Earbuds Vs. Headphones

I’m sure many of you use some sort of headphones or earbuds when you exercise. If I’m working out alone, I need some sort of music to entertain and motivate me.

But have you ever given thought to the volume of your music? Or what kinds of headphones are better? Besides safety issues of listening to music too loud while running, I’m going to talk about issues specifically relating to hearing.

Are earbuds bad for hearing?Photo Credit: kurafire via Compfight cc

I’ll be the first to admit I probably listen to my music too loud at the gym. It’s hard to hear when they gym is playing their own music and people are talking, lifting etc. You probably shouldn’t even listen to music at that point, but we all know that’s not happening.

So which are better? Earbuds or headphones?


Ear buds are convenient while on the go. I mean, every smartphone comes with earbuds now. They usually have a microphone on them too which makes them perfect to use while exercising or doing other tasks. One of the main differences from headphones, however, is that they are placed directly into your ear canal.

Read this statistic I found on The Huffington Post:

Compared to traditional-style headphones that rest over the ear, earbuds can have a higher output level of sound by about 7-9 decibels. An audiologist at Wichita State University who pulled earbuds off students to find out how loud their music was discovered that most students were listening to music at 110-120 decibels, well over the recommended volume. At that level, loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss after just an hour and 15 minutes.

Yikes! Again, I’m totally guilty of this. They recommend listening to your music at about 60% of the volume. On my old iPod, I programmed that in so it showed me that my volume was all the way up on the screen (but in reality I had it set so that was 60%). Mental tricks ;)


I got a pair of cheap headphones at Five Below. Mine actually look a little different, but it works. My sister makes fun of me because they’re almost like “Beats” knockoffs. I figure if I’m sweating in them a lot why spend more than those $5?

Anyway, one tip I read is to invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. That way you’re not turning up your music because of surrounding sounds. I’d love a good pair of these but I can’t bring myself to spend so much on something I will mainly be sweating in. But still, even getting a cheap pair of headphones will help you since they are going OVER your hears and not in them.

Or here’s another option. Find some noise cancelling earbuds. This article by TIME about how iPods are causing hearing loss was very interesting!

Some of the research we did studied earphones that completely seal up the ear canal. These are passive sound-isolating earphones, as opposed to the ones that are active noise cancelers that block out some of the noise. As far as I can tell, both would allow people to listen to their headphones at their chosen level — and more likely at a lower volume than if they were using the stock earbuds.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not recommending noise cancelling headphones if you’re out running on the roads. Obviously this would not be a good situation. Honestly, sometimes I just put my phone in my SPIbelt and turn it all the way up and play it on the phone’s speakers. I’m running around town and rarely encounter someone more than a second. If I do come across a crowded or busy area I just take my phone out and pause my music. Anyone else run like this?

Do you listen to music while working out?

Do you prefer earbuds or headphones?


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  1. I love listening to music when I work out!

    I prefer anything that doesn’t fall outta or off my ears!
    Divya @ Eat. Teach. Blog. recently posted…Scenes from Sunday: Family, Fitness, and FoodMy Profile

    • Same! Earbuds don’t stay in my ears. I sweat too much so they always fall out once I start getting sweaty, which Is why I decided to just get headphones!

  2. Headphones all the way, unless they are the ear hook buds. My ears are very small so earbuds pop up out with me just sitting still so working out with them is a big no. I sometimes will crank the volume on my phone and just let it play through the phone speakers, jus depends on my mood. One way or another, music is a must!
    Niquole Abram recently posted…The Benefits of Exercise!My Profile

    • yes music is a must! my ears are small too so earbuds fall out. I did have the hooks too but they get uncomfortable on my ears.


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