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How to Get In-Ear Headphones to Fit Properly

by on July 21, 2023
in Phones and Mobile, Headphones, Music and Video, Tips & How-Tos, Tech 101 :: 40 comments

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Updated on 7/21/2023 with new products

Even the best in-ear headphones, or earbuds, can sound awful and quickly become uncomfortable if they're too loose, too tight, or aren't seated well in your ear. So get the most out of your earbuds by following these tips to achieve the proper fit.

AirPod Pro shown in ear from the side.

1. Choose the right size and material for your eartip

The key to a proper earbud fit is using the right size ear tip. So try the various sizes of foam and silicone tips that come with your earbuds. Foam tips are more forgiving for size differences, so they are a good option for hard-to-fit ears. If you have a large ear canal or are looking for enhanced passive noise canceling, try out double-flange silicone eartips.

For comfort and a better fit, you can also buy specialized tips. To block out sound and prevent wax buildup, I like the foam Sound Isolation Plus ($19.99, check price on Amazon). For all-day wear that's maximized for comfort and to prevent wax buildup, I recommend the foam Comply Comfort Plus ($19.99, check price on Amazon).

If you're not a fan of foam, SpinFit makes medical-grade silicone replacements that have a unique core that flexes at the top up to 40 degrees so you can more easily seat it at the correct depth comfortably. The SpinFit CP100 Plus ($13.99 for two pairs, check price on Amazon) come with inserts so they can fit narrow and medium 3mm to 5mm nozzles. They also make a double-flange model, the SpinFit CP240 ($11.49 for one pair, check price on Amazon), which come with inserts to fit 3-5mm nozzles.

Also, one ear may be slightly larger than the other, so you may need to use a different size tip for each ear. Before investing in new tips, check the fit with the tips that come with your headphones to see if you'll need more than one size.

If you can't get a good fit with standard-size tips, you can buy custom-fit tips from Snugs. With SnugsGo, you take pictures of your ear using the company's app, and they make a custom pair of eartips for your earbuds. If the fit isn't perfect, they will remake them, and if they still don't fit, you can get a refund. At $119.95, they're expensive and will only work with one pair of earbuds, but if you have hard-to-fit ears, it may be worth it.

2. Seat the eartip firmly

To get the best sound, you need to seal your ear canal with the eartip. So simply pushing an eartip into your ear often isn't enough to create a proper seal. (For foam tips, you'll need to compress the foam before quickly inserting your earbuds.) Instead, try gently pulling on the outer rim of your ear to ease the tip into a comfortable position. You should notice a drop in ambient noise when the tip is seated correctly. And when you're listening to music, you'll notice more range, especially bass.

Some manufacturers, including Amazon, Jabra, and Samsung, have an earbud fit test that checks to make sure that you have a good seal – that you're using the right size eartips, and that they are correctly seated. Consult the app from your earbud manufacturer.

AirPods Pro owners can access the Ear Tip Fit Test by going to Settings > Bluetooth and then tapping the "i" next to the AirPods in the list of devices. Then select "Ear Tip Fit Test" > Continue > and tap the Play button. If your AirPods aren't fitting properly, you'll be prompted to make adjustments.

3. Secure the tip for sports

Getting headphones for working out to fit well is particularly tricky. The constant pulling on the eartip as you move can loosen even well-inserted eartips.

Make sure to use any stabilizers that may have come packed with the earbuds. These plastic pieces wedge the eartip into place to keep it from wiggling as you move. You can also try a generic stabilizer, like the BudLocks Earphone Sport Grips ($10.95, you can buy them on Amazon). For Apple AirPods gen 1 and 2, there are EarBuddyz 2.0 ($10.95, check price on Amazon), for AirPods gen 3, there are EarBuddyz ($12.95, check price on Amazon), for AirPods Pro gen 1 and 2, there are Proof Labs ($14.95, check price on Amazon) that you can attach to help them stay in place. If you prefer a hook, there's also the Elago for Apple AirPods and Airpods Pro ($10.99, check price on Amazon).

EarBuddyz 2.0 Ear Hooks for AirPods 1 and 2 shown on AirPods in blue from the front and back as well as inserted into a prosthetic ear.

