Why Do My Ears Hurt When I Run?

Most runners take for granted that certain body parts are likely to hurt after running. Quads, hamstrings, calves… it is accepted and anticipated that any or all of these might ache after a run. What about if something hurts that you aren’t expecting? Did you know that many runners experience ear discomfort during and/or immediately after a run? Have you ever asked yourself the question ‘why do my ears hurt when I run?’

There are many common reason for your ears hurting when you run.

Earbuds Causing Ear Pain

If your earbuds are not properly sized for your ears, that can cause pain. You want earbuds that fit perfectly without being too tight to get the perfect, comfortable fit. It can happen because too large earbuds can place pressure on the inner ear. Over time this can cause irritation, redness and ear pain.

earbuds and running

For some people, even earbuds that are comfortable can cause pain. Since earbuds are difficult to keep clean and introduce dirt and other foreign material into the ear, some people find using them can lead to infection. Wearing earbuds excessively can prevent wax from leaving the ear canal which can also result in infection.

Playing Music Too Loud

Even perfect fitting earbuds cannot help your poor ears if your problem is the volume of your music. For many reasons, it is dangerous to listen to your music too loudly when running or doing other exercises outdoors.

From a safety perspective, if your music is too loud you won’t hear things around you. This can be lethal if you miss the sound of oncoming traffic or a shouted warning by another person. People exercising outside in quiet, country areas risk encounters with wild animals. Wearing loud music and headphones renders you vulnerable to an attack by either man or beast.

It is also possible to damage your hearing from prolonged listening to loud music. This is especially true when the music is coming through headphones. Unless you want to go through life repeating, “What?” you should be protective of your ears and hearing.

Blood Vessel Constriction

If the blood vessels in your ears constrict it can cause ear pain. This constriction can be caused by running in cold weather, high altitudes and/or hard training. If you live at a high altitude you cannot do much about that. However, wearing a hat or headband when running or performing other exercises in cold weather is an easy fix.

Acid Reflux

Many people suffer from acid reflux but few understand the whole body impact that GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can have. GERD is most well known for causing heartburn but it can also cause a sore throat and earache.

Less common but still a problem for some people is when GERD causes chronic ear infections. This ear pain is exacerbated when the person exercises.

Cold Ears

Remember mom reminding you to grab a hat when you went outside to play as a child? Well, mom was right. As an adult, you should try to prevent instances where your ears will get cold. It does not matter if you prefer a hat or an ear band of some sort, your ears just need protecting from the elements.

hats for running

Ears can quickly become numb and hurt when exposed to the elements. An ear band or hat can help prevent this.

Why Do My Ears Hurt When I Do Cardio?

If your ears hurt you every time you do cardio, ask yourself if any of the above things are the culprit. If you are running outside, the cold could be what is bothering you. If you are inside, it may be one of the other things causing your pain.

Assuming you are not wearing headphones, are not outside in the cold and wind and are not sick, your problem is probably blood vessel constriction. If that is caused by physical exertion there is not much you can do to alleviate that except dial it down a bit.

Many runners find themselves contemplating, “Why do my ears hurt when I run?”. Likely, your answer is somewhere in this article!

Why Do My Ears Hurt When I Run Outside?

As previously mentioned if the pain is exclusively when you are outside, the weather is likely the issue. Most people expect to have to cover their ears in the winter. But did you know that if it is even a little bit windy, that can cause pain and discomfort for some people? For this reason, there are companies that make very, very thin ear bands for runners.


If your ears hurt when you run, or after you run, you may need one of these light ear bands. Although they look too thin to actually make any difference, they certainly do. Not a lot of fabric is necessary to stop the wind from bothering your ears.

Protecting Ears From Elements

Light ear band: A lightweight ear band is made of one simple loop of fabric. These are made for runners who need something in fall or spring weather. Some people who prefer a hood use light bands to cover their ears for an extra layer of protection.

Winter weight headband: A heavier headband is preferred by some runners. When choosing a headband for winter running, choose something you find comfortable against your skin. If you plan to run in snow or sleet, you may want a headband with an exterior fabric that is weatherproof. The inner fabric, on the other hand, should be soft and washable.

Hat: There are as many types of hats available as there are runners. Some prefer a very light hat and others wear something very heavy. You can now find hats made with holes for a runner’s ponytail, some that only cover a bit of the head, and others that extend far down and completely cover the ears.

Balaclava: This type of hat has a hole for the person’s eyes, but covers the nose and mouth. This type of hat is made for withstanding harsh elements.

Ear muffs: Some people prefer earmuffs to keep their ears warm. For someone engaging in high impact cardio, earmuffs should be chosen carefully to be sure they stay in place.

If your ears hurt when you exercise, there just may be a quick and easy fix to solve your problem. Don’t continue to suffer. Exercise should challenge you but it shouldn’t be painful to your ears!

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