Why Do My Earbuds Keep Breaking?

Headphones are an excellent way to make your commute, jog, or aversion to socializing far more effective. According to a recent poll, 10% of the population uses headphones exclusively as a way to avoid people, without considering those that are simply bored walking to the store.

So when you notice that your left ear is quiet or completely silent, it can become difficult to keep up with daily tasks.

The difficult reality is that most earbuds will not last very long on the cheaper end, with higher-end products typically making it to around two years on average.

Before you schedule an emergency session with your therapist, rest assured that there are methods and proven strategies to keep your earbuds running for far longer. The following few paragraphs will go over how to clean earbuds, avoid deterioration, and why wired earbuds are a nightmare to maintain.

Why Do My Earbuds Keep Breaking?

There is no shortage of reasons why earbuds stop functioning, some of which have nothing to do with the consumer. There are several folks who get stuck with a defective pair of headphones and have to use a warranty or buy another pair of five-dollar Skullcandies.

With that said, several people may not be aware that they are damaging their headphones by using them while sleeping or even listening to music at higher volumes.

Poor Quality

If you pay for a pair of ten-dollar headphones, chances are that you will be buying another pair in a month or two. As a proud penny pincher, it burns the insides to tell people to spend more cash on earbuds – though it will likely save you money and time in the long run.

A good pair of headphones can last you a couple of years for a hundred dollars or less. Knock-off brands found on grocery store J-hooks will be replaced ad nauseam in the same amount of time.

Aggressive Handling

While this applies much more to wired earbuds, it is true for all types of headphones. You have to be very gentle when maneuvering headphones, as they can be damaged very easily after a few sharp pulls or pinches.

This can cause the internal wires to fray, which will affect the audio and cause a distinct drop in clarity, sound, and more. If you are someone who likes to tightly wind your headphones into a circle, being a bit less rough with them may increase their longevity.

Ways to avoid this are by removing headphones exclusively from the plug of the headphones. You should also not wear them to sleep, avoid twists, tugs, and knots as well as not let them hang off surfaces. You should also wrap them loosely when not in use as tightly wrapped cords can cause internal damage.


Most earbuds will come with an Ingress Protection or IP rating, which is a measure of how water resistant they are.

This is often used as a standard for how much moisture your earbuds can handle, though you should probably try to avoid liquid all the same. This is often overlooked, as several people will be dripping sweat with their earbuds firmly inserted.

You can find the IP rating of most products with a simple Google search or by flipping through the manual if one is provided. A good rule of thumb is anything that has an IP rating under four should steer clear of the gym and most headphones should avoid downpours, wet surfaces, and bodies of water.

When cleaning earbuds (which we will discuss more below), avoid using wet wipes or water as this can damage the earbuds, especially if it gets through the speaker grille.

Heightened Volume or Prolonged Listening Sessions

The phrase “use it or lose it” hardly applies to earbuds. While you obviously can use them whenever you wish, several hours of audio at deafening decibel levels will take hours off the earbud’s life.

It will also cause hearing loss if your earbuds can get loud enough, which most can. Listening at high volumes will not only put a strain on the insides, but it can damage the parts themselves.

A better alternative is to try and listen to earbuds that cancel out exterior noise so that you don’t need to pop an eardrum to hear your tunes. You may also want to take infrequent breaks every hour or so if you are listening too loudly.

It is typically recommended to follow something known as the 60/60 rule, which means listening at 60% for an hour or 60 minutes. This will not only benefit your earbuds but your sense of sound as well.

Leaving Headphones out of the Case

Most of us have no real knowledge of all the dirt, dust, and germs lying around on surfaces. So when you stuff your headphones into a complex Gordian knot in your jeans pocket, they pick up quite a bit of dust, lint, and more. The same is true of coffee tables, backpacks, and dresser drawers.

For most wireless earbuds, your device will come with a charging case or sealable plastic container. Wired earbuds do sometimes contain a case, though cheaper models will likely be lacking any protective cover.

Any sealable case that is wiped and down and free of dust will work fine and keep your headphones working for a bit more time.

Wearing Headphones to Bed

While wireless earbuds may be able to get away with unconscious jam sessions, wired alternatives will often get bundled up, twisted, and somehow end up with your full body weight on top of them. As we discussed earlier, heavy tension, twisting, and pressure can cause damage to not only the cords – but the earbuds themselves.

