October 14, 2016 • Osnat Amzaleg

Headphone Ear Pads 101: The What, Why, & How of Ear Pads

Your headphone ear pads are two of the most important pieces on your headphone. They play a very important role not only in the comfort of the headphones while you are wearing them but also the quality of the sound coming from the speakers.
Despite how important they are, not many people really think about them and they do even less to take care of them or make sure they are in good condition. The good news is that it is not difficult at all to take proper care of your headphone ear pads and doing so has so many benefits!

In this guide, we’ll talk about how your headphone ear pads contribute to your listening experience, how you can care for different kinds of ear pads, when and why you need to replace them, and what to look for in replacement ear pads for headphones.


The ear pads on your headphones are important for a few reasons. First of all, they act as cushioning and provide grip. This means that quality ear pads will fit around your head snuggly but provide enough padding to rest comfortably against your ears.
The longer you wear your headphones, the more you will notice how good (or bad) your headphone ear pads are. Low quality ear pads may not seem like a problem when you first put the headset on. But after a while, they can be uncomfortable or start to slide around in an annoying way. Quality ear pads should be well designed and made with quality materials in order to provide a secure fit and maximum comfort, even for long term use. But ear pads aren’t just responsible for the physical comfort of wearing your headphones.
They also influence the sound. This happens in a couple of ways:  

  • Shape & design - the shape and design of your ear pads will determine how much sound from outside leaks in. A well designed ear pad can provide a surprising amount of noise isolation so that you only hear the music that you want to hear.  
  • Material - the actual material used can also affect how much outside noise your headphones can effectively block out.


Finding high quality headphone ear pads is important but it’s not enough. Once you have them, you want to make sure you take proper care of them so they last as long as possible. With just a few basic steps, you can significantly extend the life of your ear pads which will save you money and keep the sound quality on your headphones as high as possible.
Depending on the kinds of ear pads you are using, the steps for taking care of them will differ. For now, we’ll talk about properly caring for headphone foam ear pads. In the next section, we’ll give you some pointers for leather ear pads.

  • Clean regularly - foam is a very porous material which means it can easily absorb a lot of sweat and dirt through normal use. We recommend doing a quick wipe down (you can even just use your t shirt here) immediately after use. And about once a week, use a dab of soap and wipe them down with a damp washcloth. Then let them air dry completely before storing. Don’t squeeze them dry as this will just speed up the breakdown of the structure of the foam. Cleaning will keep bacteria to a minimum and prevent any rot or odor from developing from sweat buildup.
  • Store properly - if you just leave your headphones out, they can gather dust or become damaged by exposure to the light and air. It is best to keep them in a closed case when you’re not using them. If you carry them with you on the go, you definitely want to keep them in a case so they don’t get damaged from just loosely moving around in your bag or gathering extra sweat and dirt while hanging from your neck.
  • Replace periodically - no matter who you are, you will need to buy replacement foam ear pads but the frequency will depend on how much you use them and how well you take care of them.

When It Is Time to Buy Replacement Foam Ear Pads 

Foam ear pads will eventually wear out. Taking proper care of them can slow this process down but eventually, you will need to buy replacements. Here are a few signs of wear to look for. If you notice these signs, it’s time for some new ear pads:

  • Foam is flattened - If the foam has flattened down or is no longer as springy and cushy as it was, you aren’t getting the same level of secure grip, comfort, or sound quality. It’s time for new ear pads.
  • Ear pads have an odor - Foam is porous and absorbs sweat, dirt, and everything else in its environment. It’s natural. And even with regular cleaning, this will eventually build up to a point that they are permanently dirty and have a faint (or strong) odor to them. Nobody wants stinky headphones!
  • Headset slides around - If it doesn’t fit as securely as it used to, this is likely do to worn out ear pads. Replacing them with a fresh pair can fix this.

Basically, when your headphone ear pads start to look and feel old, it’s time to replace them. And we recommend getting those replacements as soon as you notice these signs of wear.


