This Is Why Your Headphones Keep Breaking

Headphones Breaking Intro   This Is Why Your Headphones Keep BreakingI 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

headphones breaking method   This Is Why Your Headphones Keep Breaking

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

headphones breaking storage   This Is Why Your Headphones Keep Breaking

A point that may be equally as important as proper cable management 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

headphones breaking volume   This Is Why Your Headphones Keep Breaking

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. 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

headphones breaking quality   This Is Why Your Headphones Keep Breaking

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 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 (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.

Conclusions

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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22 Comments -

Flavius Graur

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

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.

Richard Steven Hack

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.

Tom Six

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

Steve

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

Chris Marcoe

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

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

Yea you right all log for now

Natgunnels

I beak my headphones a lot you help me

Zhong J

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.

Nevzat A

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

macwitty

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

Chris Hoffman

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

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. :(

Billy

$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.

Keith Swartz

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

Joel Lee

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

Natgunnels

Keep try

Reinis Vesers

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

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.

Bob Oh

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.

hotdoge3

all good $2 shop and 2 years and very good