If you wear glasses and you get headaches from wearing headphones – welcome to the club. I wear glasses, and it’s always a mission to find the perfect headphones. Not only do I have to consider the sound quality, noise-cancellation, and versatility, but I also have to hope and pray that the fit won’t kill me after two hours of use.
I just want something that’s not going to squish my glasses against my head, is that too much to ask?So, turns out there are a few things I can do to wear my glasses with my headphones more comfortably. My headphones and my glasses can be friends.
You can first of all, get the right headphones – design goes a long way. I personally have had the best comfort with the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. It has nice big ear cups which reduces the pressure on the edge of my ears – where my glasses rest. I can honestly wear these for hours and still keep going.
But Why Does Wearing Glasses with Headphones Actually Hurt?
It seems like a pretty straight-forward issue – a piece of hard material being squashed between your head and your soft ear cartilage – by your headphones. But the solution to this issue requires us to consider something else.
Your ear is unique, almost like your fingerprint, it has no match (not even the one on the other side), so finding headphones that will give you that ultimate comfort will be trial and error (but it can be less trial and error with some valuable advice from others who have gone through the process – at least by narrowing down the list to the ones that have worked).
The Issues I (and countless others) have had while wearing Glasses with Over-Ear Headphones
My personal journey to finding the perfect headphones has been long and hard, but not fruitless. Today, I can honestly say – I’ve found my perfect fit. Along the way, there have been some trying times, and many headphones have been dumped in the recycling bin or gifted to a glassless friend.
If you’re struggling with your headphones at the moment, you could be experiencing any (or multiple) of the following issues:
Swollen And Painful Ear Cartilage
Constant friction and pressure from your glasses can cause a painful condition called Auricular Chondritis. Your cartilage gets inflamed, and could even swell up. It can be quite nerve-wracking when this happens to your ears, and images of cauliflower eared Rugby players might come to mind. It probably won’t get that bad, but I’m not taking any chances.
But don’t worry too much, if you remove the source of irritation (your headphones or your glasses) long enough for your ears to rest, it won’t be permanent. The problem is that “long enough” is subjective – so better to just get the right headphones from the start.
You should also try to limit the amount of time you wear your headphones. I’m guilty of this; I can wear them even when I’m not using them.
When your headphones are too tight, they can give you headaches. This is made even worse if you’re wearing glasses. To get technical, your headphones are resting against your temporal bone, and when they’re too tight, and you’re wearing glasses, it can overstimulate the cutaneous nerves and give you a headache.
You’re experiencing what is called a compression headache, and you could start to feel it within an hour of putting on your headphones. If you’ve ever seen someone sitting with their hands to their temples, massaging away, you know now what the culprit may be.
If you suffer from migraines, you could be more susceptible to this effect. New glasses? Don’t put all the blame on your headphones. A persistent headache paired with new glasses could indicate other issues. Either your prescription is off, or the fit is all wrong for you. If that is the case, you should definitely consider getting a new pair of glasses.
You could just feel some general discomfort from wearing the wrong headphones (or glasses), perhaps the material is scratchy, or the frame is too heavy, and it’s all being made so much worse by the fact that you’re wearing glasses. I get it, I’ve been there.
To get the best comfort for your needs, consider the following aspects when investing in your next headphones:
● The Design
There are some design aspects that just make things better. A bigger ear cup, thicker padding, a lighter frame, and a convertible headband that allows you to fold up one side to give your ears a rest.
● The Type – over or on
Over-ear headphones just work better with glasses, whereas on-ear glasses add to the pressure.
● The padding – material, and thickness
The material you choose is very much a personal preference. I like leather or pleather, but some like velour for its soft feel. The padding needs to be premium memory foam – trust me. It molds your ear, whereas other foam just sits on top.
● The Fit – not too tight
A comfy fit is essential, and again, this depends on you… If you have a small head, you shouldn’t have a problem, but if you’re slightly on the bigger side, make sure you get headphones with a looser fit, or ones with an adjustable headband. Another function that I like on my M50x is the folding earpads; I can easily fold up one side to give each ear a small rest and loosen the fit completely.
