(Last Updated On: September 22, 2020)

Learn the best practical tips that will add precious years to your headphones’ lifespan

If you buy a cheap pair of headphones and it falls apart after a month, can you avoid another frustration simply by buying a more expensive one?

Unfortunately, that’s not the solution.

Headphones, regardless of their price and quality, will break down in no time if you use them carelessly.

Read on and learn what every headphone owner should know about how to make headphones last longer.

From: 123rf/nunataki
From: 123rf.com/nunataki

Quick Links

Click on the links to jump to the relevant section.

How to Make Headphones Last Longer

Headphones last longer when you take the time and effort to give them the care they deserve. That rule applies even to cheap headphones, which could last years with proper maintenance. All it takes are a few minutes of diligent inspection, common home items for cleaning, and a good old presence of mind.

  1. Keep them clean
  2. Mind the cable
  3. Store them properly
  4. Replace headphone pads occasionally
  5. Protect the weak points
  6. Avoid moisture
  7. Match your headphones’ ohms with the audio source
  8. Moderate your volume
  9. For wireless headphones: Have a charging schedule
  10. Invest in durable headphones

Keep them clean

Both the outside environment where you use your headphones and the inner environment of your ears contain dirt that could find their way to your headphones’ moving parts and affect sound quality. Clean them off diligently before they could build up and cause any damage.

Here are a few things to remember:

Wipe after every use

Your headphones are exposed to dust, sweat, and moisture, so it’s important to wipe the

earpads clean with a soft cloth dampened with alcohol or hand sanitizer after every use.

You can even go a bit further by occasionally using a cotton bud to reach into the folds and crevices, and soaking your earbud sleeves in warm soapy water for five minutes.

Do not let others use your earphones

Aside from the fact that other people will not be as careful when handling your headphones, the exchange of earwax could also cause either or both of you a serious ear infection.

So even if it looks sweet to share your earphones, best to stay on the safe side and say ‘no’.

A couple sharing their headphones (From Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)
A couple sharing their headphones (From Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)

Lightly brush earwax or debris off the driver unit

Earwax, grease, and debris can accumulate and harden on your earphones’ driver units. This isn’t just a hygiene issue but can also cause your earbuds to malfunction.

To avoid this, brush them off gently with a soft brush at least once a week.

Don’t forget the jack

The headphone jack’s contact point can accumulate dirt and lint. This causes various issues like sound warping, static, headphones only working on one side, or a loose connection.

The best way to clean your headphone jack is to use a compressed gas duster. This could deliver a short blast that will dislodge whatever lint and dirt are nestling inside.

A pair of 10 oz disposable compressed gas dusters.(From: Amazon)
A pair of 10 oz disposable compressed gas dusters.(From: Amazon)

If a gas duster is not available, you can use a bent paper clip lined with double-sided tape. Gently insert it into the jack and twist lightly so the dirt can stick to the tape as you pull it out.

Check out this article on how to clean your headphones for a more in-depth guide.

Mind the cable

Most people don’t give headphone cords a second thought. However, the cable is one of the most important parts of a headphone, and it is also one of the most easily damaged.

Here are a few tips to keep the cable protected:

Don’t put them directly in your pocket

Although it makes your headphones highly accessible, avoid carrying your headphones around inside your pocket. The cramped space, especially if you love skinny jeans, compresses the cable and puts pressure on its internal wires.

Don’t dangle the wires

Any form of extensive bending can result in an earlier deterioration of your headphone wires. The point where the wire bends 90 degrees as it dangles at the edge of your desk can snap, especially when pressed by your elbow or chair.

Keep your wires untangled

Keeping your cable in a tangled heap bend and weakens the tiny wires inside. Untangling them would require pulling the knots apart, which could cause the wires to snap. If your cable got tangled bad, here’s a detailed guide on how to undo the mess, and keep them from tangling again.

Tangled cable
Tangled cable

Don’t roll your cables in tight loops

It may look neat, but you should avoid exposing your headphone cables to unnecessary stress and pressure. Tight loops and knots will actually stretch and soften the cables as you roll, permanently damaging the internal wires.

