Earbud Lifespan [ How long and When to Replace ]

by Josh Koop | Last Updated:   4 weeks ago
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Not all earbuds are made equal, and neither is the type of wear and tear that they’d endure. You may have already purchased a pair of earbuds or are looking to do so, but are asking yourself the question, “How long are they likely to last, and when will I need to replace them?”

When it comes to the lifespan of your earbuds, you can look at an average of between six months and two years. This will vary by brand as well as the type of abuse they receive. Generally, the time to replace them is when their sound begins to distort, or ceases entirely.

We now have an idea of what sort of timeframe we are looking at, but I think we can dissect this even further and examine ways of extending the lifespan of our earbuds.

We also need to examine the indicators in terms of when we ought to consider replacing them.

How Long Do Earbuds Usually Last

This is an interesting question as it can differ from person to person, but one thing is for certain: they will eventually die on you; how long that will take, depends on various factors.

Eventually, your headphones will give up the ghost; they are not hardy and robust devices; they are delicate and tend to have small and intricate inner workings.

As time passes, the numerous parts within will experience wear and tear for an array of reasons, and eventually, something will give.

Although that seems like a troubling thought, there is hope that if you care for them properly, you can prolong the inevitable.

They do not come with a specific expiration date, but a good ballpark is that they ought to at least last you a full year, before they need replacing.

Some people treat their earbuds like they are made of steel, and thus we sometimes find cases where people’s earbuds only last a few months or even as little as weeks.

However, if you treat them with care and look after them properly, you could have them lasting up to three or four years.

If you are exceptionally careful with them, and treat them well, you may have them lasting even longer than this. However, it is advisable to remember that they may give up any time after their first year or two. 

With this in mind, we need to draw your attention to one specific factor that is likely to play the biggest role in the life span of your earbuds, and that is how much bank you are willing to fork out.

For the most part, what you pay for is what you get. The less you pay, the more likely they are going to have a shorter lifespan.

When Should You Replace Earbuds

There Is Distortion (Especially At High Volumes)

If you are listening to your music or audio at higher volumes and there is distinct distortion, it is most likely time for you to get new earbuds.

One Side Is Louder Than The Other

One of the similar issues you may find, is that instead of distortion, there is a difference in the levels of sound between the earbuds, and this is not attributed to the panning of the music, but rather that one of the buds is broken.

There Is A Crackling When You Move The Cord

This generally means there has been damage done internally to the wire that connects the jack to the earbuds.

Usually, if you wiggle the area just behind the jack, you will experience a crackling noise, which will likely mean that it is damaged beyond repair.

Their Cord Begins to Fray Or Crack And Break

Over time with general wear and tear, the cord earbud may experience the problem mentioned above, which could cause the now exposed inner wires to become damaged, as well.

They Have Water Damage

This could be caused for two potential reasons: either they went through the wash or fell into water, or you use them when you workout, and they have sustained damage due to being exposed to sweat.

Whatever the reason, your precious earbuds have most likely shorted out.

If they were exposed to water, you could potentially dry them out in a bag of rice or use a hairdryer set to a low temperature.

Still, if it is from constant exposure to sweat, you ought to consider getting yourself sports earbuds specially designed for this sort of abuse.

Wireless Earbuds No Longer Holding Their Charge

If you are using wireless earbuds and they are no longer holding their charge, then it is probably time to consider replacing them.

One thing you could do to aid in prolonging the battery life of these earbuds is to store them outside their charging case, if you are only using them for short periods at a time.

Try not to charge them unnecessarily, and be sure to only have them plugged in while they are actually charging and then remove them from the case once they have a full charge.

Even if your earbuds do not break, their batteries are finally going to be the end of them, as all rechargeable batteries are destined to eventually lose their ability to hold a charge.

What Shortens The Lifespan Of Earbuds

When it comes to looking at some of the causes why our earbuds may get damaged, some other things may happen, which we could prevent in order to ensure the longevity of our earbuds.

Bending, Twisting, Tugging On, Or Rolling The Cord

This is something that may often occur, especially if we are playing with the corded earbuds. One could cause the internal wiring to break and render the earbuds unusable by purposefully or accidentally doing this.

Not Using Proper Carrying Case

It is much simpler to place your earbuds into your pocket or satchel and be on your way, but this can cause serious damage to the internal wiring and is something that can be easily avoided.

Hard storage cases accompany most higher-quality earbuds, and it is advisable to use these.

Pulling On The Chord Instead Of The Plug

Many of us are lazy at times, and it is much easier to simply grab onto the cord and pull the earbuds out this way, but as you will have come to realize, this sort of action will only damage the internal wiring and could even mean the end of your earbuds for good.

Exposure To Moisture

We have already mentioned this point, but it is crucial to remember not to allow your earbuds, like any other electronic device, to be exposed to moisture, particularly for prolonged periods.

If you use your earbuds when you work out, expect them to have a shorter lifespan than expected.

Listening At High Volumes

Although we know that we should think of replacing them once they start to distort at high volumes, one cause of that potential distortion is actually by listening to audio at high volumes, to begin with.

Rather keep your maximum listening volume to between seventy and eighty percent.

Buying Inexpensive Earbuds

This one may appear obvious, but sometimes we may forget that when something is cheap, it is generally because it is of lower quality than its counterparts.

Inexpensive earbuds or those which come with a device, such as your cell phone, are going to have shorter life spans, guaranteed.


You are going to need to consider the price tag when it comes to earbuds. There are those at the low end and those at the high end, and their price usually affirms their overall quality. So, if you want earbuds that will last longer, consider spending more.

With that being said, though, if you are someone who does not treat their earbuds kindly and you know that you will likely cause damage to or break them regardless of how much you have spent on them, then perhaps you would be better off going with a cheaper pair.

Apart from pricing, the main other factor, as mentioned, is how you treat and care for them. It is a good idea to keep your earbuds clean and to store and carry them in a manner that would best preserve them.

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