Why do my headphones sound muffled? How to fix?
Here's an article to answer your question "Why do my headphones sound muffled?" and some tips on how you can fix it.
Headphones, like many other consumer electronic devices, are delicate devices. You need to handle them carefully since they are not shock-proof, water-proof, or even dummy-proof.
Unlike durable wireless earbuds, wired headphones can break very easily. On top of that, the best of them are also very expensive, and therefore, it is in our best interest to take proper care of them.
Unfortunately, headphones will break at some point in our lives sooner or later. It is beyond our control, but if you feel like your headphones are breaking too frequently (even high-quality ones,) then it’s most probably because of you mishandling them without even realizing it.
If you don’t know how long should a headphone last, you can read this article here.
So why do your headphones keep breaking?
To answer that: There are numerous reasons why headphones tend to break easily, and most of the time, it’s because of the user damaging the cord. However, several other reasons can damage the headphones without you knowing. In the upcoming sections, we will talk about several related topics such as:
So grab your notebooks people, this is your first class on “Headphone damage control 101.”
In my opinion, I believe that headphones are more prone to physical damage than earbuds, and this is not to say that earbuds are perfect. Earbuds have their own problems, but headphones are larger and have a higher chance of breaking due to their shape and exposure to the outside world.
If you are worried about this, don’t be. Headphones are still very versatile because they offer richer sound, better noise isolation, and longer battery life than earbuds. Nonetheless, if you want a more rugged and extra-durable pair of headphones, check out our article on the 7 most durable headphones.
Most modern headphones are water-resistant, but that doesn’t mean they are “water-proof” by any means. Therefore, just because you bought a pair of high-quality headphones doesn’t mean that you can now shower while listening to LoFi girl.
Now, water-resistant (or sweat-resistant) headphones do have some form of protection against water. Most mainstream headphones are rated (at least) IPX4, which means that they are resistant to small splashes from any direction. With the IPX4 rating, you can wear them while working out or walking in light rain. Anything bigger than that, and you’re setting your headphones up for early retirement.
Like I mentioned before, headphones are more vulnerable to the outside elements than earbuds. Therefore, if you are an avid headphone user, I recommend being extra precautious while working out or “singing in the rain.”
Nowadays, most modern smartphones and TWS earbuds provide better resistance to water. The recent Samsung Galaxy Earbuds Pro has an IP rating of IPX7. (which is the highest one yet) While AirPods has an IPX4 rating which they say can survive the washing machine and is good for forking out at the gym.
In the future, we might see Apple AirPods catching up with Samsung’s IPX7. Unfortunately, in the case of headphones, there seems to be no development in this regard.
By the way, if the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is not something you’d like to dip your toes in (more like dip your ears in,) check out these durable and affordable alternatives.
One thing I learned the hard way (a lesson that cost me 50 bucks) was that you never sleep with headphones on, or at least keep them right next to you while you are sleeping on a headphone stand. Not only are you going to twist and turn in your sleep, but also twist the headphones and crush them without you even knowing it.
This vulnerability is most common in low-end headphones that don’t have a strong build. However, this is not to say that you can keep your high-end durable headphones on your bed while sleeping. High-end “stronger” headphones can also get damaged, but the damage might be internal, and it will slowly start to sound awful with time.
Keeping headphones on your bed is another situation where earbuds outshine headphones. Depending on the model, especially if you have wireless earbuds, you can comfortably toss and turn in bed. However, the only issue is that the earbuds will register the impression on your pillow as a touch button command and could pause the audio or change tracks.
Sleeping with headphones or exposing them to too much water can affect the headphones, but it is not the most common issue that many headphone users face.
Most of the time, broken headphones (see what you can do with broken headphones here) are caused due to issues with the aux cord. In daily use, there are tons of situations where the aux cord gets damaged little by little without you even knowing it.
When the aux cord gets subjected to repeated damage day in and day out, the sound quality will start to degrade, and you will be able to identify symptoms such as
This may not be the case if you have wireless earbuds or headphones with a wired option, but still, it helps to know how you can take proper care of your headphones and avoid damaging the aux cord any further.
Either our headphones are very comfortable/ergonomic, or the human mind is good at ignoring something that the body is wearing for longer periods. (such as watches, clothes, etc.)
Whatever the case may be, we’ve all had instances where we would forget that our headphones are resting on our heads when we are gaming or working on our computers. As soon as something comes up in the real world. (mum calling you for dinner or you rushing to the bathroom) We would sit up from our chairs and exit the room as fast as possible, only to be stopped short by the headphone jack yanking itself out by the audio port.
This sort of incident doesn’t damage the aux cord right away (except if you were using a cheaper headphone,) but when it keeps happening over and over, without you not learning to take a hint. It will stress the cord and eventually break your headphones.
However, this kind of thing can be avoided if you have wireless headphones or by teaching yourself to be calm and not rush outside whenever something happens.
If you’ve had issues with the aux cord getting twisted and tangled as soon as you put it in your pocket, then you might have looked up how to reduce the cables from tangling up.
There are some awesome hacks out there, ones that include special gadgets while others are more minimalistic and involve some very elaborate knots.
Although these are cool and all, you have to be careful with them and not be too tight because they will damage the aux cord with time, just as they would when you yank them off the audio port.
If you are worried about the cables tangling up, use a separate carrying case for your headphones/earbuds or (you know what’s coming) go fully wireless.
I’m guilty of this as well. Pulling the aux cord (instead of pulling it from the plug connecting the headphone jack to the cord) when you need to disconnect from the phone/computer is easy. However, it puts undue stress on the cord, and just like in the previous two situations, it will wear down the aux cable little by little.
I recommend that you practice unplugging the aux cable from the plug instead of just yanking it from the port. After some practice, it will become second nature.
I learned this the hard way, and I had to go through 3 pairs of cheap earbuds until one of my friends pointed it out. Fortunately, I hope you won’t make the same mistake with a more expensive pair of headphones.
These are just a few of the most common cable-related issues that will break your headphones. Along with these, I recommend that you take good care of the cable and don’t pull it or stress it out in any way.
Don’t dangle your headphones from the cable, don’t trip over it and stretch out the connections, and make sure to carry it in a case or disconnect the aux cord if you are not using the headphones for a very long time.
Unfortunately, I hate to admit it, but if you cannot take good care of the cables (or the headphone body) I recommend you switch over to a pair of wireless earbuds. If you are looking for some affordable starter TWS earbuds, check out our list of top 5 Tozo earbuds.
So far, we’ve gathered a lot of tips on how to prevent your headphones from breaking prematurely. So, to summarize what we’ve gathered so far.
The primary reason that your headphones keep breaking is because of the cable. Handling the headphone cable properly without pulling or twisting it will help you extend the lifetime of the headphones. Along with that, make sure to follow the IP rating and avoid using headphones while sleeping or lying down.
Headphones are better than earbuds. They provide better sound and can suppress noise very efficiently. However, they are very prone to damage, and it is the user’s responsibility to take good care of them. If a user handles the cables carefully and follows the IP rating, they will be able to prolong the lifespan of the headphones without breaking them continually. If you want to read a detailed comparison between earbuds and headphones, we have an article for that here.