EarBuddyz 2.0 for AirPods

If you don't like the idea of stabilizers but are worried about losing your AirPods or AirPods Pro, you can try GOGOSODU Compatible Airpods Strap ($13.99, you can buy them on Amazon). It's a silicone sports neckband with straps that attach to your Airpods, so you won't lose one if it falls out. It's also handy when you want to pop out your AirPods for a few minutes. If that's too bulky for you, the Anti Lost Cord Sport Lanyard ($10.99, check price on Amazon) is a simple strap with magnets that turn your headphones into a necklace when not in use.

For earbuds that come with double or triple-flanged eartips, you may find they stay put better than the regular tips. And check to see if your earbuds are compatible with Comply TrueGrip Pro ($24.99, you can buy them on Amazon), which prevents slipping when you exercise and moisture from getting in your earbuds.

Still using corded earbuds? Try looping the cable that connects them behind your head and around the top of each ear. For eartips that are angled to fit in the ear canal, swap them to place the side marked “L” in your right ear and the side marked “R” in your left ear.

And if you're simply ready to upgrade to something better, find out why we called the Technics EAH-AZ80 the perfect earbuds for music lovers.

[Images: Techlicious, Keybudz]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.

Discussion loading

Just received an iPhone 5

From Dot on February 15, 2013 :: 1:07 pm

Just received an iPhone 5 ans actually hate the earphone that came with it. They hurt my ears sooo much, I needed to go back to my older pair.

Do you know of any way, I can do anything with them so I can wear them?


For a more comfortable fit,

From Suzanne Kantra on April 04, 2014 :: 2:51 am

For a more comfortable fit, you can try the EarSkinz EarPod Covers ($10.95 on Amazon). I’ve used the version for the EarBuds and the thin plastic cover is soft and comfortable.


earbuds advice

From Sam Negri on February 18, 2018 :: 5:13 pm

I have some Bose sports earbuds (wired) that have been most uncomfortable. I noticed you suggested putting the L in the right ear and the R in the left. I do not understand the logic but I have to say, it made a huge difference.


HAHA it worked!

From adam on November 03, 2020 :: 2:29 pm

I had these stupid fitting but good-sounding akg earbuds from my girlfriend’s phone. They would always be loose and wanting to come out.  I put them in the opposite of what they were labeled, and although still clearly not meant to be worn this way because of the labeling,and that they look funny, but they are actually seated better this way somehow. Can’t shake them out.

Mine hurt my ears too

From Matt on May 06, 2014 :: 9:08 am

Make sure that they are in the right ears, for me that was the problems


You have...

From Mike on December 15, 2017 :: 8:18 pm

...more than one right ear???


hurt ears sooo bad

From JC Mac on December 29, 2017 :: 10:34 pm

I have the same problem and I am not happy that we paid good big money for a high end product and the only recourse is not a company solution like options for a better fit BUT to spend more $ for after market fixes from a new string of companies that figured out the OEM feels consumer issues with fit does not effect the overall sales after market companies see the problem and the $$opportunity. ..



From Bee on November 22, 2018 :: 6:04 pm

Hello JC, they are more expensive due to the quality of sound - not the fit. it’s better to research more into the product you’re buying before doing so (especially with expensive ones).
as such you would be better off not trying to refund the earbuds, but instead, opt for one of the options listed above - refunding perfectly fine earbuds is kinda a waste of time and money since you don’t usually get the full price back (for using them before).


Better Reason

From VoiceOfLogic on April 17, 2019 :: 9:12 pm

if they don’t fit or sit properly or comfortably in the ear, who gives a shit about the quality of sound? that doesn’t make sense!
if I can’t have the headphones on, there is no quality. the quality is pointless, cuz none of us can wear it.
i hate this new Headphone design. it started with Apple, and now with Samsung and everyone else… can’t I just buy one pair of earbuds, with the old fashioned silicon cushion that goes into my ear, and not the weird ones that fit outside the inner ear? who designed this?

Thanks ... very helpful

From Mark Trencher on April 04, 2014 :: 11:41 am

Thanks, Suzanne. I just ordered the Earbudi clips; they sound like exactly what I need. Keep uo the good work.—Mark


muito bom

From mauro on April 04, 2014 :: 1:37 pm

onde posso comprara esse fone de ouvido



From Mike on December 15, 2017 :: 8:20 pm

On the compromised possum is an egg phone


other options

From teejayeff on April 04, 2014 :: 1:53 pm

Check instructables or for some ideas on making a custom-fit pair using your buds and some surgical-grade silicone. There’s also a tip for using a single small bead of silicone in the cup area of earbuds that already fit; this creates a semi-custom fit for you, seals against noise relatively well, and don’t flex around much.

