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Headphone & Earbud Lifespan: How to Make Them Last Longer

Last updated: 3 weeks ago
6 min read

Here are all the answers on how long headphones and earbuds last. We also gathered data on the average lifespan. It’s less than you think…

Headphone earpads deteriorating
CONTENTS (click to show more)

    How Long Do Headphones and Earbuds Last Until They Stop Working?

    The average lifespan of headphones that die in the first 5 years is 2.7 years or 2 years and 8 months. But most headphones last well over 6 years, potentially forever.

    How do we know?

    We created a poll and asked the community a straightforward question: “How long did your last headphones/earbuds last? “

    We got 323 answers, and the results are here:

    Average headphone lifespan%Votes
    1 year10.5%34
    2 years14.5%47
    3 years10.8%35
    4 years10%32
    5 years5.6%18
    Over 6 years48.6%157
    N=323

    The results tell us that many headphones die off quite early, reaching only 2.7 years of average lifetime (for those that die off in the first 5 years). But headphones that last longer have a much greater lifespan, reaching 10, 15, 20, and up to 30 years.

    Sure, the poll was super simple and didn’t go into the details of the type of headphones, level of maintenance, usage, price range, etc. We’re sure all these things impact the lifespan, but that would complicate the poll and scare people from voting. Plus, we were limited in the number of answers.

    More things to consider:

    There is a big difference between wireless headphones with battery degradation and wired headphones that can potentially last forever with the right maintenance.

    The average headphone lifespan wouldn’t tell us much because the difference between headphones that last under 5 years and those that last up to 30 years would skew the average data.

    It’s important to know that wireless headphones became prominent in 2016 with the release of AirPods, while wired headphones go back decades.

    Nevertheless, from the voter comments we received, we’ve made a couple of conclusions:

    • Wired headphones and earbuds last the longest, regularly reaching over 10 years and some even up to 30 years of age (with proper maintenance).
    • Wireless headphones, especially true wireless earbuds, have a shorter lifespan due to battery and electronics degradation.
    • Cheaper headphones tend to break or malfunction sooner
    • Likewise, expensive headphones with higher quality materials and design last longer

    But you don’t have to buy expensive headphones to make them last. Check the guides on the best cheap headphones and budget earbuds that surpass the quality of their price point.

    Related:

    How Long Should Headphones and Earbuds Last?

    Treblab Z2 wireless headphones around the neck

    Obviously, we want headphones and earbuds to last forever or at least until we buy a new pair.

    But here are the general guidelines:

    Wired headphones and earbuds can last a lifetime with proper maintenance and care.

    How long should wireless headphones last?

    Quality wireless headphones should last at least 10 years. But eventually, all Bluetooth headphones and earbuds become obsolete due to battery degradation.

    Premium, expensive models likely last over 10 years. Time will tell since we have less than a decade of data (since 2016). Likewise, quality cheap Bluetooth headphones can reach the same age with proper maintenance.

    Similar: Why are headphone prices so expensive?

    How long should true wireless earbuds last?

    True wireless earbuds should last at least 5 years, if not longer. Though, according to user data, almost half will likely die off in the first 3 years.

    Earbuds are treated harder than headphones which is one of the reasons for a shorter lifespan. Nonetheless, proper use and maintenance prolong the earbuds’ lifespan.

    So, here are the factors that affect the lifespan of headphones and earbuds.

    • Type of headphones: Wireless headphones rely on electronics for connection, which malfunction faster than wired over time.
    • Battery degradation: Headphones and earbuds with batteries eventually stop holding a charge and become useless.
    • Cheap materials: Rubber, faux leather, and foam are the first headphone parts that deteriorate.
    • Water damage: Headphones exposed to water and humidity are likely to die sooner
    • Physical damage: If you throw headphones on the floor, hit them off the table, or treat them roughly, expect a shorter lifespan.

    How materials affect the lifespan of headphones and earbuds

    Most headphones are made from plastics and metal, which last a lifetime. But some parts are made of materials that degrade more quickly.

    Headphone earpads are generally made from foam and faux leather, which degrade in a couple of years. If you can’t replace the earpads, you can’t use the headphones anymore.

    Headphone earpads deteriorating
    Faux leather or pleather earpads chaff and start “shedding” after some time. Eventually, you have to replace them, if possible.

    Earbud eartips are made from silicone and memory foam which also degrade in a couple of years, but you can replace them on all in-ear headphones. So, it isn’t a problem.

    Usage patterns and how they affect lifespan

    Treblab WX8 wet

    How you use the headphones impacts lifespan.

