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No More Pain: How to Comfortably Wear Headphones with Glasses

Last updated: 11 months ago
7 min read

Say goodbye to the pain of headphones squeezing your glasses so tightly it becomes unbearable.

This article provides practical solutions for reducing or even preventing pain when wearing headphones with glasses.

Wearing headphones with glasses
CONTENTS (show more)

    How to Reduce Discomfort When Wearing Headphones and Glasses

    Headphones sandwich your glasses between the earlobe and your head, eventually leading to pain (more on that later).

    Try these solutions to prevent the pain with headphones in the first place:

    Get glasses with thinner frames

    Thinner frames might work if your headphones push the top of your earlobes into the frames (earpieces).

    Earpieces rest on the outer side of your earlobes, which is slightly lower than the top of your earlobes.

    • Thinner frames minimize the chance of the upper earlobe to touch the eyeglasses. This reduces the chance of the two parts pinching each other and causing pain.
    • Get glasses with straight earpieces rather than rounded ones. More on that later.

    If the pain is caused by headphones pressing in the earpiece directly and not by pinching the earlobes, the following solution might work.

    Stretch headphones to reduce clamping force

    Some headphones have a tight grip to ensure they don’t fall off your head. However, that means they will push your glasses into your head with greater force, causing immediate pain.

    1. Take a box that’s wider than your head (or a stack of books) and place it between the earcups.
    2. Leave your headphones for 24 hours to stretch and try them again.
    3. If they still clamp too much, repeat the process, and add an extra thin book to increase the stretch.
    Loosen the headphones
    Leaving your headphones extended for a couple of hours loosens their clamping pressure.

    Be careful not to overstretch so you don’t fracture the headphones or make them too loose.

    Choose over-ear headphones

    On-ear headphones (with earpads that sit on your ears) are bad for comfort. Especially sport-oriented on-ears with stronger clamping force.

    Over-ear headphones encompass the entire ear, which greatly improves comfort by reducing the chance of pressing the earlobe against the glasses’ frame.

    Choose headphones with earcups that move in all directions

    Some headphones have stiff yokes, which restrict earcup movements. As a result, earpads apply more pressure in one area than the other.

    Audio-Technica ATH-700X are headphones like that, applying greater pressure at the bottom of your ears. In contrast, Apple AirPods Max squeeze more at the top. The latter is especially problematic for glasses wearers.

    Thicker earpads are better

    The best solution to prevent pain from wearing headphones with glasses is to use thicker, plusher earpads with memory foam.

    Plush earpads
    Thick, memory foam earpads (up) and shallow, thin foam earpads (down).

    Memory foam dampens the pressure from a clamp, whereas thickness prevents your ears from touching the driver. It’s overall the best solution for comfort.

    This is how you replace earpads.

    Unconventional solutions

    • Using glasses with a strap: One company can make you prescription VR Frame glasses that you wear with a strap. They’re specially designed for headphone users with glasses, but their design might not appeal to all.
    • Cutting a gap through earpads: If you don’t mind using a DIY solution to relieve the stress off your glasses, cutting a small gap to fit your earpieces should do the trick. It can actually be better for overall sound quality since you get a better seal than by letting earpads sit on your eyeglasses frame.
    If you don’t mind cutting into your headphone ear cushion to make some room for your glasses, it will do the trick.
    • Using Pince-nez glasses: These are old-fashioned glasses without earpieces. They pinch to your nose and come with a strap so they don’t fall on the floor. However, they’re a niche product.

    Read more on the topic:

    Why Wearing Glasses with Headphones is Uncomfortable

    Headphones cause ear pain to users with glasses due to 2 reasons.

    Earpads pushing frames into your head

    In this situation, earpads apply force to your earpiece and push it towards your head. The skin eventually gives and displaces (forms an indentation), so the earpiece presses directly onto your skull.

    As you know, most glasses frames are made from a solid material like plastic or metal. When you push a hard plastic against a hard bone, you start feeling pain.

    Earpads pushing earlobe into your earpiece

    This time, earpads might squeeze the top of your ears, which bend towards the earpiece.

    The cartilage inside your earlobes gets pressed into a solid plastic or metal earpiece, squashing it. Since ear cartilage doesn’t like that, you start feeling pain.

    Earpads squeeze ears
    Some headphone ear pads sit on top of your ears and push them into an earpiece.

    Different Types of Discomfort

    If earpieces from your glasses are pushed against your head, you might experience two things:

    • Headaches as the earpieces press against your temporal bone and temples, which are pretty sensitive. Any muscle tension in this area due to injury, stress, or anxiety can cause a headache or migraine, so you can expect the same when you apply pressure with earpieces.
    • Sore skin as earpieces press against the skin and agitate it, causing it to become red and itchy. You will also get more pronounced indentations behind your ears. But it goes away over time.

    What Ergonomics and Design Affects Comfort?

    Various headphone characteristics contribute to overall comfort. You can’t change some, but most are fixable to work with glasses.

    Clamping force

    All headphones have a clamping force as it keeps them on your head. The stronger the clamp, the more your headphones resist sudden head movements.

    • Strong clamping force might ensure stability but also create a lot of pressure against your head. Pressure against the temporal bone will result in headaches while pressing on your earlobes will cause pain.
    • Gentle clamping force is generally comfier but also annoying since any head movement results in headphones dislodging from your ears or even falling off your head.

