Why do my headphones sound muffled? How to fix?

by Alex.   Last Updated On November 23rd, 2022.
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Headphones are these excellent devices you can use to listen to music in its full audio resolution privately. Like any electronic, the sound quality will deteriorate over time as it is used more often, especially if you like to listen to music at very high volumes.

Many issues arise from the frequent use of headphones, such as damaged wires, damaged drivers, blown speakers from the excessive volume levels that individuals set their devices to, impaired microphone access, and, more often than not, muffled sounds that affect both wired headphones as well as Bluetooth headphones.

Headphones with a muffled sound can result from tons of different factors. For wired headphones, muffled sound can stem from faulty or damaged wires, blown speakers, or moisture damage. For wireless headphones, the issues could arise from the fact that there are connectivity issues between the audio device to the headphones or the fact that there are software issues with your device that affects the speakers inside the headphones.

In this article, we explain the question of “why do my headphones sound muffled,” how to fix them, and how to prevent your headphones from sounding muffled in the future.

Let’s get right it.

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Why do my headphones sound muffled?

There are many reasons your headphones sound muffled, such as damaged wires, moisture damage, and many more. And if you have a pair of crazy expensive headphones, fixing them will save you lots of money than buying a completely new one. Here are the reasons why your headphones sound muffled.

Damaged Wirings

Damaged wirings are the number one cause of muffled sounds for wired headphones. Damaged wirings are also the root cause of damaged electronics for other wired audio devices such as speakers. The audio cord is one of the most critical components of your headphones, as they are responsible for transmitting data from your device to your headphones. If they are damaged even in the slightest, you can expect the audio quality to be distorted.

Wires are often damaged easily because they are tugged on constantly and even bent at times; this can be detrimental to the cables, which are covered with rubber housing. So before reading up on the other reasons in this article, check if your audio cord is still working and does not have damages such as slashes or openings.

Connectivity Issues

For wired headphones, connectivity issues could also result in a muffled sound because the audio cord might not correctly fit in the headphone jack of your audio device. A loose connection between the device and your headphones will produce an inconsistent-sounding audio quality and, more often than not, muffled sound.

For Bluetooth headphones, connectivity issues could arise because it uses Bluetooth technology which could be easily interfered with other wireless devices in your house, such as microwaves, cordless phones, wifi networks, or other Bluetooth-powered devices.

If you are close to any of these, try to move from another place, isolated from devices that also use Bluetooth/wireless technology.

Old Headphones With Orange Sponge Cushions and Red Wire

Water or Moisture Damage

Moisture is the number one enemy not only for headphones but for most consumer electronics as well as water will render them useless almost immediately. Water entering your headphones can go into your headphone drivers, which will block out the sound coming out of them, resulting in distorted sounds or muffled audio in rare cases. Still, if your headphones were exposed to water for a long time, no sound will ever come out of them anymore.

Some headphone manufacturers have created headphones with some level of protection with their water-proof ratings, otherwise known as IP ratings. A high IP rating means your headphones can withstand occasional moisture exposure, such as small splashes and sweat. However, they will not protect your headphones from prolonged exposure to water, entering the headphones, and the drivers.

Blown Speakers

Overpowered or blown speakers result from listening to music at loud volumes. Your headphones houses a voice coil, which vibrates every time you listen to music, and if you listen to music at loud volumes, you jerk the coil much more intensively, damaging the coil, weakening them, and causing the speakers to blow out.

Blown speakers can also stem from using your headphones too often. Even if you are listening to music at relatively low levels but are using them up to 18 hours a day, you are bound to blow your speakers sometime in the future. It is recommended to let your headphones rest for at least an hour after every session.

To test whether you have blown out your speakers, you can try them using a multimeter. You can employ this by connecting your turned-off headphones to a multimeter; speakers in good condition will read one impedance, while other values will indicate a blown-out speaker.

Debris

Dirt and debris can block out the sound from your headphone drivers, damaging the sound quality and resulting in muffled headphones. Dirt and debris blocking out the sound from over-ear headphones are unlikely to happen, as very dirty headphones are uncommon.

