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why headphones breakI can’t be the only one frustrated by the constant breaking of my headphones, earbuds, and pretty much anything else that has wiring, right? There are few feelings in the world that are worse than sitting down with a nice cup of java and putting on your headphones to listen to your favorite album when, suddenly, one side doesn’t work.

There’s a difference between headphones breaking and headphones breaking all the time. If your headphones break every three years, you really have nothing to worry about. That’s just entropy in action. But if your headphones are breaking every three months, you’re likely doing something wrong. If that describes you, then here are some red flags you should be looking out for.

Improper Care & Protection

The first, and most obvious, reason for frequent headphone breakage: not taking care of them. “Just take care of your headphones” might be nothing more than sheer common sense, but you’d be surprised how often we (myself included) overlook the simple fact that we’re abusing our headphones day in and day out. Some headphones may be built for durability, but each headphone still has its own breaking point.

One of my biggest problems with headphones? Forgetting that I have them on. We’ve all been there when someone wants us to come downstairs (or upstairs), or we get up to use the bathroom, only to have the headphone cable snap them off our heads and they crash to the floor. You may accidentally roll over your headphone cable with your wheeled office chair. Or, God forbid, throwing them at your wall in frustration (sound familiar, gamers?).

Headphones are more than just speakers and padding. They contain a good deal of intricate wiring and electronics, like drivers that translate electrical signals into quality sound, so take care of them. Treat them well and they’ll last you a long while.

Poor Storage Methods

why headphones break


This may go in line with “improper care” but I think it’s important enough to warrant its own special section. Even the most expensive headphones will experience general wear and tear over time regardless of how well you work to prevent physical damage. This wear and tear will have an even greater impact on cheaper headphones.

Where does most of this wear and tear occur? The cable. Don’t wind up your cables into a tight loop or a ball. For example, I see a lot of people who wind their earbuds tight around their iPods when they aren’t actively listening. This may be convenient for fitting into your pocket, but the tightness causes undue stress to the internal wiring, which leads to fraying.

Similarly, don’t let your earbuds or headphones dangle. Ever. The dangling causes a lot of stress at one particular point in the cable. Plus, it increases the chance that the cable will be pinched, which can sever the internal wire. Think of it like a staple: if you keep bending it back and forth, it’s eventually going to break.

Poor Storage Locations

why headphones stop working

A point that may be equally as important as proper cable management How To Conceal Your Computer Clutter: Same Cables, More Space How To Conceal Your Computer Clutter: Same Cables, More Space Despite decades of technological advancement the average home computer is still plagued by one obvious yet complex issue – cable clutter. Many home PCs are still plagued with more grasping tentacles than a low budget... Read More is putting your headphones in their proper place when you aren’t using them. In other words, a safe place.

Back in high school and through college, I used to toss my earbuds (and sometimes my headphones) straight into my backpack between classes. It’s no wonder that I would quickly lose audio in one ear, rendering them useless within months. Along the same lines, if you bunch up your earbuds and stuff them into your pocket, you’re doing a ton of damage that will eventually catch up to you.

For earbuds, you can purchase cases that will keep them safe so you can put them pretty much anywhere. For headphones, your choices are far more limited. As long as you’re keeping them in a spot where they won’t face too much abrasion, jostling, or physical damage, you should be good.

Extreme Volumes

why headphones stop working

Maybe your headphones are still operational in both ears, but when you play music or video you hear a constant buzzing noise. You might think it’s a problem with the source, which it could be, but if it’s happening all the time, then you know that the issue is with the headphone cups (or earbuds).

Buzzing can be caused by excess volume Screen Too Bright, Speakers Too Loud? Don’t Despair: Use Volumouse For Windows! Screen Too Bright, Speakers Too Loud? Don’t Despair: Use Volumouse For Windows! If your pointing device of choice is a mouse (rather than a laptop trackpad), then you surely don’t just use its buttons – its scroll wheel must get quite a bit of use too. But... Read More . Due to the way that speakers are designed, when you play sound at extreme levels, the size of the sound waves gets bigger and causes more of a disturbance to the internal equipment. If you do this too often, some pieces can come loose, eventually causing a buzz and a reduction in audio quality. This can also happen when you crank up the bass too high.

