Wearing Headphones and Earbuds With Ear Piercings and Other Mods – Everything You Need To Know

There are now a lot of different types of headphones and earbuds that come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and styles. There are also now a lot of different types of ear piercings, mods, and jewelry that people like to get and wear. Both of these things deal with your ears, obviously, and as a result people ask a lot of questions about wearing any given pair headphones or earbuds with any of these various ear piercings and jewelry, i.e., can I wear that pair of headphones if I have this type of piercing?

This article will cover what you need to know about properly wearing a pair of headphones or earbuds with ear piercings, as well as answer the commonly asked questions about what headphones or earbuds do or don’t work with any given type of ear piercing or jewelry.

Is It Safe to Wear Headphones or Earbuds After Getting a New Ear Piercing?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the mainly important thing with new piercings is to keep them clean and avoid infection while they heal. Fussing with earbuds or headphones can result in an unclean surface or finger touching the piercing and possibly infecting it. For that reason, we’d say it’s safe to wait to wear either headphones or earbuds until a new piercing is fully healed, or doing so very cautiously in a way that does not touch or interfere at all with the new piercing and cause any pain or discomfort.

An Overview of Popular/Common Ear Piercings

Below is a diagram of what some of the most popular and common ear piercings look like and where they are on the ear:

image credit: Peter Niemayer

The names of the above piercings are as follows:

  1. Helix
  2. Industrial
  3. Rook
  4. Daith
  5. Tragus
  6. Snug
  7. Conch
  8. Anti-Tragus
  9. Lobe

General Guidelines for Wearing Headphones or Earbuds With Ear Piercings or Other Mods

Whether you can safely and comfortably wear any given pair of headphones or earbuds will mainly depend on if their contact point on your head and/or ear is in the same spot as any given piercing or jewelry. Sometimes a headphone or earbud contact point and a piercing or piece of jewelry will interfere too much with each other, but it’s also possible that they won’t, even if they are touching.

Simply looking at the above diagram will give you a pretty good idea of what will obviously not work. Beyond that, though, there will probably be some unavoidable trial and error to see which product fits and feels best on you, but keep in mind this is true regardless of whether or not someone has ear piercings or not.

That said, we do have a few general guidelines for how to wear headphones or earbuds with earrings:

Guideline #1 – Opt For Looser Headphones

Headphones with a relatively light clamp force, meaning how tightly they squeeze on your head, will probably feel and work better than other monitor style headphones that are designed to fit very tightly on your head to maximize isolation, among other things.

Guideline #2 – Opt For Larger Headphones

Larger over-ear headphones, as opposed to smaller on-ear headphones, that give a wider berth around the various parts of your ear can generally accommodate ear piercings better.

Guideline #3 – Opt For Softer Pads

Softer foam style pads will probably work and feel better than harder leather style pads, the latter of which are usually used with tighter monitoring headphones with more clamp force anyhow.

example of relaxed fit headphones with soft ear pads

The open back Philips SHP9500 (reviewed here) have a very soft and relaxed fit

example of tight fitting headphones with firm earpads

…as opposed to the monitoring Audio Technica ATH-M40x (reviewed here) which feel almost vise like

Guideline #4 – Opt For Smaller Earbuds

Thinner earbuds with longer nozzles will generally interfere less with piercings than larger and contoured (shaped like your ear opening) earbuds will.

example of thin and small earbuds

Etymotic for example makes great minimalist earbuds

example of larger contoured earbuds

…as opposed to KZ earbuds which, while generally good and comfortable, are pretty bulky

Guideline #5 – Opt For Comfortable Tips

different earbud tips

The tip is the rubber or foam piece of an earbud that actually sits flush with the flesh of your ear. You can usually take off a pair of tips and replace them with a different set, and replacement tips can come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, materials, and styles. Getting a pair of earbuds that comes with a lot of different replacement tips is a good idea to maximize your chances of getting a solid fit with any given product.

The “Can I Wear This With That” FAQ Section

Now that we’ve covered the general guidelines and hopefully given you a decent idea of what to look for, here we’ll answer the commonly asked specific questions about wearing headphones and earbuds with certain types of ear piercings.

Can you wear headphones with an “outer perimeter” piercing? (helix, industrial, conch, lobe, tragus)

Any of these piercings could definitely interfere with a headphone or make it uncomfortable. This is a situation where you want to be totally, 100% sure the piercing is fully healed and pain free.

An over-ear headphone with a soft foam pad could work well here, but some so called over-ear headphones either sit flush with or kind of on top of the outside of the ear and might not work.

Over ear headphones almost always sit on top of and put a little pressure on the tragus.

We’d recommend avoiding monitoring style headphones with a tight clamp force.

A smaller on-ear headphone that doesn’t rest on or near the piercing could work fine as well.

Can you wear earbuds with an “outer perimeter” piercing? (helix, industrial, conch, lobe, tragus)

We don’t see any reason that a standard earbud would interfere with an “outer perimeter” piercing. The only thing you might need to be careful of is if you’re using ear hooks or otherwise wrapping the wire behind your ear – don’t accidentally snag any jewelry. Ouch.

A larger contoured earbud or earbud with a wing tip might interfere with a conch piercing if the piece of jewelry went in far enough.

Can you wear headphones with an “inner perimeter” piercing? (rook, daith, snug, anti-tragus)

Most over-ear headphones will circumvent these piercings and won’t interfere with them, with the one exception maybe being a snug piercing. Even if a headphone pad isn’t touching a snug piercing, it’s not uncommon for an ear pad to push a little down on the outer ear which can possibly pull on the piercing a little bit.

Can you wear earbuds with an “inner perimeter” piercing? (rook, daith, snug, anti-tragus)

A standard hanging earbud that’s on the smaller side can probably fit around any of these piercings, but this is once again a situation where you want to be 100% sure any such piercings are fully healed up, because you will almost certainly touch them with both the earbud and your fingers when you take the earbuds on and off.

Something to keep in mind is, even if the set position of the earbud doesn’t interfere with any of these piercings, most earbuds need to be rotated/twisted into place, which might further interfere.