If your ear pads have a leather finish, you’ll have to be a little more careful about how you clean and care for them. On the bright side, the leather finish is less porous than the foam underneath it so this provides an added layer of protection against dirt and dust.

However, it does still absorb sweat and dirt even if it is at a slower rate and leather is more sensitive to things like heat, humidity, and light. So with that in mind, here are some tips for caring for your leather finish headphone ear pads:

  • Clean regularly - As with foam ear pads, you’ll definitely want to just give these a quick wipe down immediately after use. Doing this helps get rid of a lot of sweat and dirt before it has a chance to seep in to your ear pads. About once a week, wipe them down with a damp (not soaking wet) washcloth. You don’t want to use soaps or detergents as this can be too harsh on the leather. If you are concerned about sanitation, get a special leather cleaning solution that is safe to use on leather.
  • Store properly - Proper storage is even more important for leather ear pads. When left to be exposed to the elements, leather will expand and contract according to changing heat and humidity levels. Sunlight and particularly dry conditions will also lead to cracks in the leather. This leads to problems like rot and cracks in the leather. Store them in a good case when not in use to minimize the effects of changing weather conditions.
  • Condition periodically - This is a unique requirement of leather. To prevent cracking, you will want to use a special leather conditioning solution. This not only keeps the leather supple and soft but acts as a sort of seal to protect it from humidity and other damaging conditions. However, over-conditioning is just as bad as not conditioning at all. Using the conditioner too often can lead to premature rotting. So to make sure you don’t overdo it, we recommend conditioning your leather ear pads just twice per year.
  • Replace periodically - With proper care, your leather ear pads should last longer than foam ear pads without a leather finish. However, they will still wear down eventually. Depending on how often you use them, you’ll need to replace them every 18 months to 2 years.

When It Is Time to Buy Replacement Leather Ear Pads

Here are some key signs to check for to know whether or not it’s time to invest in some replacement headphone ear pads:

  • Rough feel - If the leather starts to feel rough and dry despite your best efforts, it’s simply grown too old. It’s time for replacement.
  • Cracking - This will likely start in the creases and wherever the leather is most tightly stretched. But it will also look like peeling or flaking.
  • Rot - This can take the form of patches or stains. And eventually they will start to get mildew (something you can definitely notice when you smell them). Rot is not something you can get rid of. You need replacements.

In addition to those signs, you’ll want to pay attention to the signs of wear in the foam cushioning underneath the leather. Even if the leather lasts, the foam may flatten or lose its structural integrity. So check for the signs of wear discussed under the foam ear pad section as well.


Replacing your headphone ear pads may seem like an inconvenient extra expense at first but it is truly worth it. There are so many great benefits to replacing them. Here are just a few:

  • Improved Comfort - As ear pads begin to wear down, they don’t provide as much cushion or grip as they used to. This makes them less comfortable. While some people would just throw out the whole headset, all you really need to do is replace the cushions.
  • More Hygienic - Foam and leather absorb sweat and dirt overtime. This can turn them into hotbeds of bacteria—especially if you aren’t cleaning them as often as you should. Replacing them with a fresh set of ear pads every so often is a great way to be more hygienic.
  • More Affordable - It is so much cheaper in the long run to invest in a high quality set of headphones that you take care of by replacing the ear pads and other parts as needed. Most people tend to throw the whole set out as soon as the cushions wear down or certain parts start to malfunction. But the truth (that most salespeople won’t tell you) is that most parts of the headset, including the ear pads, can be replaced. And buying one part of a headset is much, much cheaper than buying a whole new set of headphones.

In short, the best thing you can do is invest in a great set of headphones that provides amazing sound quality, comfort, and functionality. Then, take proper care of those headphones (including the ear pads) and replace specific parts as needed. Doing this will give you years and years with the same set of headphones.

That’s way more affordable and efficient than just buying a cheap, poor quality set of headphones every few months!


