How do I make my Shure e2c's not hurt my ears?
June 14, 2005 8:01 AM   Subscribe

I've got a pair of Shure e2c's for listening to music on my iPod and as noise cancelling discreet headphones go, they're great. However as comfortable and secure in the ear headphones go, they suck. What am I doing wrong?

I've tried using the different attachments and have found that either the foam or the small caps give the best results. However, both are reasonably painful due to what I think is a build up of pressure in the ear caused by putting them in and the buds have a tendancy to slip out until they eventually pop completely out of my ear.

On any day, either both are completely difficult to manage - or one fits perfectly but the other is a pain in the backside. As such, I spend far too much time popping them back into my ear than I shound and this only serves to make my ears even more painful and for people to look at me oddly.

I'm loath to sell them (but will have to if I can't get on with them) since the noise cancelling feature is a boon on the noisy underground and I like the fact that they're discrete (so it doesn't look like I'm wearnig two cans on my ears) but I can't cope with them if they continue like this.

Can anyone offer any advice on how I can make them more comfortable or secure?
posted by ralawrence to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds like a case of your ears simply not being right for the product. None the less, here's how I use them. I use the medium sized foam tubes (rather than the standard rubber ends). Luckily for me they stay in place quite well, but if I need them to be really secure I rotate the earbud so that it is wedged in my ear, under the hood of the inner cavity (if that makes sense).

I only do this when I'm in a very noisy location though - or on a flight. Sorry I can't offer any more advice than that.
posted by Glum at 8:19 AM on June 14, 2005

Shure just came out with gray soft flex sleeves that are a marked improvement over the clear ones. The clear flex sleeves were almost painful in my smaller ear canals but the gray soft ones are just about perfect. It is my understanding that new E2cs are now coming with these soft flex sleeves, so you may be able to get Shure to send you some gratis.
posted by zsazsa at 8:25 AM on June 14, 2005

I don't have those but I did buy a pair of Etymotic 6 which are a different isolator headphone. I found they hurt until I realized that I was putting them too far into my ear. Once that was sorted out they worked fine.

Then, by chance, I came across somene selling a pair of Etymotic 6I headphones and I bought those and sold mine. The 6I earbud is slightly thinner than the 6 and has 3 flanges instead of two. The difference was night and day. Whereas the 6s weren't "uncomfortable" I was aware of something being in my ear. With the 6I, I forget they're there, physically. I hear the music so know they are but I have no sense of something touching my ear.

So, though I have no Shure's, I suggest:

-- make sure you're putting them in right. (does the manual explain this? here's the manual for the 6i--it's very important to "open" your ear by pulling on it while inserting them.)
-- it's possible, as Glum says, that they just don't fit your ear right (maybe you have small ears). see if they make a thinner model or switch to a competitor.
posted by dobbs at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2005

Shure recommends pulling up on the top of your ear as you're inserting the headphones. I thought that was a bunch of hooey and never bothered, but after not being happy with the earphones at first, I tried it and it did make a difference in the sound and fit. If you're not doing that, I'd try it. It won't help with the pressure build-up, but it might help in getting them to stay in your ears.
posted by hootch at 8:38 AM on June 14, 2005

I had the same problem with those earbuds. I bought them after reading a review by Gary Krakow. I was frustrated by the fit and disappointed in the sound. I consulted HeadRoom for advice, and now I use the Sennheiser 580 (also reviewed by Krakow).

It would be nice if someone made compact earbuds that fit comfortably and sounded great. But until pigs fly, I use the superior tool. I might be willing to trade some comfort for convenience; but I listen mostly to jazz and classical (as opposed to bass-thumping house), and the difference in sound between earbuds and headphones is huge. Earbuds suck.
posted by cribcage at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2005

I have and use the same model - you should have received three different sized earpieces as well as disposable foam earpiece inserts. Are you saying none of these fit your ears? Are they too small, too large? Do they feel "pinched"?

I take it you have also visited the website with the snazzy flash guide to correct insertion?
posted by longbaugh at 10:02 AM on June 14, 2005

Well, the in-ear models just don't work for some people, so you may be one of them. But I'd suggest that you persevere: I found them a little uncomfortable to begin with, but I use them a lot now.

You should definitely try the different tips: they all have slightly different fits to them, so try them all out. I prefer the rubber tips, but some people swear by the foam.

Don't force them into your ears: a gentle pressure is all that's needed. You can also try lifting the top of your ear or rotating the phones slightly as you insert them. Also try inserting them with your mouth open. It looks odd, but it opens up the ear canal and deals with any pressure difference.

If they are slipping out, they aren't inserted properly. When properly fitted, they should fit comfortably and securely.

If you want a perfect fit, some of the manufacturers (such as Shure and Ultimate Ears) offer phones that use a custom-made earpiece. They ain't cheap, but they do provide the ultimate fit and are what professional musicians use on stage.

(Shameless self publicity: I just reviewed a load of headphones, including the e2cs for PC World July issue: get your copy now or read it here!)
posted by baggers at 10:30 AM on June 14, 2005

I have the E2cs as well, and I've found that despite having a fairly large head, I have to use the smallest foam pieces. I also rotate them on the way in quite a lot -- in fact, by the time I generally have a snug, good-sounding fit, the earbud itself is turned almost 90 degrees downward. Once they're in, I generally don't notice them, and I've almost never had any trouble with pressure buildup. And once they're in, they never *ever* come out. You sure you're wearing them deep enough? (I know, that's probably a really annoying and obvious thing to ask, but I can't even imagine mine falling out once I get them to the proper depth.)

Using the plastic sleeves, even the smallest ones, gave me shooting ear pain for days after I wore them. Those're no good.
posted by logovisual at 12:00 PM on June 14, 2005

ralawrence posted "However, both are reasonably painful due to what I think is a build up of pressure in the ear caused by putting them in and the buds have a tendancy to slip out until they eventually pop completely out of my ear."

I know what you mean about the "build up of pressure". Here's how I deal with it: I use the plastic caps (not the compressible foam), and I push them into my ear canal until it is somewhat uncomfortable. I basically jam them in there as far as I can (yeah, that would just delight my otorhinolaryngologist). Then, I "vent" the pressure by tilting them slightly such that the seal against my ear canal is broken. They're comfortable and secure thereafter. It took a bit of getting used to, but it's quick and automatic now.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:30 PM on June 14, 2005

If you use the foam caps, make sure you squish them down as much as possible before putting them in. They then expand in your ear, which not only makes them easier to insert but more snug.
posted by mikeh at 2:13 PM on June 14, 2005

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