Not another earbud question.
June 4, 2008 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Recommend-some-earbuds-that-meet-my-bizarrely-specific-criteria-filter: I like everything about my current earbuds except the fact that they're making my ears pop.

I bought these Sony earbuds (or another very similar model), the kind with the different sizes of plastic sleeves that stick directly into your ear and make a sort of seal, to use with my iPod about two years ago, and they've served me well. They're small and light, and they're cheap so I don't worry too much about losing them. The best thing about them is that they block exactly the right amount of sound for riding the subway- I can still hear enough outside sound that I'm aware of what's happening around me, but not so much that I have to turn up the volume to painful levels in order to to hear the music.

However, I'm becoming more and more convinced that the earbuds are at least partially responsible for the continuous blocked and popping ears that I've been experiencing for the past year or so. I had an ear infection the winter before last, and now I occasionally have days where it's like my ears never fully recovered. I know I'm using the correct size plastic sleeve for my ears, and I know I'm wearing them right, I clean them regularly, and they're comfortable when I wear them. so I think it's just that something about this type of earbud irritates my ear. Maybe it's the plastic, maybe it's the way they seal, I'm not sure. And if testing that hypothesis means an excuse for a headphone upgrade, so much the better.

Basically, I need small, light headphones that don't stick into my ear like those Sonys (I'm open to other ways of sticking into my ear that are less likely to be irritating) and block a moderate amount of outside sound. My budget is under $100. I could be convinced to spend more, but it would take some hard-core convincing.
posted by doift to Shopping (6 answers total)
I had a slightly embarassing (though I guess in retrospect there's no reason it should be) situation with my ears that I thought might be due to my long hours of wearing earbuds and also my hours of wearing earplugs at concerts to protect my hearing.

Chances are, the blocked/popping stuff isn't actually from the earbuds or irritation (if you're itching, on the other hand, that might be irritation)...

So here's the deal: There finally came a time where every morning, I'd wake up and my right ear felt plugged/blocked... but after maybe 20-30 minutes, it'd clear up. This progressively got worse over a few weeks ... then my left ear started up too.

I saw a doctor.. and what was ultimately the problem? Well, cleaning your ears isn't quite enough, because you're not cleaning the inner parts (and you shouldn't! it's dangerous! Don't stick q-tips INTO your ears!). In fact, if you are sticking q-tips into your ears, you've likely caused yourself the problem I had: Excess ear wax deep in the ear canal.

The ears do a pretty good job of cleaning themselves, and I'm pleased to say it took 30 years of buildup before I had this problem.. but it became bad... After several days of 3 times a day treatment with some fluid I had to pour into my ear, and a "booger sucker" used to wash out the ear with water, I finally had a literal breakthrough -- got all the wax out and had wonderfully clean ears. (Yes, technically you want/need some wax in there)...

Aaaanyhow - the point of this long winded story: It might not be your earbuds! You should have your ears examined by a doctor and see if you're starting down the path I ended up down...

If you still want new earbuds - the Shure E2C and E3Cs are similar to the sony earbuds but with much nicer sound.

Beyond that, you're going to be looking at can-style earphones if you want them to block out any sort of reasonable amount of sound. In which case I'd recommend Sony's MDR line, or anything that is recommended on DJ (as in vinyl, not radio) forums.
posted by twiggy at 12:00 PM on June 4, 2008

Are they causing your ears to pop maybe because you're wedging them in too much and they're stretching out the canal of your ear?
posted by tybeet at 12:28 PM on June 4, 2008

The popping etc. is usually from something happening in the inner ear, not the outer ear. Unless the earphones are irritating the tissue so much that it inflames the inner ear as well I doubt the earphones are responsible for this. More expensive ones (except for custom fitted ones) are not likely to irritate your ears less, and may in fact irritate them more. The higher end models are often actually larger in diameter to accommodate multiple drivers, each with their own passage.
posted by caddis at 12:31 PM on June 4, 2008

I would suggest the apple headphones that come with an iPod. I assume you didn't like the ones that came with your iPod, which is why you bought the Sony ones, but that was two years ago. The earbuds have changed a lot since then and the new ones are quite nice.
posted by alitorbati at 5:55 PM on June 4, 2008

As per twiggy...

Go to a doctor - this started happening to me when I was 30 and ever since, about once a year I have to get the damn things hosed out...

Of course, I also moved to a drier climate then, so that made the problem worse.
posted by jkaczor at 7:17 PM on June 4, 2008

I use these kind of earphones, because they produce the best sound, hands down. But one thing I notice is that if I put them in or take them out fast--as in just give them a tug without going slow, the suction within my ear will tug on my eardrum and for a split second it fucking hurts. And I'm no doctor, but I bet it's not good for my ears. So when you put the earphones in and especially when you take them out, do it slowly.
posted by zardoz at 8:45 PM on June 4, 2008

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