When buying ear pads, you’ll need to consider a few practical matters about where you are and how you use them:

  • Climate - The climate you live in will influence how often you need to replace your ear pads. Hot and humid weather increase the chances of rot. Drier climates will decrease the chances of rot but can lead to early cracking in a leather finish. Climates that experience both extremes are the worst for leather ear pads because the fluctuation between humid and dry as well as hot and cold will speed up the process of both rot and cracking.
  • Usage - Whether you’re a professional or just an avid listener, the more often you use your headphones, the sooner you need to replace them. Investing in quality replacements is a good way to make sure you get something that lasts even with extensive use but you can’t avoid replacing them entirely. This is also true of people who use their headphones for running. The increased exposure to sweat will speed up damage and wear.
  • Feel - You either want to replace your ear pads with something that is as comfortable as your original ones were when they were new or something that is even more comfortable than the originals. Make sure you aren’t downgrading when you replace your ear pads.
  • Quality - The better the replacement ear pads, the less often you need to replace them. Don’t just look at price when you are shopping. While the most expensive options aren’t automatically the best, neither are the cheapest. Look at the materials they are made of, the quality of the manufacturing and design, the shape and design of the ear pad.
  • Needs - If you just want headphones for listening to music during your commute to work or while you walk/run, you can consider some of the less advanced models although they should still be high quality. However, if you are a DJ or other professional that needs a high level of noise cancellation, crisp sound, and other top of the line functional features, you’ll want the absolute best design and you’ll want to replace them at the very first sign of wear.

These are the kinds of factors that will determine how quickly your ear pads will wear out and, as a result, how often you should be replacing them.


There are a few different brands out there manufacturing replacement ear pads and they definitely aren’t created equal. While we always recommend doing your research and making sure you find the ear pads that best suit your needs and your headphones, we are pretty proud of the quality cushions we offer. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Memory foam 
  • Our ear pads are made with memory foam. Not only does this last longer than cheaper foams, it’s also more comfortable and provides one of the best fits you could possibly ask for.

  • Protein leather finish 
  • This provides a soft yet durable outer finish that will help extend the life of your headphone ear pads while also adding an extra level of grip and comfort.

  • Better noise isolation
  • The combination of quality materials and high end design help maximize their ability to block out noise from outside so you have a crisper, clearer sound.

  • Quick replacement
  • Installing these replacement ear pads can be done in a matter of minutes (5 minutes to be exact!). It’s made even easier with the addition of clear, easy to read instructions and, on top of that, a detailed step by step installation video!

  • Money saving
  • We offer some great replacement ear pads for both Bose and Beats headphone models. They’re about half the price of buying original, brand name ear pads without sacrificing an ounce of the high quality you expect.

    We’re passionate about creating the best possible listening experience for your headphones. But that’s enough of tooting our own horn! Let’s look at the steps involved in replacing headphone ear pads:


    The specific instructions for replacing your headphone ear pads will depend on the model of headphones you have as well as the replacements you buy. Fortunately, our headphone ear cushions come with custom, clearly written instructions and we even have videos to show you how it’s done.

    But if you want to get a sense of what kind of work is involved (hint: it’s pretty easy!), here is are some general guidelines for replacing your ear cushions:

    Make sure you get the right kind. You need ear pads that are compatible with your headset. This is based mostly on the size of the cushion. Ideally, the replacement will clearly state which brands and models they are compatible with (like Bose or Beats, for example).

    Remove the old cushions by pulling them off the head set. This shouldn’t require any real force. Some headphones may have a plastic adapter which needs to be removed (without breaking) before you can remove the cushion.

    Put the new cushion in its place. Make sure it is set properly and evenly. Reattach the plastic adapter if necessary.

    You’re done!

    As you can see, it’s pretty simple. Of course, some models are a little more difficult than others. But for the most part, you won’t need to spend more than 10 minutes replacing your ear pads.

    Final Word

    With this guide, we hoped to accomplish two things. First, to spread awareness about the importance of headphone pads in terms of your comfort and the quality of the sound. Second, to teach people how to find quality headphone ear pads, how to care for them, and when and how to install replacement headphone ear pads.
    Using this information, you can greatly improve your listening experience and extend the life of your headphones. So you get to save money and enjoy better comfort and sound! It is truly the best of both worlds.