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Ask Arthur

Ask Arthur: Why don’t my earbuds fit?

A reader asks why generic earbuds don’t fit all ears. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK suggests a few reasons, and solutions.

Q: I bought new earpods and they don’t fit. I thought earbuds were one-size-fits-all. Why don’t they fit? What do I do about it?

A: Despite many earbuds being marketed as one-size-fits-all, the reality is that everyone’s ears are unique in shape and size – and are almost as distinctive as fingerprints. This means that what fits comfortably for one person might not fit another at all. It also means that designing generic earbuds is almost a hopeless task.

Here are some reasons why earpods might not fit comfortably

Design: Some earbuds are designed to fit deep into the ear canal, while are more external. The design can affect both comfort and fit.
Tip size: Most earbuds come with removable tips of varying sizes. Sometimes, the pre-fitted tips aren’t the right size for your ears, and you have to experiment with the removables. But even these can only cover a few standard possibilities.
Material: Ear tips are usually made of silicone or foam, and each has a different feel. Some people find silicone slippery, others find foam more secure but too “filling”, and others will bring their own experience to the audio story.
Shape of  ear: The anatomy of your ear, for example a very narrow or wide ear canal, can prevent earbuds staying in place. There’s not much you can do with generic earbuds in this situation.

Bu, there are a few things you can try:

Different Tips: Make sure earpods came with different-sized ear tips before you buy them. Or see if the ones you have came with tips hidden in a  corner of the box. Try them all.

Third-Party Tips: If the included tips don’t work, or there are none included, buy ear tips from third-party manufacturers. Temu offers a 48-pack that should cover most shapes, and Takealot offers similar packs as well as tips that use memory foam for adapting to any ear.
Ear Hooks or Wings: Ear hooks or wings that attach to the earbuds can help secure them in place.
Custom fittings: Some companies, like Snugs, offer custom-molded ear tips, which fit the unique contours of an individual’s ears.
Clipped earpods: Precisely due to these challenges, clipped earpods are arriving, such as the Huawei Freeclip, which works around the problem completely by attaching the buds to the ear itself, and projecting sound into the ear canal.

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