It is said that glasses and headphones go together like oil and water, but there is a lot you can do to minimize the pain, from choosing light over-ear headphones with soft and thick ear cushions to getting the proper glasses frame and even more.
Music is one of humanity’s crowning achievements.
That’s something we can all agree on. And as we evolved, the way we enjoy music evolved as well – from live performances to all sorts of audio devices that let us play analog or digital recordings on our devices.
But no listening experience feels as intimate as when you’re using headphones. Headphones let you escape into a world of music that’s solely your own.
So it really grinds our gears that bespectacled people have to suffer through physical plain just to be able to enjoy their music on their headphones.
Headphones and glasses just don’t mix. They’re a recipe for disaster, you could say.
However, there are things you can do to make this situation significantly more bearable, as we’ll show you in this article.
So without any further ado, let’s begin.
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Types of Headphones
The first thing we need to do on our quest for a better listening experience for bespectacled people is to pick the right type of headphones.
There are three types of headphones: over-ear headphones, on-ear headphones, and in-ear headphones, better known as earbuds.
Earbuds are easily the best choice for glasses wearers since they don’t make any contact with the frame of the glasses. But because of their diminutive size, earbuds simply can’t offer the sound other headphones can, so we’ll leave them out of the equation for now. In any case, if you’re here reading this articles, chances are you’re not interested in earbuds in the first place.
For eagle-eyed users, the choice between these two is solely down to preference. Over-ear headphones do enjoy the reputation of being more comfortable, but this doesn’t matter as much to them. But for those of us who aren’t blessed with such keen sight, this discrepancy in comfort is glorious several times.
This is because over-ear headphones only put pressure on the edges of the earlobes, as opposed to the entire earlobe, thus alleviating some of the pain. It may not sound like much, but having the headphones press around your ear instead of directly onto your ears – pushing the earpieces of your glasses directly into your skull – makes a world of difference in the long run.
There is no competition here: over-ear headphones win by a landslide for glasses wearers!
This doesn’t mean that you won’t feel any discomfort when wearing over-ear headphones. In all likelihood, you’ll have to let your ears rest frequently. But the pain won’t start nearly as quickly.
The Materials Used
Secondly, you’ll want to carefully consider what materials the headphone uses.
Heavier materials make for heavier headphones, and heavier headphones generally have a stronger clamping force. This is the power with which the headset hugs onto your head for stability. Strong clamping force can discourage even eagle-eyed shoppers, but considering how all this pressure is placed squarely on the ears – literally sandwiching the ears between the cans and the frame of the glasses – this is an even bigger problem for us.
Lighter headphones generally have a more bearable clamping force, but this isn’t always the case, so make sure to read the reviews.
What’s more, you should consider the material of the ear cushions. Softer materials like memory foam are preferable here since they can adjust to the contours of your ear better. This is not only important for comfort, but also sound quality. If you can’t get a proper seal when you put on your headphones the audio quality will suffer from it and perhaps even become warped. Stiff materials like leather aren’t as good at adapting to the contours of your ear, so when used in tandem with glasses they not only put you under more strain, but they also tend to let some of the sound out.
Therefore, soft materials are paramount as they offer both unparalleled comfort and better sound.
Furthermore, you should also pay attention to the thickness of the ear cushions. The more padding there is, the lighter the weight will feel. So for ear cushions, you want a soft material and lots of it.
There is a market that is starting to embrace the need for glasses-compatible headphones and that’s the gaming market.
More and more gaming headphones (mostly headsets, actually) are being released that offer some features that actively help make it easier to wear both glasses and headphones at the same time.
If you’re a gamer, you should take full advantage of this. All the other measures we’ve recommended so far help alleviate some of the strain glasses and headphones produce when mixed together, but the strain is still there – they’re reactive measures. This can’t at all compare to the feeling you get when manufacturers take proactive measures to help ensure comfort. They may not be the most affordable headphones or headsets, but they’re worth every penny. We recommend the Turtle Beach Elite Pro 2 and the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas, although the Creative Sound BlasterX H6 is also a suitable choice even without these features.
The downside of gaming headsets has always been their exterior design, which is often deemed unfit for outside use. This is especially true for headsets since walking around with a microphone attached to your already aggressively attention-grabbing headphones can be a bit too much. But lately, we’ve seen a steady departure from the standard gamey aesthetic in gaming headsets in favor of more minimalist and subtle designs, as in the HyperX Cloud Alpha S. They still unmistakably look like gaming headsets, but they no longer scream for attention with striking color schemes and glaring RGB lighting. As for the microphones, lots of gaming headsets come with removable or retractable microphones that help minimize the problem.
So while newer gaming headsets may not be trying to hide their identity, they’ve matured to the point where wearing them outdoors nowadays wouldn’t look as goofy as before. So if comfort is your top priority and you want to get rid of the pain, you should at least consider this option even if you’re not a gamer.
As consistently effective as the tips we’ve listed so far are, they all operate under the assumption that you’re only now setting out to buy a pair of headphones. But unfortunately, we imagine that many of you have already made your purchase, possibly without an option to return the headphones, and are now stuck with them.
What are you to do?
Well, there are a couple of unconventional tips you could use.
First up, if your headphones feature replaceable ear cushions, look up some aftermarket solutions. In this case, you can end up with way softer and way thicker ear cushions, and it won’t even cost you all that much.
If the ear cushions of your headphones aren’t replaceable, you can do two things.
The first is to angle your glasses up. The main issue you get when you mix headphones and glasses is that they sandwich your ear. You can avoid this simply by tilting the temples of your glasses up, provided that this doesn’t negatively affect your sight of course. The reason glasses go behind the ear is for stability, but with the headphones clamping them there will be no stability issues anyway. Depending on the size of your headphones and type of your glasses, you could even rest the glasses on the ear cups. You’ll look very goofy, that’s for sure, and you’ll have to make sure your glasses are stable to avoid any accidents, but for indoor use, this isn’t all that bad.
Lastly, you could always cut a tunnel-shaped hole in the ear cushions where the frame of your glasses runs. This should be the last case scenario, as there’s no telling whether this will damage the headphones. It will also negatively affect the sound. But, if the headphones were already unusable due to the pain, then it might not be the worst idea. Do this last one at your own discretion.
Get the Right Glasses
Thus far, we’ve only discussed the headphones side of things, but that’s not the only way to face this problem.
Just like specific headphones will cause less pain, specific glasses frames will cause less pain as well.
Namely, thick frames made of hard materials are the most problematic in this case. But there are all kinds of glasses frames. The thinner the frame is, the pleasanter it will feel with headphones. The same goes for the material – softer is better. Additionally, wearing frames with straight arms will result in less pain than wearing frames with rounded arms as this reduces the surface area in which the frame makes contact with the ear. So if having your headphones on every day is your priority, then we suggest buying a frame that’s not only thin and soft but also has straight arms. It may not be the most fashionable choice, but it’s the least painful one.
Or you could always get virtual reality frames. Just Google them and you’ll get it.
It’s unfortunate that poor eyesight should doom you to suffer through pain in order to enjoy music on headphones, but as you can see there’re a lot of little things you can do to mitigate the issue, and they really do start to add up. Nothing short of using earbuds will completely remove the pain, but sticking to these tips will make the experience much more enjoyable.