    Material and thickness of ear padding

    The most important characteristic to ensure comfort is earpads. The more they breathe and the plusher they are, the better.

    Starting with exterior materials:

    • Velour is the best. It’s breathable, so you don’t have to worry about sweaty ears.
    • Leather (or other alternatives) can also feel nice but get hot over time, making your ears sweaty.
    • Hybrids are a mixture of leather and velour. Usually, velour touches your skin, whereas leather goes around and provides better passive isolation.
    Sony WH-CH710N earpads comparison
    On-ear and over-ear leather earpads, compared to over-ear velour ear pads.

    Now with internal materials:

    • Memory foam is the best ear cushion padding. It shapes itself based on your ears and will also put less stress on your earpieces.
    • Normal foam doesn’t compress as equally, which puts more stress on your earpiece.

    When it comes to overall thickness, bigger is usually better:

    • Thicker earpads are typically plusher, so they better absorb the clamping force, reducing stress on your ears and earpieces.
    • Shallower earpads sometimes work fine with glasses but should be avoided, just to make sure.

    Types of headphones

    • Over-ear headphones are the safest type of full-sized headphones if you want the best comfort. Their big ear cups are usually paired with equally big earpads that fit around your ears.

    That way, you don’t suffer pain from squishing your earlobes (theoretically). This also helps with glasses since earlobes don’t press against the earpieces.

    • On-ear headphones have smaller ear cups and ear cushions that sit directly on your ears. Even with gentle clamping force, they bend your earlobes, resulting in pain.

    Add glasses into the equation, and you get an even more exaggerated pain around your ears.

    Here’s more on over-ear vs on-ear headphones.

    Sony WH-CH510 on ears
    On-ear headphones press the earlobe into your earpiece behind your ears, which can get painful.
    • In-ear headphones are, of course, the best headphone style to use with glasses as they don’t interfere with each other, even if you wear them with the cable over the ear. The only type that might cause minor issues is ear hook earbuds.

    Glasses design

    Glasses usually come with straight or curved/rounded earpieces.

    Straight earpieces start grabbing your head above the ear and behind it. Because of that, they distribute their clamping force around a larger surface.

    When you use headphones, the earpiece distributes pressure against the entire temporal bone. It will cause headaches under pressure, but it’s less likely.

    Rounded earpieces are slightly raised and don’t touch your entire temporal bone. The contact point is somewhere behind the ear.

    Straight or curved glasses
    A more rounded frame of the glasses (left) compared to a straighter frame (right).

    While that reduces the chance of you getting a visible indentation on a temporal bone, they will pinch your earlobes quicker if earpads are too small.

    How to Wear Headphones with Glasses

    We covered all aspects of why wearing headphones with glasses can hurt and what are the best solutions and choices to achieve optimal comfort. Now, let’s summarize our findings.

    • Over-ear headphones are the best for users with glasses as they prevent earlobes from pinching into earpieces.
    • Avoid headphones with strong clamping force as they might cause headaches, even if you don’t wear glasses.
    • Plush, memory foam earpads are the way to go as they better distribute the clamping force and reduce pressure.
    • Next time, pick thin-framed glasses with straight earpieces that won’t press against your head as hard.
    • If nothing helps, try to buy glasses with a strap or modify your earpads by cutting a small channel where your earpieces are (that will permanently damage your earpads).

    Company Turtle Beach created a line of gaming headsets that use a special foam inside earpads that is softer on glasses, thus providing better comfort. Recon Spark are the last available.

    Here’s a general guide on how to properly wear headphones and earbuds (depending on type).

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Is it OK to wear glasses with a headset?

    It’s perfectly OK to wear glasses with a headset, as long as it uses thicker ear cushions with memory foam to reduce the pressure on the frame of your glasses.

    How do I make glasses not hurt when wearing my headset?

    You can make your glasses not hurt when wearing headsets by avoiding squeezing the upper part of your earlobes and, if possible, replacing earpads with plusher ones. If you’re buying new headsets, opt for over-ears with memory foam pads and moderate clamping force.

    Do over-ear headphones work with glasses?

    Over-ear headphones work best with glasses as they avoid pushing the upper part of your earlobes into your glasses. Headphones require plush memory foam earpads to ensure the best comfort.

    Do glasses affect headphone sound?

    Yes, glasses affect headphones’ sound by ruining the seal. The latter is vital for optimal bass response. However, while you can expect some change in bass performance, they don’t completely change the sound.

    Does wearing glasses affect noise cancelling?

    Yes, wearing glasses can affect noise cancelling by creating a gap between your earcups and the outside world. That hurts the overall passive noise isolation and active noise cancellation performance by letting in more ambient noise.

    Can you wear ear hook headphones with glasses?

    Yes, you can wear ear hook headphones with glasses. At least from our experience, there’s no difference in sound or comfort when taking glasses on or off.

    Read more:


    This is the sum of my experience of wearing headphones with glasses for years. Now you know everything about how to wear headphones with glasses comfortably and what to do when you experience discomfort.

    To summarize:

    • Choose over-the-ear headphones with plush, memory foam earpads
    • Choose glasses with thinner and straight frames

    To avoid painful headphones in the first place, check the most comfortable headphones.

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