My best fit so far is with the Bose earbuds, not cheap though. These have a fitting just like the BudLocks, helping keep them in place and still very comfortable.


Bose earbuds

From Manny on December 31, 2018 :: 3:33 pm

Which bose earbuds mate? And can you use say the bose “winged” or what youre reffrring to on the sennheiser wireless?


Clip is the best way

From Imran Hunzai on November 24, 2014 :: 5:59 am

Clip is the best way if buds don’t settle.


Millimeter size PLEASE!

From Mel Fee on July 15, 2015 :: 6:16 pm

I just put a “small” pill in my ear; it fit. Size of the pill?  10mm. Now, that was easy. But I still don’t know which headset, buds, whatever to buy.
Am I clear here?



From Shawn on December 22, 2015 :: 8:24 am

+1 for standardized mm. It’d be like buying a new pair of shoes. You’d learn your size like shoes or pants.



From Sky Du on October 09, 2015 :: 5:30 am

I also bought the same watch as long as a $9.99 in Getone APP


Best Headphones Under $50

From The Sound Fusion on April 23, 2016 :: 9:58 am

Thanks, Suzanne. I just ordered BudLocks Earphone Sport Grips after your recommendation and it seems like the buyers are happy after having them. Thanks for great info. Keep it Up.


Well most of the time

From BrownLee on October 12, 2016 :: 12:01 am

Well most of the time you just need to seal your ear canal with the eartip to get the best sound. Simply pushing an eartip into your ear often isn’t enough to create a proper seal. Try gently pulling on the outer rim of your ear to ease the tip into a comfortable position. I just found these tips too at After I read one of their articles, I personally tried and noticed a drop in ambient noise when the tip is seated correctly. And when you’re listening to music, you’ll notice more range, especially bass. Try it.


What should I do

From Omni Gonach on December 09, 2016 :: 8:42 am

I have ear buds and the right one fits perfectly and never loosens but the left one just wont stay in and I’m wearing them right right in right ear left in left ear.I’ve tried the rap around the top of the ear trick but that doesn’t work.And I dont know what to do.Have any suggestions


Switch the ear sides.

From BlazingFennekin on August 14, 2017 :: 5:58 am

I don’t know if the title says it but when you wrap the earbuds over top put the right on the left and the left in the right.


Very useful ... thanks

From Afshin Hoseini on December 10, 2016 :: 2:21 pm

Very useful ... thanks


Nice story title.

From Steve on March 02, 2017 :: 10:36 pm

The first authoritative instruction i read told me to fit them the “right way.”  Your intro works Thank you.


Ear anatomy

From Tsuri on April 15, 2017 :: 1:10 pm

There is a common variation in people’s ears is never discussed but dramatically affects how earphone fit. Check out

For some people the tragus and the antitragus are flat and form a pocket in which to put the ear piece. The iPhone standard earphone slips right in and stay put. In my case they both stick straight out and I cannot handle the earphones that do not insert into the canal.


a new, individual solution ...

From Tom on May 20, 2017 :: 7:20 am

... is AuricleFits that I just developed. (patent pending)
They are individually produced earbud-adapters, fitting into your ear like an in-ear-monitor but do not touch your ear canal. Thus, you do not hear every step or your breathing. They have a holder for your earbuds keeping them safe in place. Check it our at
All the best,

Reply tom

From sharon austin on October 19, 2021 :: 5:26 pm

tom i am interested in your suggestion here but the page link says cannot be reached.  please tell me how to get to the product.  thank you.


Ear health is important too

From facebook10213162275795932 on May 26, 2017 :: 12:38 pm

Sealing the ear for a couple of hours each day will make them sweat,  but in ear fitted buds will block the flow of air and its possible to get fungal infections or mouldy ears. You’ll know by the distinct damp old towel smell. I wipe the ear gels and buds daily with a quick dry antiseptic and clean entrance to ear daily, drying properly and wiping with a cotton wool (do not insert inside the inner part of the ear canal though) that has a couple of squirts of Caneston spray to prevent candida/fungal infections.