    Using headphones in demanding conditions, exposure to sweat, water, extreme temperatures, and small dust particles will lower lifespan. Water and dust are the main reasons for headphone malfunction.

    Listening to headphones at home when relaxing, with constant temperature and healthy humidity, is the best for longevity.

    Dropping your headphones on the floor or squeezing them in your backpack puts strain on the physical structure. It can create small cracks and openings for dust and humidity to enter, which creates risk.

    Common sense applies here. Take good care of your headphones as if they were a sensitive piece of electronics. Because that’s what they are.

    How storage affects headphone lifespan?

    1MORE SonoFlow in the case

    Carefully storing headphones in the original box or on a headphone stand inside your home can prolong their life.

    Store earbuds in their carrying cases. You’ll charge their battery and protect them at the same time.

    Try to avoid the following:

    • Humid places where water can damage the electronics inside
    • Dusty storage, where small particles can enter the headphones and cause problems
    • Places, where it’s more likely headphones get hit and damaged.

    You might like to show off your headphones on a wall shelve. But if you have kids and they accidentally pull them off, it will not end well.

    Do more expensive headphones last longer?

    More expensive headphones usually last longer because they use better-quality materials and better-designed electronics.

    But another reason expensive headphones last longer is that the most expensive headphones are wired. And wired headphones have a longer lifespan than wireless by the nature of technology.

    Common Causes of Headphone and Earbud Failure

    Wear and tear

    Parts of headphones naturally break due to use over time. These parts include earpads, eartips, headband cushioning, wires, connectors, control modules, and built-in buttons.

    Water and dust damage

    Exposing unprotected headphones to water, sweat, and dust often leads to damage and failure. Water corrodes the electronics and causes them to stop working. Dust has a similarly negative effect.

    Jaybird Vista 2 covered in dirt
    Only dust-proof earbuds have protection against small particles.

    Accidental physical damage

    Cracking the headphone housing, breaking the headband, cutting the wires, and breaking the electronics all include physical damage. The only thing you can do to prevent accidents is to avoid risky storage locations and use.

    Software and electronics errors: When wireless headphones become outdated, the manufacturer stops supporting them. This increases incompatibility with newer software on your music device and creates errors.

    Signs your headphones are nearing the end of their lifespan

    Signs that your headphones or earbuds are close to the end of their time include:

    • Static noise and crackling in the audio
    • Lowered max volume
    • Lowered sound quality from what you remember
    • Difficulties keeping a stable wireless connection with an audio device
    • Diminished battery capacity and unexpected turn-offs.

    How to Prolong the Lifespan of Your Headphones and Earbuds

    Here are the tips that will help you prolong the lifespan of your headphones and earbuds:

    Safe usage and handling: Don’t expose your headphones to water if they’re not waterproof. Don’t use them in dusty situations if they aren’t dust-proof (see dust Ingress Protection guide). Avoid physical strain and extreme temperatures because they can damage them.

    Correct storage: Store your headphones in a safe place. The perfect headphone storage place is dry, dark, and blocked from direct sunlight, where it’s unlikely to get accidentally physically damaged.

    Apple AirPods Max measuring loudness
    Get a nice headphone stand for your headphones

    Cleaning and maintenance: Regularly wipe your headphones and earbuds to remove water, sweat, and dust. A clean, dry cloth is best for the job. Clean the earbud eartips as well. Ear wax can be a real problem. For specifics, follow the guides below:

    Follow the tips above, and your headphones and earbuds will last longer. Appropriate usage, storage, and maintenance will considerably extend their lifetime.

    FAQs

    What is the average lifespan of headphones?

    About half the headphones that die in the first 5 years have an average lifespan of 2.7 years. But high-quality wired headphones last much longer, easily reaching over 10, 15 and some even 30 years.

    Do good headphones last forever?

    Good wired headphones can last forever if you replace the earpads and cables when needed. But wireless headphones have a limited lifespan due to software and battery limitations with planned obsolescence.

    How do you tell if your headphones are dying?

    The main signs that your headphones are dying are: static noise and crackling in the audio, decreased sound quality and volume, problems keeping a stable wireless connection, diminished battery capacity, and incidental turn-offs.

    What headphones last the longest?

    Wired headphones last the longest because they don’t have a battery or complicated electronics that can break or become incompatible with newer software. Premium wireless Bluetooth headphones also last longer thanks to longer support and higher quality design.

    Read more:

    Conclusion

    Now you know that average headphones that break last less than 3 years before being replaced, while wired headphones can last a lifetime.

    Take good care of your headphones, buy quality brands, and your next pair will last longer than the average.

    See the long-lasting earbuds guide for more info on the latest recommendations.

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