AirPods Hurt Your Ears? Here Are Some Fit Tips and Alternative Earbud Options

Though Apple has designed the AirPods and the AirPods Pro to be as comfortable as possible for most people, there are still some ‌AirPods‌ and ‌AirPods Pro‌ owners who find the earbuds to be uncomfortable and even painful.

In this guide, we've gathered up some helpful tips and tricks for fit, along with some alternatives for when adjusting fit just isn't an option.

airpodsnocase

AirPods Fit Problems

Apple's standard ‌AirPods‌ are not adjustable and do not have removable tips, which leaves little you can do if they cause ear pain.

Getting Used to AirPods Over Time

Some users on the MacRumors forums have said that their ears adjusted to the ‌AirPods‌ size after powering through wearing them for a few days to a few weeks, so attempting to get used to them is one possible solution.
airpods
When using this method, you should try to use the ‌AirPods‌ for a few hours each day, giving your ears time to rest in between.

Wearing One AirPod at a Time

To get your ears to adjust, you can also try wearing one AirPod at a time, giving each ear a break from the ‌AirPods‌ while still being able to use them with a connected device. Alternating the ear wearing the AirPod can prevent an overwhelming amount of pain when you need to use the ‌AirPods‌ for longer periods of time, and it allows for longer battery life.

airpodsinear

AirPods Placement Adjustment

‌AirPods‌ are not meant to fit deep in the ear and sit in the contours of the ear, so making sure they're not placed too far into the ear can also potentially help with discomfort. You don't want to put pressure on the tragus of the ear, and sometimes placing the ‌AirPods‌ too deep is the problem.

AirPods That Fall Out

If your problem isn't pain but rather keeping them in place, slightly modifying the ‌AirPods‌ with a thick tape can help to hold them in place. This technique, demonstrated by a MacRumors reader, uses Nexcare waterproof tape, and will require some experimentation on placement of padding to see if it works to adjust fit.

airpodsfitmodification
You can also get thin silicone covers for the ‌AirPods‌ from a site like Amazon that can also help them to feel more secure in the ear, as well as tips that are similar to silicone tips but modified to attach to the ‌AirPods‌. Note that these kinds of tips do not fit in the ‌AirPods‌ case and need to be removed before charging, and they may not be comfortable for people who already find the ‌AirPods‌ to be too large in their ears.

airpodssiliconetips

Returning AirPods

Ears come in all shapes and sizes, and in some cases, the ‌AirPods‌ aren't going to be a good fit no matter the adjustment period. In this situation, the best option is to go with an alternative earbud or headphone option.

Apple has a two week return policy, which should give users enough time to test them out to make sure they're a comfortable fit before deciding whether to keep them. Many other third-party retailers also have similar return policies, but make sure to check before making a purchase from a non-Apple retail store.

AirPods Pro Fit Problems

If you're having fit problems with the ‌AirPods Pro‌, which is rather common if you check out the MacRumors forums and Apple communities, there are a few more options than you have with the standard ‌AirPods‌.

airpodsproinear
First and foremost, ‌AirPods Pro‌ come with tips in three sizes: small, medium, and large. You should try each of the three sizes to see which feels best in the ear. Surprisingly, some people with smaller ears have found the larger tips to be the more comfortable option, so experimentation is your best bet.

airpodsprodesign
You can also modify the ‌AirPods Pro‌ tips to add in foam, which can make for a tighter and more comfortable fit. MacStories' Federico Viticci demoed the technique in December, which involves removing the foam from an existing set of foam eartips and then adding them to the existing ‌AirPods Pro‌ tips. Full instructions are available on the MacStories website.

airpodspromacstoriesfoamtips
Some companies are also working on ‌AirPods Pro‌ foam tips that you can purchase, such as Comply, but these are not yet widely available from reliable sources.

Alternatives to AirPods

There are quite a few alternatives to ‌AirPods‌ on the market at this point in time, and if you're having trouble with the standard ‌AirPods‌, you're probably going to want to go with something that has the option of silicone or foam tips or an earbud that has a smaller body.

You might even want to forego in-ear earbuds all together, opting instead for more comfortable on-ear or over-ear headphones. Below, we've listed some popular options that people often consider or recommend instead of ‌AirPods‌. Most of what we're listing is wire-free, but we do have a few wire options like the Powerbeats, and where possible, we've linked the retailer with the lowest prices.