Coil your cables properly

Instead of tight coils, it’s best to understand and use expertly proven coiling methods like the over-under technique.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Place the cable on your left hand with the connector facing outward.
  2. Loop the first coil loosely around your left hand (over-loop).
  3. Grab the cable with your right hand, palm facing up.
  4. As you approach your left hand, turn your right hand so that the thumbs meet.
  5. Grab the wire with your left hand.
  6. Repeat the process until the whole cable is uniformly coiled.
  7. Hold it together by using a Velcro strip.

Store them properly

Headphones were not meant to be stored in bags, backpacks, or pockets where they can get crushed or bent oddly when mixed with your other stuff. A dedicated storage keeps them in good shape, literally.

Buy the right headphone case

Headphone cases come in various sizes, so don’t just pick one off the shelf without checking if it’s the right fit.

A case that’s too large causes headphones to shake when you’re on the go. Too small and it can crush the drivers, pads, and wires with unfortunate results. The right headphone storage case, therefore, should neither be too loose nor too tight.

An example of a headphone case (From: Amazon)
An example of a headphone case (From: Amazon)

Replace headphone pads occasionally

Headphone pads affect more than the aesthetic, but also the comfortability and sound quality of your headphones.

But whether it has a protein leather coating or not, headphone pads absorb moisture from sweat or humidity over time. This causes the pads to get brittle and eventually peel off or crack. Some pads even rot when neglected for some time.

When that happens, it’s time to ditch them for replacements. The same goes for earphone sleeves, which deform over time and lose the ability to block ambient sound.

Learn more about how to replace headphone pads via this step-by-step guide

Protect the weak points

Headphones work through a series of connections that include the plug, volume slider, earbud, and in-line splitter. Each is a weak point that could easily give way with a careless tug.

Here are a few tips to keep them protected:

Pull the plug, not the cable

The connection between the wire and the plug is one of the most fragile parts of any headphones. And when the plug is snugly lodged in the jack, pulling the wire instead of the plug can sever that connection permanently.

The same should be avoided when pulling out detachable earpieces.

Don’t leave headphones plugged in

Keeping headphones plugged in while not in use weakens the jack’s internal springs. You won’t know what happens if you leave your earphones unattended.

Avoid dropping your headphone/earphone drivers

Much like any other gadget, any shock or pressure can cause detrimental effects on your earphones. The driver houses delicate moving parts that can break when the unit is accidentally dropped or carelessly tossed on a hard table surface.

Avoid moisture

Moisture from changing weather conditions can corrode the outer layer of your headphones. Sweat, on the other hand, stains the ear pads.

If your headphones get soaked for whatever reason, immediately pour rubbing alcohol over the drenched headphones and wait a few hours for them to dry.

To avoid moisture from weather conditions, put Silica gel desiccant where you store your headphones to absorb moisture.

10-gram packets of premium Silica gel desiccant-dehumidifier (From: Amazon)
10-gram packets of premium Silica gel desiccant-dehumidifier (From: Amazon)

If you have a thing for doing sport with your headphones on, buy a pair specially-designed to stand up against rain and sweaty conditions.

Match your headphones’ ohms with the audio source

Impedance is the interaction between the electric currents of the headphones and the audio source. An ohm is a measure of the headphones’ resistance to the electric current from the amplifier.

To ensure the highest audio quality, the source and the headphones must pair well. This explains why using high impedance headphones in low-powered audio sources will not provide optimal sound levels.

On the other hand, headphones with low impedance can blow out when using high-powered amplifiers.

Most modern headphones are designed to appeal to a mass market, including mobile devices. This has made lower impedance (approximately 32 ohms) headphones the current standard.

Moderate your volume

Headphone speakers vibrate while producing sound. Amping the volume too high rocks the fragile sound-producing mechanisms to the core, damaging the moving parts, causing the sound to warp, and sending you on a costly trip to the ear doctor.

