to the comfort. According to my buddy (who is the hearing aid specalist) it’s a pretty big business now, so any local Hearing aid specalist in your area should be able to set you up.

  108. The earbuds on my old, 2nd gen. iPod stayed in OK, but the newer ones with my iPod video fall right out. Neither of them were very high quality, either.

    A great source for headphones of all types is the HeadRoom website. Lots of reviews and great advice. Bought a pair of Sennheiser PX100 ‘phones there that sound way better than the stock Apple earbuds, fold away in their own case, and don’t cost an arm and a leg.

    They also offer discounts on Grado headphones, whose model SR60 is, IMHO, the best set of ‘phones under $100 you can find. They’re clunky & retro-looking, but sound fantastic.

  109. It took me quite a lot of getting used to, myself. I negotiated with the little bastards for several months before coming to terms with them, and I still don’t prefer them. I too always feel like they’re about to go AWOL.

    These days, I use Skull Candy’s little ear-buds with the small-sized grippy bits. You have to wedge them into your ears good, and the effect is (a). good sound that doesn’t pop out during air guitar and (b). sort of like living your life underwater, thanks to that seal in your ear.

    So there’s a bit of give and take there.

  110. As a P.S. — I tend not to wear full-sized headphones either for vanity reasons, which is to say, I have eight earrings to account for, and headphones mush them and make them hurt.

    But I bet you don’t have that problem.

  111. I have the exact same problem, trouble is, my listening tool of choice is my Nokia phone, which only has a earbud-equipped handfree unless I want to go Bluetooth, and Bluetooth’s hands-free, stereo, mike, equipped offerings are VERY pricey.

  112. Another “me too” – can’t stands them.

    I’ll plug the B&O’s:


    pricey, but they can be worn for hours upon hours w/o discomfort and only come off when you want them to. I wear mine at the gym and they have never come off accidentally. I occasionally push them in a bit tighter when I feel I’m not getting enough bass, but they have surprisingly good sound for their size.

    Plus, they look great (they clipped the cords off and used them as the “phones” in Minority Report).

  113. I can’t believe you’ve received 125+ comments. On ear buds.
    I’m going to begin work immediately on a design that will solve this problem for all of the asymmetrical ear challenged people of the world. Apparently, if I can tap that market I’ll be a gazillionaire!

  114. I doubt anyone will read this far, but since this really is one of my pet hates I’m going de-lurk and comment anyway!

    Not only do earbuds refuse to stay in my ears, they seem to press uncomfortably (and I’ve tried lots of different shapes) so that I can’t stand wearing them. Since I now wear glasses all the time, my old cyberman headphones aren’t very comfortable either.

    Result: no iPod. What’s the point? I play music at home or in the car, so I don’t listen to much.


    Feeling better now…

  115. Three-Legged-Cat:

    As a glasses wearer, I can confirm that the B&O earphones work fine w/ glasses and you control how much they press into your ear canal. Again, pricey, but I love them (to the point I didn’t hesitate to re-purchase after losing my first set in a cab).

  116. I was a Mac Genius, and couldn’t wear or stand the bloody things. So i never showed the public what my apple-issued ipod was hooked up to:)

    now i use a pair of bone conductive speakers, which don’t have complete fidelity but let me hear the rest of the world, or a bigger pair of sony noise-canceling monsters that block out jet engines and officemates.

  117. For me, earbuds fit, but I’ve found that when riding my bicycle in colder weather, they make my ears freeze. So no earbuds. Later (as in about 6 years ago), I found out about the Koss PortaPro. Since getting that, I’ve never looked back. Best. Headphone. Evar. Plus it looks sortof really retro. Which is funny. Funny are also the people mentioning “good sound quality” and BOSE in one sentence. BOSE is Teh EVIL.

  118. Whoah, I don’t know if you’ll get this far down in the comments…


    I love the Bose earbuds, and they come with three different sizes of thingy. I was mortified at the confirmation that my ears are “large”, but, heck, they fit really well.

    And the sound is so much better than the Apple ones that I was shocked.

  119. The earbuds are quite handy and portable, but yeah, they don’t stay when they ought to. And I can’t stand the little mini headphones which wrap around your ear, either. I wear glasses, and they eventually come off.

  120. I think I’m the freakish one. iPod earbuds are the only ones I’ve tried (and I’ve tried several) that actually fit my ears.

  121. I have the same problem and I have tried all brands on earbuds, Apple, Sony, Bang & Olufsen – they all fall out.

  122. I find earbuds really uncomfortable, and headphones often cumbersome. Instead, I use a pair of speakers that just clip onto my ear in a manner similar to a pair of glasses. Best of both worlds!

  123. My wife suffers from the same thing. Which means I am the inheritor of her unusable earbuds.

    On the plus side: A large supply of earbuds for my personal use

    On the minus side: High-frequency hearing loss

  124. iPod earbuds only stay in when anchored by a strong Reality Distortion Field.

    Or bubblegum.

    Aftermarket soft-gromit buds, every time.

  125. Why don’t they make them out of disposable expanding cotton with comfort-tipped cardboard applicators?

    …call them Ear-pons! We have the technology…

  126. I have a terrible time with ear buds, and with the wireless bluetooth thingys too. They just don’t sit right… the buds won’t stay in my ears… ack!

