Why Do My Headphones Keep Cutting Out?

There’s not a lot that’s more irritating than your headphones cutting out. You’re trying to enjoy time in your own world with some music you love, or really digging into an interesting podcast, but a little technical hitch keeps pulling you back down to earth. Why does it happen and how can you fix it? 

There are a few things to think about when you’re trying to diagnose the reason why your headphones keep cutting out.

Firstly, the reasons for headphone issues are different depending on whether your headphones are wired or wireless. We will take you through the different possible causes of issues for each type of headphone below. 

Wired Headphones

Let’s start with the older technology, wired headphones. The main reason for wired headphones cutting out is a very simple, physical one.

With wired headphones, the signal is transmitted via a wire from your audio source to the headphones themselves. If that wire becomes broken or frayed, the signal is prevented from reaching your ears.

If your wired headphones are working intermittently, you might find that they only work if you hold the wire in specific positions. This is a clear indication that the cable is fraying, causing what is known as a short.

You won’t necessarily be able to see the damage to the cable, but tiny little breaks inside the cable casing happen very easily, so a headphone cable that looks perfectly fine can be close to not working completely. 

Preventing Damage

To prevent this from happening, the most important thing you can do is to be careful with your cables. Avoid bundling them up tightly or storing them in cramped spaces.

The parts to take the most care of are the jack plugs at the end of the cable. Where they attach to the cable itself is a prime position for failure, so avoid twisting or compressing that area and your headphone cable will live longer. 

The other essential tip for preserving your headphone cable is to never pull it from your device using the wire. Always hold the plug casing when you are plugging the cable in or unplugging it.

This avoids access force being applied to the connection between the plug and the cable. This advice holds true for any cable with a plug, so by getting into this habit you will also extend the lifespan of your device chargers too. 

Fixing Your Cable

Sadly, in many cases, a broken headphone cable means the end of the road for that pair of headphones. If you’re confident in your soldering skills, you can snip the jack plug off the cable and replace it with a new one, but that is a fiddly operation and likely not worth the time you would spend on it.

Some headphones have detachable cables, which is brilliant because you can simply buy a new headphone cable to replace the broken one. Make sure you buy a stereo cable, and you’ll be good to go again in no time.

If you find that you regularly have to replace your wired headphones, it might be worth considering buying a pair with a replaceable cable or some wireless headphones.

It’s not always convenient to have to consider how you handle your cables and, given that these options exist, it might be easier to change your headphones than your habits.

Is It My Device?

The other thing to check is whether or not the headphone jack connector on your device itself is broken. This is quite easy to check, because all you have to do is plug a different set of headphones or earbuds into the device.

If the problem persists, you most likely have a problem with the headphone socket on your device, not with your headphones. 

Wireless Headphones

When it comes to wireless headphones cutting out, the causes and solutions are quite different. After all, there’s no simple wire disconnection going on here, so what is causing the problem? 

Crosstalk

Wireless headphones use Bluetooth, which is an excellent, adaptable technology that lets tons of different devices communicate wirelessly. However, this is exactly what causes a lot of problems with wireless headphones cutting out.

Because there is only so much bandwidth available in the area you are using your Bluetooth headphones in, any of these other devices could be causing interference.

Common culprits include baby monitors, household remotes such as those found on selfie sticks, and even your wireless router, all of which operate within the same frequency spectrum.

In a very basic sense, it’s as if all of these devices are talking at once, and your poor Bluetooth headphones can’t hear the music they’re supposed to be listening to. This is what leads to stutters and skips, as your headphones try to piece the signal back together. 

Curing Crosstalk

The easiest way to cure crosstalk is to be physically closer to your device. Signal strength weakens over distance, making it harder for your headphones to pick it up.

Most Bluetooth headphones are effective between five and 30 meters from the source, depending on whether they are rated as class three (five to 10 meters) or class two (15 to 30 meters) devices. If you use your headphones at home or in the office and walk around a lot, you will want to make sure they can hold their signal over that distance.

Water

Obviously, water and electronics don’t mix. But when it comes to wireless headphones, there is another reason that water can be a problem.

Bluetooth signal cannot travel through water, which is why sometimes your headphones won’t work if you sit on your phone – your body is 70 per cent water, which is a pretty effective barrier to the signal. Make sure your headphones are communicating through clear air, and the connection will be much better. 

Battery Issues

The other most common issue with wireless headphones is forgetting to charge them. Bluetooth uses very little battery power, so you might not think to charge your headphones as often as your other devices. If you start encountering connection issues, make sure your headphones are charged up first.

Takeaways

If your headphones are cutting out, there are a few things that could be going wrong. Check your cables, replace them if you can, and make sure the problem isn’t with your device itself.

If your headphones are wireless, check if they’re charged first, then make sure you’re not too far away from the device you’re using or blocking the signal in any way, either via interference or with your own body! Follow these tips, and you’ll significantly reduce your headphone troubles.