airpodsalternatives

  • AirPods Pro ($235 from Amazon) - ‌AirPods Pro‌ are an obvious alternative to the ‌AirPods‌ that are more comfortable for some people because of the adjustable silicone tips that fit tighter into the ear canal. The body of the ‌AirPods Pro‌ is also smaller in the ear, and can result in less ear pain. ‌AirPods Pro‌ are more expensive than ‌AirPods‌, but offer noise canceling technology.
  • Powerbeats Pro ($200 from Amazon) - Powerbeats Pro are also a suitable ‌AirPods‌ alternative because of the silicone tips and the earhooks that wrap around the ears to hold them in place. These have the potential to be more comfortable than ‌AirPods‌, but may not be the best option for those with small ears because of the fit of the earhooks.
  • Sony WF-1000XM3 ($190 from Amazon) - Sony's WF-1000XM3 earbuds are a popular ‌AirPods‌ alternative because they offer noise canceling technology that's highly praised. Like all of the earbuds on our list, these are wire-free earbuds that reviews have claimed are comfortable, with adjustable silicone tips.
  • Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 ($300 from Amazon) - A step up from ‌AirPods‌, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 headphones promise excellent sound and active noise cancellation. These are smaller and lighter weight than Sennheiser's original Momentums and while not all reviewers found these to be comfortable for long periods of time, there were some who found these to be a more comfortable option than other wire-free earbuds.
  • Jabra Elite 75t ($180 from Amazon) - The Jabra Elite 75t's are Wirecutter's top pick for wire-free headphones due to their comfortable fit in the ear. Compared to prior versions of the Elite earbuds, the new 75t model is smaller and with a lighter weight, which makes them more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. These are designed to fit tight in the ear for use during vigorous activity, and there are adjustable tips.
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus ($140 from Amazon) - These are made by Apple competitor Samsung and are designed for Samsung phones, but they work like any Bluetooth earbuds with an iPhone. The Galaxy Buds Plus have been praised for their light weight, which can go a long way toward easing ear discomfort. They also have a super long battery life and you can choose which ear tips fit best.

These are, of course, just a handful of other earbud options on the market. There are tons to choose from, and if you have a difficult time finding the right size at the right price point, you may need to experiment and take advantage of some manufacturers' return policies.

Guide Feedback

Have questions about this guide, want to offer feedback, have a suggestion for an ‌AirPods‌ alternative, or know of something that we left out? Send us an email here.

Top Stories

samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
pixel watch prosser leak

Google Pixel Watch Allegedly Leaks with Circular Design, Rumored to Launch in October

Monday April 12, 2021 2:49 am PDT by
Renders of Google's first smartwatch, codenamed "Rohan," have been shared by Jon Prosser, showing that Google plans to adopt a circular design for its flagship wearable watch. Prosser shared the renders in an episode of his YouTube show "Front Page Tech," in which he claims they were made based on marketing material he had seen from a source within Google. The renders show that the Pixel...
AppleTV and HomePod Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on New Apple TV With Integrated HomePod Speaker and FaceTime Camera

Monday April 12, 2021 3:32 am PDT by
Apple is working on a combined Apple TV with HomePod speaker that has a camera for video calls through a connected television set, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. From the report: The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions,...
nba tracking prompt orange

Two-Thirds of iPhone Users Expected to Block Ad Tracking

Friday April 9, 2021 7:19 am PDT by
As many as 68 percent of iPhone users are expected to deny advertisers permission to track them thanks to Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature, in what is beginning to look like a significant blow to the advertising industry (via AdWeek). With the launch of iOS 14.5, apps will have to receive explicit user permission before accessing an iPhone's advertising identifier or IDFA, which is...
fake airpods 3

Counterfeit 'AirPods 3' Hit the Market Prior to Official Announcement

Friday April 9, 2021 2:45 am PDT by
Apple is expected to launch the third iteration of AirPods in the third quarter of this year. Rumors and reports suggest the new AirPods will feature an updated design more in line with the AirPods Pro, but lacking in "Pro" features such as active noise cancellation. Despite AirPods 3 not yet being officially announced by Apple, counterfeit products of the unreleased earbuds have already hit ...
Top Stories 56 Feature

Top Stories: 'Find My' Expansion, iPhone 13 Pro Mockup, Largest-Ever iMac?

Saturday April 10, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
Apple's AirTags may still be nowhere to be seen nearly two years after signs of them were first discovered, but Apple this week launched its Find My network accessory program that will let third-party devices integrate with the Find My app on Apple's platforms to make it easy to keep track of your items. This week also saw fresh rumors about the upcoming "iPhone 13" and new iMacs, while...
ehric

iPhone 12 Mini Missing From Top 5 Best Selling Smartphone List of January 2021

Friday April 9, 2021 4:58 am PDT by
According to market data compiled by Counterpoint Research, Apple's smallest iPhone since the 2016 iPhone SE, the iPhone 12 mini, struggled to obtain a spot in the top five list of best-selling smartphones in January of this year. According to the market data, the iPhone 12 mini came in eighth place for the best-selling smartphone worldwide in the first month of the year. However, the iPhone ...
sonny 2021 ipad mini pro dummies

Leaked Dummy Units Show iPad Mini 6 With Thick Bezels and Home Button, New iPad Pro Models

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:11 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple will release refreshed versions of the iPad mini and iPad Pro models in the first half of this year, potentially as soon as this month, and a new leak today has provided us with a possible preview of what to expect in terms of the devices' overall design and camera prospects. Tech leaker and Apple blogger Sonny Dickson this morning shared images on Twitter showing dummy ...
Google maps feaure green

Google Maps App for iOS Finally Updated After Four Months

Monday April 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Following the completed rollout of App Privacy labels for its App Store apps, Google today updated the Google Maps app for the first time in four months. Apple in December began requiring all new app submissions and app updates to include App Privacy labels, detailing the data that is collected by the app so consumers know what they're sharing. Google didn't begin implementing App Privacy ...
epic iap feature 3

Tim Cook Says App Store Would Become a 'Flea Market' if Third-Party Payment Systems Were Allowed

Monday April 12, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about a wide variety of topics, ranging from App Tracking Transparency to Apple's ongoing legal battle over App Store policies with Fortnite creator Epic Games. Notably, Cook said that Epic Games' desire for Apple to let developers offer their own payment systems in apps "would make the App Store a flea market":At the...