Should You Wear Earplugs Under Headphones?

Headphones are more popular than ever, with people constantly listening to music, podcasts, and more on the go. But frequent headphone use, especially at high volumes, comes with risks like noise-induced hearing loss and ear damage. Many wonder if layering earplugs underneath their headphones could help protect their hearing.

This blog post will explore the benefits and drawbacks of wearing earplugs under headphones. Does combining them reduce headphone volume to safer levels? Or does it negatively impact sound quality and comfort? We’ll look at both perspectives so you can make the right decision for your ears.

Earplugs seem like an easy solution to turn down the volume hitting your ears. But how well do they work with headphones? And are there any downsides? Keep reading as we dive into the debate.

Reasons to Wear Earplugs Under Headphones

benifits of wearing noise cancelling earplugs under headphones

Here are some potential benefits of wearing earplugs underneath your headphones:

Lower Volume Needed for Clear Audio

Earplugs naturally dampen and muffle incoming sounds. This means loud headphone volume isn’t required to hear the audio clearly through the earplugs. Keeping headphone volume down to a safe level reduces the risk of noise-induced hearing loss over time. Earplugs can act as a barrier protecting your ears.

Block Out External Noise for Improved Focus

Earplugs help block out ambient noise around you, allowing you to immerse yourself in your headphone audio. Common distractions like chatter and street noise become muted with earplugs. You can focus solely on your music, podcast, or call. Earplugs minimize outside noise interference.

More Comfortable Fit and Reduced Ear Fatigue

Comfortable noise cancelling earplugs

Some people find earbuds or headphones uncomfortable afterward. The pressure on the ears can cause soreness or headache. Adding soft foam earplugs allows headphones to rest gently on the earplugs instead of your ears. This reduces friction and fatigue. Earplugs also help headphones fit more securely in your ears.

Reasons Not to Wear Earplugs Under Headphones

On the other hand, combining earplugs with headphones has some potential disadvantages:

Altered Sound Quality and Bass Response

Any muffling or blocking sound waves reaching your eardrum can impact sound quality, especially bass tones. What you hear through earplugs under headphones may sound more muted, distorted, or “off” compared to headphone audio alone. The earplugs skew the listening experience.

Increased Risk of Ear Canal Irritation

Having earbuds and earplugs pressing into your ear canals raises the risk of painful pressure and skin irritation over time. Moisture buildup under the earplugs can also breed bacteria. Follow tips to keep your ears clean and dry underneath earplugs.

Earplugs May Fall Out Frequently

The headphones' friction against earplugs can cause irritation and displacement. You may find yourself frequently needing to remove and reinsert fallen-out earplugs. This interrupts your listening and focus. Look for slim, non-protruding earplug designs.

Tips for Safe Earplug and Headphone Use

High-fidelity noise cancelling earplugs

If you want to use earplugs with headphones, keep these safety guidelines in mind:

  • Select Low-Profile and Lightweight Earplugs: Look for super slim, seamless earplugs that sit comfortably in your ears under headphones without adding extra bulk. Soft silicone or foam earplugs work better than rigid plastic styles.
  • Keep Headphone Volume Low: Counteract the natural sound reduction of earplugs by keeping your media volume low. Stick to levels below 60% volume to protect your hearing. Slowly increase the volume as needed to avoid damage.
  • Take Short Breaks: Give your ears fresh air by taking short listening breaks hourly. Remove the earbuds and earplugs to air out your ears and prevent moisture buildup.


Choosing whether to wear earplugs under headphones is based on your priorities. If hearing protection is most important, earplugs do lower dangerous sound exposure. But audio purists may find the sound tradeoffs unacceptable. Test different comfortable earplug styles and find the right balance for your ears. Remember to reduce the volume and take breaks, as with any headphones. Protect your hearing without compromising too much on sound quality.


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