Finding the right headphones for you will take each of these aspects into consideration. Wearing glasses with headphones doesn’t have to cause prolonged discomfort, and if it does, don’t just live with it – it can be so much better.
OK, so maybe this isn’t a physically painful experience; it’s bad enough having to wear glasses – headphone hair is just unnecessary, to say the least. I know I’m not alone on this one, headphone hair sucks.
You could try wearing your headphone band under your chin, but believe me, it’s not a favorite with the ladies, and it kind of reduces the sound quality.
One other alternative is to tilt your earphones back slightly, so they’re not resting on top of your head. I actually think this clever solution takes the pressure off my glasses too – win-win.
Headphones ear pads tearing
If your glasses have a metal frame, they can cause your ear pads to tear over time. The constant on and off over the brackets will eventually wear them down. This can definitely cause added discomfort. If you have an already tight headphone and then the earpad material tears – it’s definitely time for a new set.
But what if you have that perfect fit, your baby, she’s never let you down, and you’re not giving up on her now either. Cool, respect – you can actually save your headphones by replacing the ear pads. It sounds harder than it actually is, you can easily find spare parts on Amazon or via one of many online headphone recycling facilities.
Factors that affect headphones comfort for people with glasses
Your headphones and your glasses both play a role in dictating your overall comfort level when using them together. There are probably more factors related to headphones that can increase your overall discomfort while using them with glasses, but your glasses aren’t completely innocent either.
Keep the following aspects in mind while researching the newest headphone releases or specs. Making sure you choose the right headphones before you order, will be the best time investment you can make.
Probably one of the top factors that you need to consider is the headphone design. Sound quality, noise-canceling, versatility, none of that matters, you need a comfortable design that’s not going to drive you nuts. I’m not saying you can’t get the full package – I did with the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x – but you might have to keep looking.
What about the design is important? Quite a bit, let’s have a look:
Always choose over-ear headphones
On-ear headphones add unnecessary pressure to the edges of your ears, while on-ear headphones fit over the edges of your ear. This doesn’t get rid of the problem completely, as they still rest against the arms of your glasses, BUT they don’t create the dreaded pain-sandwich that the direct pressure from on-ear headphones tends to.
Ask yourself this question, would I rather want the pressure directly on my glasses, or on my ears pressing against my glasses. Most of my spectacle-donning friends have opted for the former, and between us, there is a general consensus that an over-ear is a happy-ear.
Earbuds aren’t really an option for most as the sound quality and noise-cancellation is dismal compared to headphones, while others are more concerned about their health – no one can prove the link between earphones and cancer, but it’s enough to make me think twice.
Headphone clamping force
The clamping force your headphones exert on your ears can be quite significant. And while any force can cause headaches and other discomfort, adding glasses to the mix just makes it worse. The arms already place some pressure on your temples and the tops of your ears, but this can quickly escalate when you add headphones.
It’s difficult to know which headphones won’t hurt you without trying them on, while you can go fit headphones on in-store, it won’t tell you how it will feel after 2 – 8 hours of use. I, for one, don’t want to test my pain threshold while binge-watching a series on a Sunday before a long week ahead.
It’s best to look for headphones that don’t clamp too hard around your head; it’s at least an indication that they won’t hurt you after hours of use. You’re less likely to experience headphones clamping force if you have a small head, so kids are in the green.
One lucky thing is that headphones clamping force is often a point people complain about, so looking through reviews should also tell you which probably won’t work. But, if you really like a pair, remember to try them out yourself first – reviews are also just someone else’s personal experience.
Amazon has a great return policy, and you can usually return even opened items within 30 days. So, get a few and try them out before you decide on “the one”.
Earpad thickness, material, and Padding
I can’t stress this enough – padding material matters! If you’ve ever had a scratchy material on your ears – you’ll get this. DO NOT torture yourself – anything except for pleather and leather is YUK!!!
You need a good cushioning effect, too, so make sure you’re searching the reviews for information and experiences. The cover material and cushion serve as a buffer between your head and the clamping force – you’ll want them to be good.
