You must have noticed it yourself, but everywhere you look in the gym, most people appear to be wearing over-ear headphones.
So, is there something special about going over-ear?
Are they better than in-ear earphones?
Is this a style/fashion thing?
Or is there no rhyme nor reason for wearing big, clunky headphones?
Here’s what you need to know.
Table of Contents
The Main Reasons Why People Where Over-Ear Headphones in the Gym
Gym-goers will wear headphones or earphones simply so they can listen to their own music. However, over-ear headphones will provide better noise-cancelling and they’re less likely to cut out due to excessive sweat. That being said, many trainees will simply wear them because they think they look cool. Plus, there are also many people who just can’t stand the thought of having something inside their ears, so headphones will always win over earphones.
They Don’t Want to Listen to Gym Music
Firstly, this isn’t so much about a preference for over-ear headphones.
So, obviously the same can be achieved with in-ear earphones.
However, the vast majority of the time, people don’t want to listen to the music playing in the gym.
This could be down to not liking the music in the gym.
Then again, I know many people have a specific workout playlist.
Basically, they’ll have certain songs that really seem to motivate them, push themselves harder, thus getting in a great workout.
Furthermore, many gym-goers will simply wear headphones or earphones as a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
They don’t wish to be hassled or speak to other members, so having a set of headphones on will hopefully deter others from approaching them.
Over-Ear Headphones Infographic
Better For Noise-Cancelling
Okay, now let’s get into the real reasons that people are wearing over-ear headphones in the gym.
The most obvious reason is that over-ear offers better noise-cancelling.
Granted, most in-ear pieces nowadays have been created with noise-cancelling in mind.
And in all honesty, they do a pretty good job.
However, the vast majority of gyms tend to play music extremely loud, and therefore you need all the help you can get to cancel out this noise.
Funnily enough, I’ve recently discussed why gyms play music so loud.
Anyway, when it comes to over-ears the headphones will have much larger cups.
So, immediately these will cover your entire ear (hopefully).
Next, the cups are thicker and heavier, thus meaning noise-cancelling is even greater.
Realistically, this should help you get more “into the zone” and offer fewer distractions.
Plus, you’ll typically find that sound quality is better with over-ear headphones.
Over-Ear Has Less Chance of Cutting Out Than In-Ear
One of the main worries for all of us, regardless of what type of headphones/earphones you’re wearing, is sweat.
Realistically, you should be cleaning your headphones after every workout.
Plus, I would recommend some type of disinfectant wipe, which doesn’t have any harmful chemicals.
One issue when it comes to using disinfectant of any type is that it can cause the padding of your headphones to deteriorate over time.
Therefore, always use cleaning materials that are not chemical-heavy.
That being said, I cannot even begin to tell you how many pairs of in-ear earphones I’ve ruined through sweat from working out.
Furthermore, I often find that earphones start cutting out more regularly, mainly due to excessive sweating.
That being said, I’ve also found that in-ear earphones lose their seal in your ear the more you sweat.
So, now you’re worried that you either can’t hear your music properly or if your earphones are going to fall out at any given moment.
In the end you’re more focused on your earphones than your workout.
However, this generally isn’t such an issue with over-ear headphones.
They Think They Look “Cool”
There’s no two ways about it, but a lot of people simply do things for show.
And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is a reason that some gym-goers wear over-ear headphones.
Basically, they think it makes them look cool.
In fact, you can probably tell this by the way they are dressed, any additional equipment they have on them, and how concentrated they actually are on their workout.
You can typically spot a “for show” or “hey, look at me, aren’t I cool?” type person from a mile off.
Personally, I couldn’t care less what I look like in the gym.
However, being a profuse sweater, I usually finish every training session looking like an absolute mess.
So realistically, there’s really no point in me “dressing up” or trying to look cool in the gym.
However, as I say, there are a huge number of people who love potential admiration from others (or so they think).
And it is these people who believe that over-ear looks cool and is the way forward.
5 Tips For Looking Like a Boss at the Gym
Some People Hate Things in Their Ears
Sticking with the subject of how people think and feel, but from a different angle, there are those of us who absolutely hate anything in our ears.
In truth, most of us are pretty sensitive around the ear area.
Don’t believe me, ask someone to simply poke a finger towards your ear, and you’ll notice you jump, and probably find it ticklish too.
That being said, there are some who absolutely loathe anything in or anywhere near their ears.
In fact, I have a friend who is exactly like this.
And I have even seen her breakdown in tears over it before.
Okay, that may seem a bit too much to some, but we all have our little quirks, don’t we?
So, there will definitely be many trainees who simply can’t stand the thought of putting anything inside their ears.
Therefore, they will always prefer to train with over-ear headphones, and will typically wear them in everyday life as well.
The Downsides to Over-Ear Headphones
Okay, it’s not all good news with over-ear headphones.
I mentioned earlier the potential issues that you’d have with in-ear earphones.
Basically, they tend to move around in your ears or even cut out completely, simply due to sweat from your workout.
Admittedly, this isn’t such a worry with over-ear equipment.
That being said, you’re still going to get sweat onto your headphones, so as I’ve previously explained, you must ensure that you clean them thoroughly after each workout.
However, I would also say that in-ear could be better than over-ear depending on the type of workout you’re doing.
And I would say that you may run into issues when performing explosive or conditioning exercises.
So, as an example, let’s say you’re performing burpees.
There’s obviously a lot of movement going on here, while at the same time your cardiovascular system is really being tested.
Now, if you’re wearing a headset with a wire, this can cause you problems.
You may have the wire under your training shirt or even over the top.
But, with the constant explosive movement of burpees you’ll be tugging on that wire with every single rep.
This, of course, can pull the headphones off your ears, or you may find that you’re having to make minor adjustments to the wires or the headphones with every single rep.
Essentially, you’re no longer fully focused on your workout, but rather worrying about keeping your headphones on.
Admittedly, wireless headphones take some of these worries away, but not all of them.
You’ll still be moving through your explosive set of burpees and you’re getting more-and-more fatigued with every rep.
So, there’s still the chance that the headphones will become lop-sided or fall off your head altogether.
And this is not something that you generally have to worry about with in-ear earphones.
4 Reasons I Don’t Wear Headphones in the Gym
So, as you can see, there’s a wide variety of reasons for people wearing over-ear headphones in the gym.
I would say that the main two reasons are that they offer better noise-cancelling and also that some people simply think they look really cool.
That being said, in-ear earphones are known to move around in your ear and become damaged due to you sweating from your workout.
Admittedly, this can happen with over-ear headphones, although they are less likely to get damaged from sweat.
Furthermore, over-ear may not be the best choice if you’re performing explosive movements or high-intensity conditioning.
This comes down to the fact that the headphone wires can get in your way or that the headset can shift on your head.
All-in-all, the best choice of ear wear in the gym should come down to your personal preference.
And now for something gym-related, but slightly different, here’s what I have to say about whether it’s weird going to the gym alone.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.