Headphone Pain & Nausea - what's best?

I’m on a journey to find a decent set of headphones, (or, if needed, sets). On paper, AirPods Pro or Beats Fit Pro are perfect: small, super Apple compatible, multi-point pairing, and active noise cancelling, (I work at home and my kids homeschool, and we don’t have a separate space for me or them).

Unfortunately AirPods pro are very painful for me to wear, and their noise-cancelling makes me pretty nauseous. Beats Fit Pro were just released in Canada I got a pair, and they’re better on both fronts but not perfect on either. I can wear them without pain if I place them right, but it’s far from comfortable, and I don’t get as nauseous with ANC enabled, but it’s not super great either.

The pain comes from the large bulb that’s in my outer ear. Maybe I’m weird, but one of my ear folds ends in a fairly firm cartilage bump that these, and normal Apple EarPods, bump into, causing pain with extended wear. Do any of you have similar issues, if so, what options have you found that are comfy?

For the nausea, I don’t have a ton of experience with ANC. Will it be better, (ideally gone), if I use over-ear headphones with ANC vs the in-ear AirPods Pro and Beats Fit Pro?

In the past I have used smaller in-ear headphones, like Brainwavz Delta or BeatsX, and they’ve been great, except for the wires, and they are all dying or dead. I also have a pair of JBL E55BT that I won a couple of years back and they’re pretty good, but big, and the ear cup could be a bit bigger. None of these have ANC.

Part of me thinks I should just return the Beats Fit Pro and get some Beats Flex for 1/3 of the price, and maybe some Sony WH-1000XM4s for at-home noise-cancelling, but that means losing the H1-related features, and true wireless seems great, (especially when wearing a mask).

I’m not ruling out just keeping the Beats Fit Pro and learning to live with them. But at CA$249 I feel like I should really like, or love, my earphones, not learn to live with them.

AirPods Pro didn’t work for me. They didn’t fit my ears, and I didn’t want to have that much money sitting around unused.

AirPods Max (over the ear) work really well.
Bose QC-35 (over the ear) also work well (second to the AirPods Max).
Bose QC-25 (over the ear) are cheaper, but wired and require a battery. There are third-party Bluetooth adapters, but I’ve never tried one.

I would recommend either of those, or an over the ear style in general. One advantage of the AirPods Max would be the ability to switch between noise cancelling, transparency mode, and off, without removing them. E.g. “daddy’s working” even if you have them on your head, but turned off.

The nausea is probably due to the mismatch between what you are expecting to hear, and what you actually hear (or don’t hear). This may be similar to motion sickness, where the visual input doesn’t match the vestibular system’s output. It’s a mechanism to induce vomiting, as toxins sometimes cause dizziness. Injest toxin → dizzy → vomit → less toxin. The same phenomena has been suggested to be the source of phantom limb pain after amputation.

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I second trying the over-ear ones. It seems that your particular ear shape and proneness to dizziness make ANC earphones a bit too much.

If AirPods Max are too expensive, I can recommend Bowers&Wilkins PX7. Not as seamless as having a W1/H1 but still quite decent as they can connect to two devices simultaneously. You can set them up so that they either connect to a particular device when turned on or to the last one. Most importantly, there is always a second connection slot available. Probably the next best thing besides the actual Apple chip. Though they can somewhat make up for that by giving better sound quality over the wire as you can plug them into the computer using USB instead of minijack.

I don’t know if Sony’s WH-1000XM4 behave different than XM3, but the latter one (the older model) could only be paired to a single device and that was quite a bit of a pain point to me. That and the horrible built quality – I had two pairs within a month and they both broke down.

I got the AirPods Pro working for me when I ordered custom earplugs similar to the ones I used on my Shure IEMs before. Better fit and seal and noise cancelling and also more comfortable to wear for longer time.

Mine are from Aurik Elfriede, but on Amazon there are quite a few different ones for sale.

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@JohnAtl & @winmaciek It looks like over-ear for ANC is probably best. AirPods Max look nice, but at CA$900 after tax it’s not going to happen, (without AppleCare). I’ll look into the Bowers & Wilkins, and the main difference between the Sony XM3 and XM4 is that the XM4 can pair to 2 devices.