The best material for the best headphone comfort, include:
If you love your headphones, but the cushions are old or just sucky, you can actually replace them. The best foam material is made of high-density memory foam. Like I think my ears have a better pillow than I actually sleep on…
Leather means skin to skin, a very natural, breathable material, that will last. It’s important that the bit that sits on your ear should be leather, anything else is pretty much useless and will just add to the cost.
Velour is super soft, silky, and comfortable. What I like the most about these ear pads is that they are actually quite cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.
Pleather is a great alternative for real leather, durable and super comfortable, it’s what most headphones come with as a standard.
When choosing your material, remember – velour is soft and fluffy while leather and pleather ear cushions are a bit harder and more durable. Sometimes opting for new padding could affect your sound quality, so just consider that when choosing new ear pads. It’s not always bad; you could even end up liking the new sound more.
Buy Headphones with Replaceable Ear Pads
A smart idea is to buy headphones that have replaceable ear pads. This allows you to either change them if you don’t like the originals (you can gift or recycle the ones you don’t like), and it also allows you to replace old, damaged earpads easily—no need to get rid of everything just because one part is broken.
Now I need to stress something here – to all my friends who continue to use old scratchy earpads until they’re basically falling off – DUDE, just replace them! It’s super easy, and they aren’t even expensive. It will feel like you’re wearing new headphones.
It’s one of the things I love the most about my Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, which I can wear for hours, no complaints- their earpads are super easy to replace, and I love these headphones, so I abuse them and when the material frays, I just pop the old ones off and put on a new pair. They also have the widest variety of quality replaceable ear pads I’ve been able to find.
While most standard headphones’ earpads are made from faux leather, it can be too small for your ear, just sandwiching the frame of your glasses between your skull and your ear. Having the option to replace them just makes things easier.
This feature is becoming more and more popular in headphone design, as it allows a more circular economy, of extended use, and less trash.
While it’s easy to blame the headphones for everything, it could be a good idea for you to consider the design of the glasses you wear next time you’re getting your prescription. A new frame could be the solution to all your problems. So, what exactly should we bespectacled folk consider when it comes to eyewear design?
Go for glasses with a thinner frame
The design of your glasses is very important when it comes to wearing them with headphones. My girlfriend actually bought a new pair of sunglasses and had to give them to a friend because they were just too bulky to wear with her headphones (and we can both go for hours listening to music, especially while on the metro).
The shape of your glasses’ arms is where all the danger (and relief) lies. If they’re too thick and you’re going to know about it after an hour. The material can also play a role; heavy metal frames can push down on your ears, creating extra tension.
I used to have really thick frames with round arms, and I hated the feeling of them under my headphones. I now have a thinner, flat-armed frame that really adds to the overall comfort I have with my headphones. It all comes down to the surface area that evenly distributes the pressure, too round and thick = increased pressure.
The fact remains that just as headphones might be comfortable for you, but terrible for your friend, glasses can have the same effect. Your ear anatomy is different, and you have to figure out what works for you.
Does nothing seem to work for you?
Try these sure-fire solutions to make your headphones more comfortable with glasses
Everyone is different, and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. One thing I am sure of though is that there are a few tried and trusted methods to reduce pressure and give you much-needed relief – even if it might not completely solve the problem, they’re worth a try.
▪ Loosen your headsets a bit
Finding headphones with the sales tag “made for glasses” is near impossible, and if you do manage to find them, they’re some knockoff brand that you’d never trust in terms of sound quality, noise-cancellation and all the other things that trusted brands make their life’s work.
You’d also not want to compromise on those aspects, the audiophile in you would rather accidentally send a sexy message to your boss than compromise on your sound experience (he’ll understand).
You can overcome this issue by simply loosening your band a bit, give your glasses some space, and you’ll see and hear perfectly. If that doesn’t help, try giving your headphones a bit of a stretch, just not too much. To do this, simply stack some books on top of each other, and balance a few on the side to stimulate your head (just slightly bigger) and stretch your headphones over them whenever you’re not using them. This will help you to feel the stretch as it happens, and you can stop when it’s just right.