I use the Samsung In Ear type with silicone tips and find the fitted outer part is too large so I trim a minute amount off the outer edge with sharp scissors, then smooth it. But you have to take care you don’t cut too far. The outer gels do get softer, you can try wearing them without your headphones in until they’ve softened a but.

Avoid pulling earphones in and out of ears repeatedly while using as that can cause abrasions and soreness. If I want to pop to the bathroom without my device, I just unplug the earphones but leave them in, tucking the lead away safely. That saves my ears getting rubbed from constantly pulling earphones out.


What about AXUM? finally, someone

From michal on December 23, 2017 :: 2:56 am

What about AXUM? finally, someone is making wireless headphones for RUNNERS!!!! and not just another gaming/Netflix earbuds… to be honest, I really doubt that there’s a better pair of this completely wireless earbuds - can’t wait to get mine


Samsung Level U Pro wireless headphones

From JC Mac on December 29, 2017 :: 10:12 pm

My DNA got me a cute nose with matching sized ears. ears are literally 2.5 inches from top to bottom of the lobes (1 might think freaky small but I am a petite 5’ 4”) the painful issue with ear buds is the cartilage at the canal and the short neck between the hard plastic housing of the speakers and the stem. you can’t find a fix to get to big to fit into too small these ear buds are hard wired


What? Do I have to

From Ben on March 06, 2018 :: 5:43 pm

What? Do I have to pay extra money to be able to use some some not physiological shape headphones? No thanks!


Apple has ceased to be Apple

From Phil W on April 29, 2018 :: 6:50 pm

Steve Jobs would be turning in his grave. This is how Apple operates nowadays: instead of just making great products that work seemlessly, they make products so that in order to fix problems with the first mentioned product you need to buy more products. There is no better example of this then the headphones. Firstly they decide to have no headphone jack but then give you an adapter anyways, which makes the product look broken to begin with. Then they change the standard headphones so don’t fit people’s ears!! Funny how the headphone size hasn’t been a problem for 15 years of Apple headphones until now! Is this a ploy to get us all to buy Beats headphones??


Thanks for the tips!!

From Sue on August 08, 2018 :: 12:58 pm

I just picked up a set of bluetooth wireless ear buds (like Air Pods), and they’re marked “R” and “L” - I tried them in the appropriate ears and they didn’t fit.  Followed your advice and switched them - and they fit!  Weird. 
I have particularly small ear canals and it’s hard for me to find an earbud that fits without falling out or hurting my ears - even the smallest silicone covers for the earbuds tend to make my ears hurt after a while.  So far, this simple little trick seems to work!


Reversing earphones?

From Brian M on July 17, 2020 :: 3:03 pm

I just read the paragraph below.  Is the instruction backward?  The one marked ‘L’ should be in the right ear and vice versa?

Try looping the cable that connects them behind your head and around the top of each ear. For eartips that are angled to fit in the ear canal, place the side marked “L” in your right ear and the side marked “R” in your left ear. Some headphones, like those made by Shure are designed to be worn this way, so check before swapping sides.


Yep, it's correct

From Josh Kirschner on July 17, 2020 :: 4:13 pm

When you loop the earbuds over the top of your ear they will be upside down, so the left bud will go in your right ear and vice versa. This only matters if the buds are angled - straight buds can go in either ear.



From JESSE on October 04, 2021 :: 7:31 pm

Those of us that user hearing aides can’t use ear buds.
Any over or on ear suggestions?


How about open-ear headphones?

From Josh Kirschner on October 05, 2021 :: 6:22 pm

If you wear a hearing aid, these open ear headphone options may work really well for you. They won’t put any pressure on your hearing aid and will enable you to still hear other sounds around you.


Earbuds fix!

From Gary Lamb on February 10, 2022 :: 10:41 am

I reversed my earbud tips and found that the bass response is better and the clarity is consistent. They are snug and I can wear them much longer!


Ear buds gel cushion come off

From Allan MacManes on July 13, 2022 :: 11:57 am

I have tried several ear buds. Anker does not sell any replacement cushion. I tried generic cushions and have had the cushion come off in my ear. I have had to use tweezers to get them out. How do I get cushions to fit my ears but also to stay on? Is there any practical solution without spending a fortune on custom ear buds?


Comply makes tips that a

From Suzanne Kantra on July 13, 2022 :: 1:05 pm

Comply makes tips that are designed to fit specific Anker earbuds. Here’s the page on their site:


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