Of course, higher quality headphones may be more resistant to this sort of problem due to higher quality construction, but it’s always something of which to be wary. And that brings me to my last point…

Low Quality Construction

why headphones break

At the end of the day, sometimes your headphones break simply because they weren’t constructed well. Ever wondered about the difference between $50 headphones and $500 headphones? Higher quality audio, improved comfort, faster customer service, etc. Of course, there are affordable headphones 5 Quality Headphones That Cost Less Than $50 5 Quality Headphones That Cost Less Than $50 Owning a quality pair of headphones is very important for anyone who wants or needs to listen to music by themselves on a regular basis. In fact, they're more important than the device actually playing... Read More that aren’t bad, but in general, the durability tends to improve with higher price points.

If you bought $10 earbuds from eBay or any of the eBay alternatives Fed Up With eBay? Here Are Some Worthy (And Cheaper) Alternatives For Sellers Fed Up With eBay? Here Are Some Worthy (And Cheaper) Alternatives For Sellers When you want to sell your excess junk online, where do you go? For most people, the one and only answer is eBay. With millions of daily users, it only seems logical to use the... Read More (which I’ve done before without regret) then they’ll probably last you as far as $10 earbuds will take you. So what can you do about it? If you’re taking care of them to the best of your abilities by following the tips outlined above, then there’s little else you can do, in my opinion. Fork out a little more for higher quality materials next time and they should last you quite a bit longer.


Headphones have a reputation for being an electronic piece that warrants regular replacement, but truth be told, that reputation is both unfair and undeserved. If you just take a few extra steps in your care and handling of headphones, you can actually prolong the lifespan by a noticeable amount. I’ve bought numerous headphones and earbuds from $1 to $100 and they’ve all lasted me at least three years thanks to these steps.

Have any other tips or tricks for keeping your headphones alive? Share them with us in the comments! I’m sure all of our headphones will thank you for it.

Image Credits: Handheld Headphones Via Shutterstock, Jumbled Cords Via Shutterstock, Pocket Earbuds Via Shutterstock, Loud Headphones Via Shutterstock, Frayed Headphones Via Shutterstock

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  1. Izalias
    July 26, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Don't forget about electromigration.

    It is the reason why most, if not all, 'solid state' integrated circuits appear to fail spontaneously, cranking the volume up on headphones makes metal in the wires heat up, this heated state allows the atoms to migrate due to known electrical effects and form voids & hillocks in the material at the atomic level, causing the resistance in the wire to increase, this added resistance increases the heat the wire produces at the void points and accelerates the degradation which exacerbates the problem further.

    Higher end headphones have have larger electro-magnets and allow more current to pass through the wires, however, this allows the wires to degrade faster. If you want your headphones to last longer, get the kinds with a thicker grade of wire inside the shell and play it at a lower volume, this means the wires have a lower resistance because there is more material for the current to move through and less current to cause the damage, slowing the effects of electomigration.

  2. Keltoniaz
    May 6, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    I have tried everything on this website and countless other sites, but I still can't get my earbuds to last more than a month or two. Does anyone know what I am doing wrong? Are there any tricks that aren't commonly known?

  3. Kelli
    April 27, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    I can't figure out how, but I know it has to be the iphone that is ruining my son's headphones. We have tried expensive, middle of the road, and super cheap. Anyone in the family can use them and they will be fine. Once he uses them in his phone, they stop working in one ear. The Apple store has cleaned out the jack, nothing has changed. It took about 3 pair of headphones before we thought it may be the phone and not the headphones. He doesn't listen too loudly and he takes care of his things. I want to trade in the phone but he wants to wait for the newest version to be released. So, I am sure it is poor responsibility with some...but I believe this to be a phone issue in this situation.

  4. Christopher Loughrey
    February 2, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Even when you take great care of headphone, there's wireless with no cords, and use moderate volume (I hate high volume) one phone ends up dying within a year or two no matter how expensive the headphones are. If you use headphones a lot they will go as the wear and tear of the phone components seems to not be as advanced and durable as they should be.

  5. BluCase
    November 27, 2016 at 7:14 am

    There is a new "Universal" water-resistant Earbuds Carrying Case called the "BudBudi" by BluCase, that has a durable clip to attach to backpacks, belts, purses, gym bags or carry bags.

