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It’s so common now to see ear buds dangling from the heads of passersby, sticking out from a jogger’s ears or even being used by the business professional across from you on the train, listening to their motivational audiobook. With ear buds being so commonly used in modern society, have you ever stopped to ask yourself how to use ear buds correctly?
It might surprise you that just pulling out the ear buds you got for free with your phone, mindlessly jamming them into your ears and setting off on your day might give you a less-than-optimal experience. Could there be a better way? Let’s explore how we can take a better approach to using and shopping for these personal audio devices that have become such an important part of our morning commute.
What Are Ear Buds?
To understand how to use ear buds most effectively, it’s important to get a few of the basics covered up front to avoid confusion later in the article. Ear buds, sometimes confused with in-ear headphones, are small audio devices that rest just inside the ear of the listener. These devices rely on the concha ridge at the center of the outer ear to hold the device in the listener’s ear, but do not completely seal the ear canal from outside noise.
You are probably most familiar with the white-colored ear buds that come packaged with Apple’s iPhone. These would be the best, and by far the most popular example of ear buds. These ear buds, as well as many bought in a store, can feature a mic and in-line audio controls to help you adjust the volume, pause your audio or answer a call. It’s important to mention, not all ear buds offer this feature, or are compatible with your brand of phone, so refer the packaging for features, compatibility and other instructions on how to use ear buds with your particular phone.
Ear Buds vs. Headphones
On some occasions, you’ll hear ear buds and in-ear headphones mentioned interchangeably, but these products can differ greatly in design and use-case, which affects how you will use your ear buds correctly. Ear buds and headphones differ in the following ways:
Design & Fit
As we mentioned before, ear buds sit just inside the user’s ear, while in-ear headphones can be inserted directly into the ear canal. This difference in design and fit inside the ear can help or hinder you depending on your needs. Also, headphones can encompass another section of audio devices such as on-ear and over-ear headphones, which are physically much larger and can rest on top of or completely surround the ear.
Ear buds are known to let more outside audio pass through to the ear which can be preferable when safety is compromised by the sealed-off feeling that in-ear headphones can have. You can probably imagine the feeling of being sealed off from the world. It can make commuting through town somewhat dangerous.
Meanwhile, you can also imagine walking to work in a busy city, only to hear the city’s noises over your favorite listening material. This is where your intended use case for the ear buds becomes a great way to create criteria you want your ear buds to meet.
There are also some ear buds that feature a design that loops the audio wire above and over the ear, with some styles featuring an extra piece of material behind the ear to secure the ear buds in place. These are commonly used to eliminate the ear buds from falling out the ear during physical activity that could dislodge them.
Sound Quality & Price
As for a price and sound quality, ear buds are not generally the best sound but can be purchased for very affordable prices which allow you to not feel so bad for sweating on them, beating them up with your daily gym routine or possibly losing them between the couch cushions. Ear buds really are the workhorses of the audio world.
Headphones are usually much higher in price and quality. You may even be familiar with headphones that feature noise-cancellation technology. It’s now common to see passengers on flights use this technology to drown out the loud sounds of the plane’s engines.
How To Use Ear Buds
Now let’s get into the meat and potatoes of how to use ear buds. Whether you’re a champion or a pedestrian, it helps to know the do’s and don’ts of ear buds.
Properly seat them into your ears.
Here’s one way that will offer you superior sound and comfort: Begin by inserting the earbud into your ears and push them in slightly. Second, pull each earlobe downward with the opposite hand to open your ear canal, and use your other hand to further insert the earbud in the ear canal. The point isn’t to push it too far in, but just enough to get a better fit and sound from the ear buds. Now, just repeat on the other side.
Buy the right design for your use-case.
If you will use the ear buds for sports, consider getting a pair that runs the wire over and behind your ear with some extra support to keep it in place. It can be really distracting to have your ear buds keep falling out in the middle of running or jumping.
Improvise with the cheap stuff.
Even if you’re just using the ear buds that came with your phone, and they don’t secure onto the back of your ear, you can still get creative and loop the wire over your ear when running, or pin the wire to your shirt if they are getting tugged out of your ears.
Select the right rubber tip for your ear size when learning how to use ear buds.
This tip can offer a profound difference in audio quality and comfort, too. Many ear buds come with an assortment of included tips, so try each one, or better yet, try two different sizes on each ear while listening to music to compare the amount of seal and fit of your ear buds side by side. You can even buy third-party rubber tips that offer different shapes and sizes for all shapes of ears.
Clean your ear buds thoroughly.
Clean them before or after using them or even establish a routine to make sure they stay sanitized. Studies have shown earbud users have substantially more bacteria inside their ears, so do yourself a favor and keep them clean to avoid germ build-up and irritation.Upgrade your out-of-the-box pair.
Having a cheap pair to throw around can be great for sports, but if you’re looking to just sit back and listen to music, select a more expensive, higher quality pair of ear buds. Most people are fine with what comes with their phone, but for a small price you can have a much better audio experience.
Don’t blast your music at full volume for too long.
Due to the proximity of the earbud to your eardrum, it is much easier to damage your hearing than you might imagine. If you’re cranking it to 11 to drown out street noise, consider opting for a better seal that can inhibit noise from entering the ear canal.
Don’t leave them loose in your pocket or bag.
How many times have you had to untangle your ear buds before being able to enjoy them? I’d bet every single time if you don’t put them away properly. Wrap them around your hand and into a loop before jamming them into your pocket. Better yet, before putting them into your bag, try putting them in a Ziploc sandwich bag. It sounds weird, but now I do this with all the cables I put in my bag and instead of a tangled mess of wires, I can just pull each bag out and immediately use the cable I need.
Avoid getting your ear buds wet.
With the affordability of headphones, you might not worry about using a cheap pair for working out, but keeping them out of the pool and drying them off after your workout will keep them functioning properly for a long time. There are a few high-end pairs of ear buds that are sweat-proof, but most of them need to be dry to function properly.
Don’t let other people borrow your ear buds.
You wouldn’t let your co-worker borrow your toothbrush, would you? Don’t let other people use this personal item, or at least sanitize them thoroughly before using them again.
So now that you’ve studied the many ways of how to use ear buds, and have graduated at the top of your class, will you be bold enough to use these tactics? Whether it’s selfishly protecting your hearing, being courteous while jamming in public, or just wanting to get the best value when buying your next pair of ear buds, using these tips will help you be a better consumer.
At a minimum, with a modern smartphone and the knowledge of how to use ear buds, you can instantly transport yourself away from your surroundings and into a raging rock concert, a mellow podcast or an informative audiobook. Where are you escaping to today?