A metal headband is easier to stretch, but just take it slow; if you stretch it too much, it would be impossible to fix. I personally like adjustable headbands – so I can choose my perfect fit and not have to stress about damaging my headphones.
I’ve found adjustable headbands to be the most comfortable while wearing glasses.
▪ Let’s get awkward – tilt your glasses
This isn’t going to win you the “cool guy” award at the office, but it will release some of the pressure on the side of your head. Simply lift up the arms of your glasses to rest on top of the headphone ear pads. That means your glasses will be leaning forward on your nose.
One small detail to keep in mind while doing this – it can affect your vision, causing aberrations. Any change in the way you look through your prescription glasses long term can affect your vision. Also important to note, doing this too long with prescription glasses can give you a headache (facepalm). So, just do it to relieve some pressure and then adjust them back to normal.
However, it is important to note that adjusting the pantoscopic tilt of your glasses a lot may cause anomalies in your vision.
▪ Get some additional cushioning between the frame and your head
What’s that saying – “some cushin for the pushin” – while I’m sure the creative mind who came up with that had other intentions for the meaning, it does hold some truth when it comes to your headphones and glasses.
I’m sure you could find better ways of doing this, but my go-to method is just to fold up a small piece of tissue and place that behind the arm of my glasses where it touches my temple. Super easy and very effective – the tissue serves as an added buffer – you can thank me later.
▪ Consider getting pince-nez glasses
I’m not saying you can’t pull this look off, but it’s going to be hard. The vintage style Pince-nez glasses are the ultimate solution as they don’t have any arms. It rests on the bridge of your nose, leaving your headphones to do their thang – zero added pressure.
And if they constantly fall off, you could consider a more permanent pince-nez solution (That was just a joke! Kids don’t try this at home – or at all in fact – what was this guy thinking?!).
▪ Give your ears frequent breaks
Last but not least, give your ears a break every now and then. If you feel a headache creeping in, just take off your headphones, take off your glasses, go for a walk, a chat, a coffee, and reset.
This is especially true if you’ve been blasting the tunes – studies have found that playing music with the volume cranked up can cause headaches.
You can alternatively (if you have to continue – I see you gamers) just move your headphones and glasses from time to time, or tilt your glasses for a few minutes. Just give the pressure points some relief.
This will allow some circulation back into those areas, which makes a huge difference. Your ears don’t really get much blood circulation to start off with, so every bit helps.
Another way I reduce pressure is by using one earpiece; my M50x actually folds up, making it super easy, but if you don’t have that functionality, just slide one ear pad off, and you’re good to go.
You can do this on and off to give each ear a rest, but overall, you shouldn’t wear your earphones for extended periods of time. I recently wrote a post explaining exactly how long you should wear your headphones per day – if you’re trying to reduce discomfort, knowing how long is too long can be helpful.
Can You Wear Bone Conduction Headphones with Glasses?
I can totally understand the logic here – if your headphones are hurting you, why not just use bone conduction headphones?
If you haven’t heard of bone conduction headphones, they basically use a completely different method to get sound to your brain, totally bypassing the eardrum. They do rest over your ear, but to the front of your ear. These headphones convert sound signals into vibrations that go directly to the Cochlea.
If you’re asking me personally if they offer more comfort in comparison to traditional glasses, the answer is yes. Your glasses can rest on top of the thin frame of the bone conduction headphones, adding no extra pressure, really.
What are the payoffs? So, you get the ultimate comfort, but the sound just can’t compare to over-ear headphones. It’s worth a try, but if the sound is important to you, no amount of comfort is going to justify it.
While us bespectacled folk have many added issues to consider when choosing headphones, it doesn’t have to be a lost cause. If I’ve been able to find my nirvana headphones, you can too. If you’ve already got headphones taking a few simple steps, or buying new ear pads can make a world of difference.
At the end of the day, it’s all about you as a person, your needs, and your habits. It isn’t impossible to find the perfect headphones or method to reduce the pressure – if you’ve found your perfect headphone hack, I’d love to know about it in the comments.