  6. George
    September 10, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Ok, so I've got a problem . I have a crap Canyon webcam that came with a headset when I first bought it 4 years ago...I searched up in the store where I bought that webcam , and the headset alone was 10$ , it lasted me 4 years...Now I changed my PC speakers and they do not have a headset I tried to connect a new 20$ headset directly to my PC but after 1 week , one side wasn't working anymore...I said: "Ok , maybe let's change the company of the headset and buy a new one" (I do not remember what company made that 20$ headset)And I tried to buy another Canyon one (with hope that it will last like the first one did) for , again , 20-25$ . Guess what? It broke again after 2 weeks...I don't know what to do , when I was not using the headset I was just letting it rest on my desk as freely as I could , and it broke after 2 weeks...My guess is that because my speakers do not have a headset plug (and I don't have another option just to connect the headset in the PC) That's why it just breaks after couple of weeks...

    Sorry if I couldn't explain my situation very clearly but I hope everyone understands , my first language is not english.
    If anyone knows some theory or if this is actually true , let me know.

  7. Some
    August 6, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Wish these tips were useful to me but it would mean changing the way i ise them entirely.. My earphones never leave my phone, i sleep with them in and i move around a lot in my sleep (I usually wake up with them twisted around my body) and they typically last 2-3 weeks with the last two not making it past a few days. The most recent just broke (why i'm here) should i just pay for apple ones? They lasted around a year and a half when i got them.

    • Larry
      October 5, 2016 at 8:42 am

      There is a new "Universal" water-resistant Earbuds Carrying Case called the "BudBudi" by BluCase, that has a durable clip to attach to backpacks, belts, purses, gym bags or carry bags.

  8. Averi
    July 7, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    I have a pair of headphones that cost like $5. That broke soon after I got them, and that I understand. But a $600 pair of headphones breaking after less than a year??? Am I doing something wrong? I am now on my 3rd pair of headphones in the last 2 years, and that pair just stopped working. My mom says it might be a problem with the headphone jack in my computer, which might be true. Now I'm using a $20 Philips set, which I've had for a few months. Is it just defective headphones, or is it a problem with my headphone jack?????
    Otherwise, I found this article somewhat useful, but I don't want my parent to have to dish out money just for some cheap headphones that break every couple of months!!!!!!!

  9. Nicholas
    June 20, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    This helps SOOOOOOO MUCH! Why didn't I think of a case to put it in. At the end of the day I leave them in my phone and put it under my bed. I guess that's bad. Also when I'm called to go downstairs or go use the bathroom, I just hide it (very well unlike my tablet which got caught) under my blanket and come back to what I was doing. I use them because I hide my phone upstairs and I like to listen with my volume on. Unfortunately, the volume can be too loud which A, I have to put my ear up against the phone but not able to watch it at the same time, and B, that can put me at risk of getting caught. Thank u very much

  10. Confused
    May 21, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    if you arent supposed to let it dangle or not wrap it up then what are you supposed to do?

  11. samuel
    March 3, 2016 at 12:47 am

    what if your headphones break like 2 says later after you just got them?

    • Joel Lee
      March 14, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Maybe you got a defective model, or the company isn't very reputable. Hopefully you have a warranty that you can use. Otherwise, sorry. :(

  12. Joe King
    February 11, 2016 at 12:07 am

    I don't buy this at all. You should be able to get great headphones for under $20. I have a few sets of Sony headphones that have lasted more than 5 years and they're still as good as new, and they were less than $20. They have an extra thick cable, bigger than 1/8" in diamter, and are basically unbreakable. You could probably hang from it. And I've had expensive headphones that broke in a few months. So don't buy anything this guy is talking about he's basically just a commercial for ultra expensive headphones. Stick with a good company like Sony and let the ignorant hip hop idiots hawk their ultra expensive headphones to the gullible.

    • ChaseMooncheese
      July 11, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      i have a pair of 5 dollar headphones, which usually last me about a month each. In fact, they just broke a few days ago

  13. Tasha
    December 26, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I get this problem a lot with multiple types of headphones, and I dont know how to make it stop! Now, I am constantly using my headphones, upwards of 10 or more hours straight per day, so they do get more rough treatment than most... I used to go through $30 Sennheiser headphones every three months, this happened for nearly three years. Now I have a Bose AE2 hedset and find that 9 times out of 10 its in the cable, usually close to the jack that goes into my audio device :( The cables used to be $7 to replace but now they are nearly $20, and I dont want to have to start dishing out money there any way to prevent the splice from happening in the first place?