    Give me a good old fashioned speaker phone, and headphones. Thank you.

    be well,

  127. I can’t use earbuds either, and I’ve tried several brands/models. I have a couple “sports” heaphone models I use. One is a Philips/Nike, the other a Sony.

    Nike sells an entire line of hatphones – caps with built in headphones/earbuds. Practical only in colder temperatures.

    For another cool audio gadget, especially if you’re a swimmer, check out the SwiMP3.

    The new SwiMP3 is revolutionary in that it relies on bone conduction of sound. When the device is placed on any bones of the skull (i.e. the cheek bones or the mastoid tip) it leads to vibration of the fluid in the inner ear.”

    Of course, unless you’re wearing this rig in the pool, you’ll like like a total idiot.

  128. The earbuds that came with my iPod stayed in more often than not, but after I stepped on them, the replacement pair I picked up at the Brookstone shop in Terminal 3 at O’Hare popped out constantly, even on winter runs when they were tucked under a hat. Now I use a thin pair of over-the-head earphones, which stay on; I hate them, though, because they’re uncomfortable. I should probably go back to Apple, but I’m lazy.

  129. I have this problem too but since I started wearing the earphones that go inside your ear canal it hasn’t been a problem. I started with some cheap sony ones but after the plastic around the wires wore out on my second pair I got a pair of etymotic headphones and they’ve been great.

  130. Earbuds don’t fall out, but they make my ear canals hurt like hell after fifteen minutes. Since I don’t really like the sound quality anyway, I use the little clip-on headphones that fit over your ear.

  131. They never stay put in my ears…but then my ears are a little on the small side..I’ve resorted to the wrap around cell phone type.

  132. I hate earbuds. I have at least two sets of unopened iPod earbuds around here somewhere; I tried earbuds once and have no desire to do so again.

    sarah (#94): I had a nice pair of Pioneer clip-ons I got in Japan that eventually died. I now use these Sony clip-ons, which have a retractable cord so they don’t get all tangled in my bag. (I got my pair at Target.)

  133. I’m a another satisfied user of Griffin EarJams. They snap onto your iPod’s earbuds and come with 3 sizes of silicone tips to fit into your ear canal. They’ve miraculously made the damned earbuds usable and improved their audio quality. The set I got also came with a small zippered case that I’ve found invaluable for keeping them clean, untangled, and still working after 3+ years.

  134. The earbuds I like won’t fit in my mom’s ears at all. But that’s why there are dozens of types of earphones available on the market…

    My absolute all-time favorite earphones are actually a pair of el-cheapo clip-over-the-ear Radio Shack earphones stuffed into a pair of collapsible construction hearing protectors.

  135. Mine fall out of only one ear. Stays fine in the left, constantly popping out of the right.

    I probably don’t want to know what that means–but it’s nice to know others have a similar issue.

  136. John,

    I hate the earbuds because they keep falling out. A co-worker tried six different pairs (beyond those that came with her i-Pod) before she found a pair she likes. I’m not ready to shell out that kind of cash yet. What does one do the the ones you dislike? I would imagine that people wouldn’t like the idea of using something semi-internal that someone else already has.

    In addition, I have an iPhone, so my needs are complicated. My ideal accessory would be a bluetooth headset (note: set, not phones, I need the microphone to take and make calls) that will stream stereo signals. I’ve been told that stereo will at least double the power drain over plain mono.

    *sigh* What’s a poor tech-geek to do?

  137. You obviously need someone else to say “me too,” so, me too.

    I can’t even get the damn things to sit in my ears when I’m dead still. My ears are simply not bud-compatible. The in ear ones stay in by make my ears hurt if I wear them for more than an hour over the course of a couple days. I have the same problem with general ear plugs, though I can usually wear them through the night for about 2-days before feeling a little Van Gogh about them.

    I now wear the ones with the little overear loops but honestly, they are a lame substitute. If the ear buds don’t stay in, the overear versions are just going to drift out so you either have to blast your music or hold them against your ear to hear them. At least that’s my experience.

  138. You clearly are not alone. I never even tried the earbuds. I use my shuffle when I work out and on long runs and my favorite headphones are the ones that cover your ears but let you hear what’s going on around you. These headphones sit around the back of my head so I can still wear a hat in the sun.

    I never listen to music when I ride my bike though. It’s dangerous enough without the added distraction.

  139. If you want to hear the car coming, open over-the-ear headphones.

    If you think you’re good enough at keeping track of the traffic without the aid of hearing, closed over-the-ear headphones.

    If you’re masochistic, in-ears.

  140. Way past the moment for this topic, and I may not even be unique, but here’s me.

    Pre-iPod, every time I tried to use earbuds, they would fall out. Post-iPod-release but pre-iPod-ownership, I heard awful things about the earbuds that came with iPods.

    . . . I’ve had an iPod for a few months now. Not once have the earbuds fallen out of my ears.

  141. As yet another member of the abnormally small ear club, I struggled with that problem for years; but now that I’ve uploaded most of my music collection to my Brainpal…no earbuds needed!

  142. To me, I just don’t like the fact that the earphones are always ripping, especially the ipod ones. They always end up tearing where the earphone meets the actual wire. We should go and protest. lol But seriously though I’m kind of dissapointed in Apple, I know that they can do some much better, I mean come on…they who made the ipod touch, I’m pretty sure they can make decent headphones….for cheap of couse.lol

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