Here are a few tips to save your speakers – and your hearing:

Turn the volume down before plugging headphones

The initial shock can damage your speakers if you do not turn the volume down before plugging. Make it a habit to turn the volume down before plugging or unplugging your headphones.

Graphics of the volume control feature shown being toned down.
Graphics of the volume control feature shown being toned down.

Don’t rely too much on bass boost

If your headphones are not equipped with powerful bass drivers, relying on a “Bass Boost” feature can damage them. Heavy bass puts a lot of pressure and eventually wears down speakers that were not designed to process too much low-frequency sound.

For wireless headphones: Have a charging schedule

Wireless headphones spare you from having to untangle the wires, but you need to charge them regularly to boost the battery’s performance. Besides following a regular schedule, you must take care to avoid improperly charging the headphones or it will damage the internal circuits.

Don’t wait for the battery to completely drain before charging, but don’t overcharge either. Additionally, never leave headphones charging inside a car that’s parked under direct sunlight.

Invest in durable headphones

Durability is a function of quality materials. So it’s always a smart decision to invest in models that may be pricey but are built to last.

Of course, this doesn’t rely heavily on price alone. Not all expensive headphones are durable enough and affordable headphones don’t necessarily mean cheap hardwares.

At the end of the day, it’s always a safe bet to look for brands with established reputations for innovation, durability, and performance.

If you’re not particular about brands, it’s best to base your decision on headphones that have sturdy connections, stronger and longer cabling, and attractive warranty. That last one could tell you just how confident the manufacturers are about their product.

Advantages of Good Headphone Maintenance

Like anything that brings joy, headphones deserve your tender loving care. Luckily, it doesn’t involve any fancy stuff — just patience and common sense. Care, not carelessness, is key. And treating your headphones properly can bring priceless benefits.

Here are a few:

Prolong headphones’ lifespan

Looking after your headphones can add years to its life. You’ll derive every bit of value from the money you invested, which translates to countless hours of enjoyment and a sort of emotional ROI. You also save yourself the annoyance of disruptive and costly repairs.

Keep them looking new

Have you complimented someone for his ‘brand new’ headphones only to learn that it’s been in service for years?

Good maintenance preserves your headphones’ aesthetics. This is cool because, aside from functionality, headphones have become an indispensable fashion accessory.

Beyond the brand, model, and design, people also look at your headphones’ overall condition.

So although you may not be thinking about it now, it would be easier to sell your used headphones for a good price if it remains in “brand new” condition. That means no dents, scratches, or misaligned parts as much as possible.

Enjoy optimal sound quality

Despite the common belief that sound quality only comes from headphone drivers, multiple parts of the headphones affect its sound output. Even a slight misalignment or dent on your headphone pads can cause drastic changes. And a huge chunk of headphone maintenance is taking a good watch of these parts to prevent permanent damage.

So taking care of your headphones properly means enjoying not just its looks but also its sound quality for years.

Avoid invalidating the warranty

Headphones are typically sold with an accompanying one or two-year warranty. However, most come with conditions; some will replace damaged sets due to accidents but refuse to repair issues arising from negligent use.

The best way to avoid having to plead your case before the store owner is to take good care of your headphones.

Also, don’t waste your warranty privilege. Always check your headphones for any cracks or tears and have them immediately repaired or replaced. If not, you may end up needing to buy a new pair or paying for a more expensive one.

Conclusion

It’s every proud owner’s dream to be able to immediately recognize a problem with his or her beloved pair of headphones and prevent the frustration of any disruption it could cause. Hopefully, you are now fully informed about the ins and outs of how to make your headphones last longer and ready to impress your friends with your new-found insights.

Now, you’ll be more conscious of moisture when you take your headphones out on a stroll. You’ll take it easy on the volume and set aside a few minutes to give your pair a thorough cleaning. You’d be wise not to cram it in your pocket or store it in tight loops. Most of all, you’ll enjoy the sound more vividly because you know you’ve done everything to make it that way.

Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share? Send us your comments because we’d love to hear your thoughts.