The sound of silence is often unbearable for people trying to get a restful night of sleep. Ways to get around this are white noise like a fan, or even leaving the television or audio speaker at a low volume.

You can also look into wireless earbud options, white noise machines, portable speakers, and a number of other things that won’t be harmed by your sleep cycle.

Your Earbuds are wired

We are uncomfortably aware of how much we have been beating the idea of true wireless earbuds into your head, though it is for good reason. They simply last far longer on average, provide more versatility (including being able to sleep with them on) and they skip most of the common issues of their wired siblings.

Be wary of headphones that claim to be wireless but simply have a cord connecting the two earbuds around your neck.

True wireless earbuds will come with no additional cord outside of a potential charging cable and while still fragile – they are able to get past most of the failures of the average pair of headphones. In fairness, there are several wired “over-ear” headphones that come with thick plastic covers on the wire that have just as much longevity, though that is a conversation for another article.

You will not have to concern yourself with tangled wires, quickly dying audio channels, or getting yourself stuck on a nearby doorknob.

Earbuds are Not Cleaned Enough

It is recommended that you try to clean your earbuds once a week if you use them regularly, though this is easier said than done. Even if you can only manage to clean them once a month, that is far better than allowing them to accumulate every type of undesirable particle that sits in your ear, on surfaces, and in storage spaces.

We will go over a very brief set of directions on how to clean your earbuds below.

Avoid moisture as much as you can when cleaning electrical parts. Do not use wet wipes, water, or anything liquid if you can help it.

  1. If you have removable ear tips, wipe them off and even use water with a bit of dish soap if you wish. When the cleaning process is completed, let them dry completely before placing them back on the earbuds.
  1. With the grille of the earbuds facing toward the floor; use a toothpick, Q-tip, or non-abrasive brush to clean the openings in the grille, allowing them to fall as you clean.
  1. Using a dry wipe, clean off any excess grime caked onto the sides of the earbud or even the wire. You should also check for signs of damage to the wire, as it can be often overlooked.
  1. If you have a charging case, wipe that down as well. Several have a port that charges the earbuds, do not get it wet.

The process itself is notoriously tedious – particularly picking at the speaker grille – though it shouldn’t take more than ten to fifteen minutes for the average pair of buds.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Know if your Earbuds are Dying?

If your earbuds are leaning towards a terminal diagnosis, you will often hear it in the audio. It could be something as minor as a bit of static or crackling when listening at higher volumes, all the way to utter silence in both ears.

Diminished audio clarity, a muted ear, permanently lowered volume, and skipping audio are all key indicators that replacement earbuds won’t be fair off. Some earbuds do suffer minor technical issues that may seem like a dying earbud, though this is rare and often solved with a quick Swift Moves search.

What is the Difference Between Wireless and True Wireless?

Wireless earbuds are not actually wireless at all, they simply don’t connect directly to your mobile device most times. True wireless fits the description better, as no cord connects the two earbuds and they run off a Bluetooth connection. Bluetooth has some issues of its own, especially at distance, though it is far better than a pair of headphones that die after a couple of months.

While we often refer to wireless headphones, what we are referring to are true wireless earbuds.

Wireless Earbuds are skipping, cutting, or not connecting

This is usually a problem that pertains to distance or battery. Bluetooth connections vary in distance and are affected by solid barriers, and even certain Wifi connections (2.4 GHz). If any of these variables are present in your home or commute, it can negatively affect your listening experience.

You should also be wary of a battery with little charge, as it may begin to struggle to keep a connection. The quickest fix is plugging the earbuds in to charge. Weirdly enough, you can also sometimes reset a connection or repair a device with your earbuds to fix wonky playback.


The difficulty of having to stomach a new pair of earbuds every other month is hard to deal with. It is very typically discovered at the beginning of your day when time is of the essence and can negatively affect productivity, mood, and overall enjoyment of the day. They can also add up over time, ten pairs of ten-dollar headphones are just as expensive as one pair of quality buds that will last a couple of years.

Try to buy better quality headphones, clean them regularly, don’t get them wet, and if you can – go with true wireless earbuds.