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How to ensure that headphones last as long as possible

How to protect your pricey cans, so they stick with you for years to come.
September 7, 2022
A pair Bose Noise Cancelling 700 headphones lying on table.

A new pair of headphones can be quite an investment, and if you’re going to pay a lot of money for them, you should know how to make them last. There are some best practices when using and storing your headphones, but nothing should be too complicated to implement in your daily life.

Here are our top tips to ensure you get the most out of your earbuds or headphones.

Treat the battery right

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs AirPods Pro laying next to charging case closeup
Kris Carlon / Android Authority

The battery in your headphones or earbuds is often the first thing to go. So, getting the most life out of it will go a long way to getting the maximum life out of them overall. It’s hard to say how long a particular headset will last, given all the variables that go into it. Overall, most modern lithium-ion cells found in tech products last around two to three years. That’s kind of worrying, given how tightly-integrated wireless headphones and earbuds are in our lives these days.

When it comes to true wireless earbuds, there’s not much room to cram in larger battery cells. As a result, these devices require some more care to ensure they last as long as possible. If you know you’ll use your buds for short durations throughout the day, store them outside the charging case when they’re not in your ears and manually power them off. Return your earbuds to the charging case once they reach 20% to 40% battery life.

If you aren't going to use your true wireless earbuds for a while and they're above 40% battery, store them powered off outside of the case in a moderate temperature room.

Sure, this is slightly less convenient than storing the buds in the case, but this will help prolong the battery. Only putting them back in the charging case when running low on battery will go a long way to keep everything in top shape.

For over- and on-ear headphones, there usually isn’t a charging case. Still, try to recharge these models when they fall into the 20% to 40% battery life remaining range, too. Ironically, constantly charging batteries above 80% can also shorten their life. That’s why most models of headphones and earbuds charge quite slowly once reaching this level.

Clean your headphones

There’s no getting around it; there’s some gross stuff in our ears. Wax, dirt, skin cells, and more can all get into your earbuds and headphones and damage them. This is especially true for buds, which have small openings that can get easily blocked. Plus, their drivers are close to the source of all that dirt and grime.

For all these reasons, cleaning your headphones and earbuds is essential. Each model will require a different approach. In general, however, you’ll need to clean the parts directly inserted into your ears, ear cups, and the band, if present.

How often you’ll need to clean your earbuds or headphones will vary. For example, if you head to the gym and sweat buckets into them, you’ll need to clean those headphones more often than an occasionally worn pair you keep at your desk. As a rule of thumb, clean regularly worn earbuds and headphones once a week and clean any earbuds or headsets your wore to the gym after your workout is finished.

Replace any worn-out ear cups or ear tips, padding, and other components

Apple AirPods Max 18
Adam Molina / Android Authority

This advice assumes an ideal world where everything is replaceable on a particular pair of headphones or earbuds. We know that’s not always the case, however. Still, replacing what you can on your favorite pair of headphones can go a long way in keeping them working well.

Most models of over- and on-ear headphones let you replace their ear pads. You should do this whenever you notice they’re starting to fray or degrade. Not only does this help your headphones last longer, but you’ll get the best possible isolation from unwanted noise. Some manufacturers might let you send in your headset to get the padding on the headband replaced, too, which is helpful. And if you have a model that uses replaceable cables, you can swap these out as necessary.

Replacing ear tips is a good idea, and while you’re at it, you can try foam tips if your earbuds came with silicone tips because they can help you get an even better seal. The earbuds themselves are much harder to replace as they wear out. Companies like Apple let you buy replacement earbuds for specific models, but it’s hard for consumers to replace the fiddly internals of earbuds. There are, however, third-party replacement and repair services you can take a look at.

Store your headphones correctly

Apple AirPods Max 19
Adam Molina / Android Authority

This might seem obvious advice, but if your headphones came with a storage (not charging) case, use it. It’s designed to keep them safe and protected from the elements. Sure, it’s easier to throw them into a backpack, but they will be tumbling around unprotected.

If you are not going to use a particular pair of headphones for a while, try and store them in a clean, low-dust area where they won’t get too hot or cold. Also, don’t store wired headphones with the cord wrapped around the body. This isn’t good for the cable and the headset itself. And if you’ve finished at the gym, don’t throw sweat-soaked headphones into a case and forget about them until next time. As mentioned, clean them, and let them dry before stowing them away.

Even if your headphones didn’t come with a dedicated storage option, you can still take steps to protect them from damage. The simplest one would be to get a drawstring pouch to store your earbuds when they’re not in their charging case or your headphones when not in use. And whatever type of headset you have, don’t store heavy things on top of them or leave them loose to knock around into other objects when transporting them.

Use your headphones with care

A photo of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT on a man's head.
Chris Thomas / Android Authority

Last but not least, take care when using your headphones or earbuds. We’re not saying baby them, but a few small things can make a difference. Don’t grab wired models by their cords, as this can damage the cable and any sockets they’re connected to. And regardless of the type of headphones, don’t toss them on and off carelessly or let them fall to the floor. These are easy ways to damage them permanently.

When listening to content, choose a comfortable volume that’s not too loud. This is good for both your hearing and the drivers inside the headset. Avoid subjecting our headphones to loud “pops” or other loud bits of acoustic noise. However, “burning in” headphones isn’t a thing, so don’t worry about that.

Try not to spill things on your headphones and earbuds, either. Yes, many models these days have pretty rugged IP ratings, but it’s better to avoid water damage altogether than introduce the possibility. On that note, follow any specific manufacturer’s instructions when using your headphones. After all, not doing so might void your warranty, which would be a huge bummer. But do take advantage of the warranty instead of throwing out a pair and buying new headphones when something goes wrong.

Overall, some common sense and a few best practices are all you need to get the most life out of your headphones and earbuds.