What do you do for something more portable, and workouts? I don’t love the idea of working out with a big set of over-ear headphones, and it’s where I’ve found wires, (both on actual wired earbuds and the connecting wire on my BeatsX), the most annoying.

Maybe I’ll cross my fingers that there’s a revision coming for the Powerbeats Pro - they appear to have a smaller in-sear bulb, but the $/technology ratio is not currently appealing.

@simonsmark I’ve used Comply Foam tips before on small in-ear buds and they work pretty great. My problem with EarPods / AirPods Pro / Beats Fit Pro is that part of the hard plastic body pushes on part of my ear. I’ve made it tolerable by putting the biggest tip on the Beats Fit Pros so they’re almost behind the pressure point, but I’m not convinced changing the tip will fix the problem, unless they somehow hold the buds further out from my ears.

Regular AirPods. I couldn’t imagine how gross over the ear would get (and how hot they would be) when working out.

Unless you do something like CrossFit where you don’t sweat. :upside_down_face:

I picked up a pair of Beats Studio 3’s a while back. They frequently go on sale for around $200, and they have the magic little chip for easy switching between Apple devices. In my experience they have decent noise canceling and sound pretty good — but note that I’m not an audiophile (and some have pretty strong negative opinions about Beats). I’ve been quite happy with them.

I got the Beats after I had to give up my AirPods Pro. I loved them, but my ear canal didn’t. After several months with the Pros I had a really nasty reaction in one ear that I had to seek a doctor’s assistance with, and that took a long time to heal completely. :frowning_face:

For workouts I use a pair of Jaybird Vista paired to my watch. They’re great!

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You just need the vocabulary, then you’re as qualified. There’s a ton of BS in the audio world, like the record weight I saw that had a jewel on top to dampen certain frequencies or some such - $3k as I recall.

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Beats may look attractive and they sound OK but I don’t think that build quality is great. I used to have a pair of Solo 3 (slightly smaller model, on-ear, no ANC) and they’ve worn out quite quickly (and I wasn’t abusing them). And by “worn out” I mean that the plastic (around the hinge I think, definitely somewhere on the headband) started to crack. Not to mention the paint on the ear pads that was chipping off. Granted, things may have improved since then, but it was still a pretty bad experience. And it’s not like the Studio 3 use noticeably different materials.

B&W PX7 are in the other league when it comes to build quality. Obviously they are not indestructible but they’re made of metal, carbon fiber and ballistic nylon. And the ear pads are user replaceable (unlike Beats).

Yeah, I don’t know how well they’ll hold up over time. So far, so good, though. I use them at the home office (frequent) and when traveling (infrequent). I usually just pop them on a stand when I’m not wearing them, so the hinges don’t get much use.

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 look really nice! They’re about double the price that the Studio 3’s typically go for, but only about $20 over list. So they look reasonably priced, and if they go on sale with any regularity, even better.

For my own use having the Apple chip was really important. Prior to getting the Beats but after I’d discovered I couldn’t wear AirPods Pro, I was using a pair of cheap Sonys I already had around. I was visiting my parents and using their dining room as a home office, so I’d be connected to the computer during the day. In the evenings I’d be in a different room, reading, and I’d want to connect to a different device. The new device would see the headphones, but often wouldn’t allow me to fully connect and get sound until I went back to the dining room and manually disconnected from the computer.

That’s very much a first world problem, I realize. It still drove me nuts.

I have the Sony WH-1000XM4’s. You can pair 2 devices simultaneously and they auto switch nicely.

They are comfortable to wear for long periods and the sound is excellent. Well worth the money.

The ANC does feel quite powerful pressure wise which I would think leads to nausea if your body doesn’t like the sensation but my understanding is that just how it works. It will either be something you can cope with or not.

They were leading up to Christmas voted by the internet at large as the best ANC headphones available (barring diehard Apple reviews).

I use a windows work Laptop so am not 100% in with Apple stuff during working hours so the lack of the H1 chip isn’t a problem for me

For workouts I use Bose Sound Sports- good sound and I can run for miles and not have them fall out.

For dog walking ~1.5 hours a day I use 1st gen AirPods. When they die I will get some Pros.

Horses for courses.

Years ago I used a pair of Sony on the ear headphones to isolate me from the routine office noise. Did a great job but also let enough sound in to hear someone coming up to talk to me. They were not noise canceling. Very comfortable