I've successfully removed my Ultimate Ears MetroFi 220 earphones thousands of times in the few months I've had them. Today, however, I botched the operation.
The whole thing transpired at the Gizmodo office in New York City this afternoon. Right when I removed my earphones I knew something was wrong. I quickly looked down at the cords in my fist and saw one earbud's driver, naked, without its protective rubber sleeve. My fear tightened into a knot in my stomach.
Without thinking I tried to pinch the plastic cup out with my nails, but this only pushed it deeper into my ear canal. At this point I started to panic a little—I could feel the piece of plastic deep in my ear and was experiencing that unique discomfort that comes with having a foreign object in your body when you don't want it there.
Determined, I kept pinching at it with my fingers, but that only drove it deeper and deeper. My imagination turned against me. "What if I can't get this thing out," I wondered. "What if this ruins my hearing," I thought. I tried pushing on the back of my ear, where it connects to the skull, hoping to get up behind the earbud and push it out from the inside. That didn't work either.
At this point I could hardly even reach the plastic piece with my finger. As you can see in the photograph above, only a sliver could be seen peeking out of my ear canal, like a crescent moon.
Through all of this, I tried to keep the problem discreet, but eventually I had to admit to myself that I wasn't going to get this fucker out by myself. Reluctantly, I let the two Gizmodo interns in on my shameful secret.
I proposed the idea that we fish it out with a ballpoint pen, but they quickly dismissed that (apparently the earbud was pressing against the problem solving part of my brain, because this was clearly a terrible idea). Intern Kevin leaped into action and after some rooting around in the office returned with a pair of plastic tweezers.
As he bent my head to the side, he said something about having shaky hands, but at that point I was hardly lucid. I felt the plastic push deeper for a moment, and then felt it wiggle side to side for a little longer. Then, finally, I felt my ear canal breath for the first time in minutes that had seemed like hours. The earbud was removed!
So let this be a lesson to you all: treat your earphones gently. Most of the time it's great that they fit so snugly in your ear. But some of the time that perfect fit can be a nightmare.