  14. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Please can someone recommend some earphones that aren't so easily broken, because I skate a lot and use them all day, every day and I haven't found a pair that think are great, many thanks.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 8, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      Nothing like earphones which won't break easily, unfortunately. Tried going wireless?

    • Anonymous
      October 12, 2015 at 6:36 am

      Best I've used by far. Outlasts the Samung standard headpnones by years.

    • Miliak
      December 9, 2015 at 10:13 am

      There are nylon rope (aka braided) headphones. Unfortunately they tend to be on cheap headphones. I saw one on a 300$ pair a guy showed me though. They are tough to find on 30-60$ pairs. There is a kit I saw on ebay to braid them, idk what is involved

  15. Anonymous
    August 8, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I had around 8 headsets already.
    The problem usually is either one side stops work due to headphones falling on the ground too many times or the whole headphones working like they are going to die which happens from pulling the cable when I forget I have them on.

    The second is the one that is happening now.
    The problem is that the jack is fine,but the wire is broken somewhere where it enters the headset which makes it hard to fix.
    Does anyone know easy way of fixing it?

  16. Anonymous
    July 13, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Could there be something wrong with the plug/plugs in my MBP and iPhone? I have bought a new pair of headphones EVERY WEEK from yes albeit the reject shop for between $2-$12 but every single time one side loses sound quality or both sides diminish to such a point that I can only hear music and no voice or the other way around with weird squeaking. It NEVER happened with my the headphones I first got with my iPhone. I can't recall if I lost those or if after a number of years they gave out to be honest. But they were the ONLY ones I had for a long time. Oh! And I decided to try buying more expensive sets from Kmart- same thing! Within a week or sometimes even 12-24 hours!- they've died.

    • Anonymous
      September 28, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Really ? Well that's interesting because I've been using Sennheiser I300 headphones (cheap but decent) for a fairly reasonable time when one polarity ended up not working anymore (as for any other headphones I've had before). But here's where this gets interesting, my Sennheiser now useless, I've been using the headphones that were given out along with my iPhone 5S and in less than three months, I already stumble upon issues I'd never had before, mainly with the plug. My phone is always in my pocket when I'm listening to music, and the plug actually shuts the audio output in either the Left or the Right channel randomly. Moving the connection between the plug and the wire seems to fix it albeit very temporarly, as the issue shows back up instantly after doing so (because said wire tends to move to the sides). That said, I'm just surprised to hear that you haven't any issues with Apple headphones because mines are garbage.

    • Dr Pickles
      December 23, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      You have fluff in your phones headphone socket. You need to get the fluff out with a needle or something

  17. Anonymous
    July 2, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Such a stupid shit, i got pretty good headphones like a year they were okay, one then broke, so i just destroyed them in an instant rage, then i got again the same type of headphones (earphones the small ones) and they broke after like a month not even? this is just prove that the phones had just shitty fragile cabling, like all the ones i had before, they just break and keep breaking even if they are pretty expensive, its just stupid and annoying you expect me to listen to such a quiet volume thus cant even overloud the outside sounds? annoying shit packing them into a bag all the time i stop listening, there are just no earphones with good cabling i mean, like a fat cable, no there are just not. i didnt even spin them nothing, i just let them lay on a small table, they were free, they could move, what is this shit, annoying headphones really.

  18. whyyyyy
    April 27, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    I'm gonna cry. Why must they be so fragile?! Fml

  19. Maxis
    April 20, 2015 at 10:29 am

    I MEAN

    sorry my bad

  20. Maxis
    April 20, 2015 at 10:19 am

    does putting spiral cord around the earphone cable (which has flat cable design) also damage it?
    what if the earphone cable is round? is it still okay?

    btw, the spiral cord's for protection and i notice if it is on a flat cable, it is tight.

  21. hotdoge3
    April 30, 2013 at 8:04 am

    all good $2 shop and 2 years and very good

  22. Bob Oh
    April 17, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I'm a working DJ so I can say that I've been lucky that I have had to replace only two pair of 'phones in 15 years of DJing. The first was due to a theft and the second pair was broken by another DJ who used them improperly and cracked the ear piece. So I can attest to the care of headphones is well worth the cost of a replacement head piece @ $250 a pair. Thanks for the tips.

