A man wearing cheap headphones wondering if they can damage his ears

Can Cheap Headphones Damage Your Ears?

You’ve probably seen them at a discount store or kiosk, or while surfing online. A cheap pair of headphones that won’t break your budget and give you a way to listen to your music without disturbing anyone. Score!

Not exactly. See, you really do get what you pay for. Can cheap headphones damage your ears?

Yes! They absolutely can, and you’re going to see why these headphones aren’t worth the bargain basement price.

Cheap snacks are a good thing. Cheap headphones? Not so much. Keep reading and you’ll learn why you should always invest in quality when it comes to buying headphones.

Here’s Why Cheap Headphones Can Damage Your Ears

There are a few reasons why you should never buy cheap headphones. They can damage your ears and when you suffer permanent damage to your inner ear, there’s no way to repair it.

Granted, hearing aids have come a long way over the years, but do you really want to be wearing them before you’re old?

Here’s why cheap headphones can damage your ears.

■ Poor Sound Quality

When you buy cheap headphones, you’re not exactly getting revolutionary technology that makes your music sound amazing.

Slap them on and you’ll find your favorite songs sound flat and tinny. Cheap headphones lack refined audio capabilities. Quite simply, they don’t have a good definition of bass.

The low notes seem to come across as more of a thump, like something out of a cartoon. High frequencies also suffer the same punishment.

If you listen to a song with really intricate layers of music (think Tool’s new “Fear Inoculum”) on your awesome stereo and are blown away (as you should be…that song is incredible!) but then listen to it on cheap headphones, you’re not going to hear all those deep details.

It’s disappointing to say the least. If you’re buying cheap headphones to listen to some audiobook while you’re on the subway, it’s not going to make or break it.

But if you love music and want to listen to it on the go, please choose quality.

You’ll thank yourself every day when you can fully submerge yourself in the pleasures of sounds as they were created for you by your favorite musical artists.

■ Unequal Sound Amplification

Grab a pair of cheap headphones and you’re not going to get stellar sound amplification.

There’s no equal range of pitch and volume so you get sudden spikes in sound. And guess what that causes? Hearing damage.

When you constantly have to turn up your cheap headphones so you can hear the music over the din around you, you’re listening at volumes too loud and too long for your ears to endure.

If you choose quality headphones, you avoid this problem because you’re less inclined to blast out your eardrums. You’ll hear the music better at lower volumes and avoid causing damage.

According to the WHO, you shouldn’t listen in with headphones (or even on a loud stereo) for more than an hour a day.

The WHO also recommends you listen at it no louder than 60 decibels. You can always get a limiter that lowers your max volume level to keep it from getting too high, but honestly, one of the best things you can do is get proper quality headphones which allows you to get a sublime listening experience without cranking up the volume to dangerous territory.

■ Most High-End Headphones Had to Pass Rigorous Testing

If you buy a high-quality brand of headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (Amazon link), you can be sure that rigorous testing was conducted to ensure it’s crafted to strict regulations and standards.

Those cheap headphones at the corner store or the ones you find all over the internet don’t go through these testing measures.

Cheap headphones are made with cheap components. You’re not going to get state-of-the-art noise-canceling headphones for $5 or even $10.

You’re basically getting something that will play sound privately into your ears but the cost is your hearing.

The quality of the materials is lacking in these cheap models which means you’re turning it up far louder than you need to just to hear it at all.

■ Poor Build Quality

You may get lucky and find cheap headphones that stand up to your constant abuse in the physical sense. But most of them will fall apart rather quickly.

If your objective was to simply listen to that audiobook on the train or even music without a care for hearing those beautiful nuances that only good sound definition can bring, then consider it a success.

But if you keep buying cheap headphones every 6 months to a year, isn’t it just more practical to buy the better quality headphones that will last longer than having to shell out more money?

It is, and guess what? You get better sound quality too. It’s a better experience you have to hear with your own ears.

■ They Can Cause Vertigo

Cheaper headphones are much more likely to cause vertigo. They weren’t designed with ear ergonomics in mind which means you’re blasting the volume to the max just to hear it.

And likely, you didn’t know about what the WHO recommends about listening duration.

Constant loud exposure can cause pressure in your ears and make you feel dizzy.

How to Avoid Headphone Damage to Your Ears

Cheap headphones don’t really save you money. You’ll have to replace them more often which might not seem like a big deal, but that adds up.

You can always replace your headphones, but you can’t fix hearing damage once it’s done.

Here’s how you can avoid headphone damage to your ears.

