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

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There are a lot of different types of ear piercings and other mods, and as a result we’ve noticed that there are a lot of questions floating around about wearing headphones or earbuds with any of them: can I wear X with Y ear pierce/jewelry/mod? And so on. This article will answer those questions and discuss everything you need to know.

But first, a preliminary reiteration of our disclaimer:

Nothing in this article is medical or professional advice – always defer to the instructions given by a properly licensed and qualified professional.

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

We do not advise wearing either headphones or earbuds until a new pierce/mod is fully healed, or doing so very cautiously in a way that does not interfere at all with the pierce/mod or cause any pain or discomfort.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the mainly important thing with new piercings/mods is to keep them clean and avoid infection. Fussing with earbuds or headphones can result in an unclean surface or finger touching the pierce/mod and possibly infecting it.

An Overview of Popular/Common Ear Piercings

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/earbuds will mainly depend on if their shape and resting location on your ear will impede upon any given piercing and the shape of the jewelry in place there.

Simply looking at the above diagram will give you a pretty good idea of what will obviously not work. Beyond that, though, there might be some unavoidable trial and error to see which product fits and feels best on you, but this is generally true for anyone purchasing headphones or earbuds whether they have ear piercings/mods or not.

There are a few general guidelines that are worth abiding by though:

  • Looser headphones with a relatively light squeeze or so called clamp force will probably feel and work better than some of the monitor style headphones that are designed to fit very tightly on your head and ears to help isolate among other things.
  • Soft 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.
  • Larger over-ear headphones that give a wider berth around the various parts of your ear can accommodate ear piercings/mods better.
  • 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
  • Thinner and smaller earbuds with longer nozzles will generally interfere less with piercings than larger and contoured (shaped like your ear) 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
  • There are all kinds of earbud tips that come in various shapes, sizes, materials, and styles – it’s definitely worth it to look into getting a pair of tips that fits you best.

The “Can I Wear X with Y” Section

Here we now assume that your ear piercing/mod is in place and fully healed, and that your piercer has said that using a pair of earbuds or headphones is OK.

We’re also assuming any jewelry in place is roughly the size and dimensions shown in the diagram, which we’ll link again:

Your mileage will obviously vary if you have any unusually shaped or large jewelry.

Below is the running list of every “can I wear X audio product with Y piercing/mod/jewelry?” that we can find or think of:

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.

In Conclusion

Said again, perhaps ad nauseum, always defer to the specific instruction of the licensed and qualified piercer who actually pierced your ears.

It’s best to play it safe and wait for any piercing to fully heal before using any headphones or earbuds with it, even if they’re not going to directly touch the piercing.

If a headphone causes any pain or discomfort, don’t use it! There are so many different brands and styles now that there’s no reason to settle for a fit that doesn’t feel pretty much perfect. This is true regardless of someone having piercings/mods or not.