  23. Reinis Vesers
    April 12, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I used to have the "every three months" problem too. I won't say that I was too careful with my earbuds (I use only earbuds because of their compactness) and they weren't of any quality. But then, i got myself an HTC Desire HD and momentarily fell in love with the original earbuds that came with the phone. The quality was good, they served me for more than two years although I wasn't careful with them and in the end they died, because i left them on the couch for half a minute where my dog got to them. My dad bought himself a new HTC phone and the first thing i did, was relieve him from his headphones and they've worked great for me for the last 1,5 years or so.

    • Reinis Vesers
      April 12, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      I'm pretty sure that even if my next phone isn't going to be an HTC, I will still use the original HTC earbuds.

  24. Keith Swartz
    April 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    I love it: Everytime I read an article like this and increase my knowledge on said subject at least 50%! Thank you Joel &!

    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2013 at 4:14 am

      You're welcome! Glad you could benefit. :)

    • Natgunnels
      September 12, 2013 at 3:37 am

      Keep try

  25. Billy
    April 11, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    $10 ear buds aren't all that bad especially if you're just using them at the gym. I've been using the same pair (JVC) for 2yrs without fail. Got them at Walmart just to have something cheap to use and it wouldn't matter if they got all sweaty while working out. They're still going strong.

  26. Chris Hoffman
    April 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

    My current pair of Sennheisers have been yanked on and crashed to the floor so many times over the years, but they just keep on truckin'. The best tip is not to cheap out and to spend a bit more, those $10-$20 pairs of headphones will break much more easily (in addition to sounding worse).

    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2013 at 4:13 am

      I've heard mixed reviews on Sennheisers, but the general rule of thumb is that higher price point = higher quality, so you probably have one of the better models. I always cringe when I hear people accidentally yank their headphones to the ground. :(

  27. macwitty
    April 11, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I use a simple cable winder and wind it loose on it

  28. Nevzat A
    April 11, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Headphones look like a more healthy choice to me lately, thanks to a MUO article for ear health.

  29. Zhong J
    April 11, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Now I prefer purchasing headphones because they are more durable than ordinary earphones, the last time I purchase these earbuds I wore them during sleep and got crushed overnight when shifting between positions. It happened several time until the thing broke with no identifiable cause, as if the slight cable was detached inside the ear case and eventually throw it away. I've also discovered that you shouldn't buy a headphone that cables reach to both right and left ear pieces, since it has high chance of forcibly tearing off from your ear when you're reaching for something thus causing wiring damage. Whenever you're not using them, put them away in a dry and cool location and not somewhere it feel or in a sack of other junk.

  30. Chris Marcoe
    April 11, 2013 at 4:52 am

    My breakage always includes the wire. Whether its an animal chewing on it to something coming lose. Is it fixable when its the wiring?

    though, I ahve had the brittle head piece break on my favorites. That's what happens when you have a 15 YO boy headbanging with them while on vacation.

    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2013 at 4:11 am

      I've never done it myself, but as far as I know you can actually repair broken wiring if you solder it correctly. A few queries on Google should lead you to a reliable answer on that.

    • Natgunnels
      September 12, 2013 at 3:36 am

      Yea you right all log for now

    • Natgunnels
      September 12, 2013 at 3:37 am

      I beak my headphones a lot you help me

  31. Steve
    April 11, 2013 at 3:35 am

    One of the reasons that headphones break? They're manufactured by Ultimate Ears.

  32. Tom Six
    April 11, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Really wished I had read this sooner because my head phones just busted...and thanks to this article, I understand that much more.

    • Jason
      April 7, 2015 at 7:29 am

      yup, same here buddy.

  33. Richard Steven Hack
    April 11, 2013 at 1:50 am

    Anything that breaks that easily is almost always because of piss-poor design. There are obvious ways to reduce tension on cables that should be incorporated in headphone design and almost never are.

    Beyond that, the answer as always to cables is: wireless. Which of course brings in the fact that no one REALLY knows how to make THAT work reliably.

  34. Flavius Graur
    April 11, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Freezing weather is also a reason. I change about 3 headphones every winter because I listen to music when going out in the cold. The cable becomes brittle and eventually breaks.

    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2013 at 4:09 am

      I saw a picture once where someone's earbud cables were frozen into a straight line. Freezing temperatures can definitely wreak havoc on technology under the right conditions.