Biggest Causes of Headphone Failure

Headphones are a convenient way to take our favorite tunes on the go or listen to our music without disturbing anyone else around us. However, no matter how great the headphones seem when you first buy them, they always seem to break down within a few short months.

What are the biggest causes of headphone failure? Is there anything you can do prevent them? Keep reading to find out!

Improper Storage

There are many delicate parts on a set of headphones. While they will take a beating for a few months—and more durable ones for even longer—you should still be making an effort to store them properly.

Holding Headphones in One Hand

Poor storage can damage any part of the headphones but the most prone to damage are the cables and the headphone cushions. They will become worn and broken much more quickly if you are simply shoving your headphones into your bag when not in use or letting them hang loosely or even just letting them sit out and be exposed to the elements when you aren’t using them.

If you’re hearing sound out of only one side or the sound is often going in and out, it is likely a sign that the wires in your cable have been damaged. Proper cable storage can prevent this:

  • Avoid winding the cable tightly. This stretches the wire too much and will lead to fraying.
  • Avoid letting the cable dangle loosely. This can cause fraying especially at the ends of the cable.
  • Avoid letting the cable stay in a tangled mess. This will also stretch the wires and cause breakage.

Instead, loosely coil the cable and hold it in place with a clip.

Headphones in Box Storage

In terms of the headphone cushions, poor storage can lead to premature peeling and cracking of the protein leather coating. It can also lead to mold, bacteria growth, and other unhygienic problems.

To avoid these problems, keep headphones stored in a hard, dark case when not in use. This will help protect it from humidity, dryness, sunlight, wind, and other elements which can prematurely ruin your headphone cushions.

Improper Cleaning (or No Cleaning)

One of the most common problems with headphones is the headphone cushions going bad. What were once super comfy headphones that perfectly blocked out outside noise have now become uncomfortable and worn.

Pouring Liquid on Cotton Wool

Proper cleaning of the headphone cushions will help maintain a high level of quality for longer:

  • Wipe headphone cushions immediately after using - This will get rid of sweat and dirt before it has a chance to absorb into the cushion.
  • Clean weekly. Use a washcloth dampened (not soaked) with warm, soapy water. Gently wipe the cushions. Don’t press down or scrub roughly. And don’t use excessive amounts of water.

Most people don’t take any steps to clean their headphones and this will lead to bacteria build up, mold, and premature wear—especially on the outer protein leather coating.

Listening to Music Too Loud

Yes, you’ve been nagged about this before. You probably read that headline in the voice of a cranky, old person telling you to turn your music down. But it’s true. Loud music is damaging not only to your ears but to the equipment.

Man Listening Music Too Loud

All sound waves are vibrating the speakers in your headphones. The louder the sound waves (and the lower the frequency), the more it vibrates those speakers. Eventually, that vibration is going to knock parts out of place. You’ll start to notice a buzzing sound when you listen to music. This means you’ve been listening to your music too loud.

You don’t have to turn your volume down to a whisper and you can enjoy loud music for a short period of time. But try to keep it at moderate levels most of the time. This is better for both your headphones and your own ears!

Buying Cheap Headphones

Quite possibly one of the biggest causes of headphone failure happens at the moment you buy a new pair of headphones. When you buy cheap, low quality headphones, you’re getting something that simply isn’t built to last.

White Cheap Headphones

Cheap materials and poor manufacturing combine to create a product that is prone to fail within a few short months, even if you are taking the best possible care of it. It is much better to do your research and be willing to invest a little extra to make sure you are actually buying a quality product that is capable of lasting for a few years, not a few months!

Not Replacing Parts Regularly

No matter how well you take care of your headphones, you will eventually need to replace parts. When you start to notice problems like headphone cushion wear, buzzing in the speakers, lack of sound in one or both sides, or other common problems, it means it is time to replace the part that is causing the problem.

Screwing Headphone Ear Buds with Screwdriver

Most people tend to simply throw out their headphones once they notice these problems but this is absolutely unnecessary and a waste of money. Replacing parts as needed will help add years to the lifetime of your headphones—especially if you combine that with proper care and storage!

Final Word

There are many steps you can take to make sure you get headphones that will actually last you for years. It’s not difficult to care for them properly and taking these steps will actually save you money in the long run since you won’t be shelling out a bunch of cash every few months for new headphones!


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