However, debris can easily block out the sound for audio devices with smaller openings, such as in-ear headphones. Foreign bodies such as earwax, dust, dirt, and lint can build up on the surface of your headphone’s speaker hole, blocking the sound. The same can also be said for earbuds with even smaller speaker holes.

Debris clogging up the holes can easily be fixed using compressed air. However, it would help if you were careful when using a blast of air, as this could rattle the drivers inside the headphones and damaging. It’s best to take a damp cloth or swab and run it through the speaker hole filled with debris.

Mismatched Codec Selection in Bluetooth Headphones

Suppose your audio device does not support the codec inside your headphones. In that case, it might cause the device to use a lower-level codec which could drastically reduce the sound quality coming out of the headphone speakers. So before looking for new headphones, try to make sure that your device supports the same codec used in the headphones you want to buy.

Low Battery

Wireless headphones are becoming increasingly popular, and these headphones connect with your device via Bluetooth technology. While wireless headphones do have the advantage of not limiting your movement while listening to music, they do have downsides because they operate based on batteries and will drain entirely over time.

Wireless headphones need to be charged to work; once they are drained, no sound will come out of them. Muffled sound can stem from a low battery, especially if your headphones has an active noise-cancellation feature. If your ANC feature isn’t working as it should be and is producing a muffled sound, it could indicate that your headphones are at a low battery level and that you should charge them before using them again.

Damaged Audio Source File

Muffled sound does not always have to do with damaged headphones, as it could also stem from a broken audio source file. A damaged audio source file means nothing wrong with your headphones, but it simply means that the music file you are listening to might be damaged during the download process, especially if you downloaded them illegally.

To ensure that there is nothing wrong with your headphones, use your headphones to listen to music from Spotify or Youtube and see if the audio file you downloaded is corrupted.

How to fix muffled sound

Since many factors directly affect your headphones that can result in muffled sound, here are some things you can employ if your headphones ever encounter this issue.

Clean your headphones

Cleaning your headphones is one of the fastest and easiest things you can do to fix muffled headphones. You can clean your headphones using a small burst of air to remove the debris stuck between the speaker holes, but this is not recommended as it can rattle your drivers and damage them severely.

You can use a damp cloth or towel to clean the surface of your speaker hole, as the debris will attach itself to the wet cloth, thus allowing the sound to come out through the hole more easily and clearly.

Wiping Down And Sanitizing Headphones

Fixing your wires

Wires are the most vulnerable part of any wired headphones, and if your headphones sound muffled, you can try to fix the wires by bringing your headphones to a certified technician.

It’s recommended to allow the wires to be fixed by a professional as cables can be pretty complicated to fix on your own, and not correctly handling them could damage your headphones further.

For clogged ports

If you have clogged headphone ports, you can easily clean them by turning off your device first and, using a brush dipped in alcohol, brushing the ports of your device. Move the brush up and down and in circles to ensure no debris is left inside the ports.

After cleaning the ports thoroughly, leave the device to dry out for at least an hour.

For moisture damage

Moisture damage is often irreparable in extreme cases; however, for slight moisture exposure of headphones, here are some things you can employ. You can first dampen the headphones with isopropyl alcohol; after this, you can put the headphones inside an airtight container along with a ton of silica gel. Leave them for a while, and once the headphones are thoroughly dried out, you can do an audio test.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make my headphones sound clear?

To make your headphone sound clearer, try listening to music inside a quiet room, adjusting your equalizer settings, cleaning the headphone jack, using an external DAC, or switching your Bluetooth codecs.

Do headphones lose quality over time?

Yes, headphones lose quality over time, especially if you like listening to music at loud volumes or if you use your headphones very often. Although, headphones wear out and can last up to 3-5 years if properly cared for.

Conclusion

Headphones sounding muffled is one of the scariest things that could happen to audiophiles or regular people just wanting to listen to soothing tracks to pass the time while commuting or doing boring activities. So if you ever encounter these issues, be sure to be on the look out for the causes listed in this article.

We hope this informative article has helped you understand why headphones sound muffled and how to fix them.