When choosing headphones, it’s always best to go with quality. And that quality doesn’t mean you need to fork over tons of money. But it’s not going to be cheap.

You’ll be happy you made the investment because it will give you that inner peace and hush when you’re at work and trying to focus or commuting on the train.

Even in your own home when you need a break from reality, quality headphones can help put you into the music. And music has been shown to boost our brains and have a positive effect so we definitely want more of that.

I’ve been using the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x (Amazon link) for years now and they only cost me $130, but I never regretted getting them!

I only had to replace the earpads recently (which only cost me a few bucks) because I use them for hours every single day when writing or listening to audio programs. I even use them when gaming (Mostly World Of Warcraft) and they’re simply amazing!

Go for that quality though and you’ll get that sound you were looking for where the music is immersive.

Because of the quality, you won’t be turning it up too loud to hear it.

It will sound immaculate even at lower volumes, and when you attempt to turn it too high, you’ll feel it’s too loud and be compelled to turn it down.

Other Reasons for Buying Quality Headphones

What do you get out of your investment into quality headphones? It’s a better experience all around!

■ Clear Sound

With the latest technology, quality headphones give you a clear and precise sound.

You can hear every note of it. Every pluck of the guitar. Every quiver of a voice. The entire bass line. All of it. If you love music, no matter the style, you will love your new quality headphones.

There are so many styles of headphones now too that if you don’t like the over-ear varieties, you can choose earbuds. And more and more of them are becoming wireless which means you won’t have to get all tangled up in cords anymore.

Yes, you’ll find cheap wireless headphones and earbuds, but believe it when we say you will regret the purchase. The sound quality will be horrendous.

■ Comfortable to the Skin

When it comes to buying headphones that go on top of your ear, comfort is another concern.

Buying quality headphones means that these were tested for comfort in the design process. Not only will they be functional but they will feel soft and cushioned against your ears.

For anyone that loves playing games, has long commutes, or likes to listen to music, comfort is important.

You don’t want to feel like they’re smashing your ears in. So while yes, you want good quality on that sound, you also want one that everyone raves how comfortable it fits.

■ Buy Cheap, Buy Twice

Again, with cheap headphones the problems can really mount. It’s tempting to order a pair but guess what? That cheap price isn’t all that you’re paying.

First, you’re paying for the cheap headphones. Then you’re miserable with a lousy sound experience.

Then you’ve got to turn them up twice as loud to hear anything.

Then they fall apart or stop working after a short time. And you’re left with having to buy another set of headphones again.

Buying quality headphones is an investment that’s worth it. You’re not going to need to buy another pair again for a long time.

There are many quality and affordable options in different price brackets. It won’t be like cheap headphones, but you won’t be throwing money down the drain every time you have to replace those cheapo ones.

Being frugal is one thing, but being cheap is another. You will always get what you pay for and that goes for everything.

Buy the cheap cookware set and in a year, you’ll kick yourself that you didn’t choose one of the better brands. Spring for quality and you’ll be making a wise investment in headphones (and in anything else).

■ Quality Headphones Are More Durable

When it comes to cheap headphones, you’ll notice they will start to come apart more and more with every use. They weren’t designed to last a lifetime.

Likely, they weren’t designed to last even a year. The wires expose and fray. The plastic holding the headset together cracks in half. And on top of that, you get lousy sound quality.

That’s not a good way to go about anything. Cheaper headphones have problems with the jack not fitting well – a sign of extremely poor quality control.

Reports of cables breaking and other problems always arise with these cheap headphone models.

The only way to prevent it is to buy quality headphones because they are made to last. They usually come with good warranties too which means you’re covered.

The wireless ones are some of the best you can get simply because you won’t have to worry about the cords getting all messed up when you tuck it in your bag or anything.

You won’t have to worry about the jack getting destroyed either. Sure, you can buy it cheap but again, that sound quality comes into play. So does the battery life.

When you buy quality headphones, the battery is going to keep up with you.


Cheap headphones are a waste of time and money. You’d be better off throwing your cash in the trash. You’re only going to have to keep replacing them over and over.

And even worse, you’ll be harming your hearing by listening to your music with an inferior design.

The reason those cheap headphones are so cheap is because they lack in quality materials and manufacturing practices.

There’s no regulations on these and they aren’t built to last. The result is music that sounds bland and lifeless that you have to turn up way too loud to hear. And when you do that, the longer and louder you do it too, you’re going to wind up with permanent hearing damage.

More and more people are losing their hearing in their younger years which means many of them are buying cheap knockoffs for headphones and not listening safely.

You can avoid being a statistic and get quality headphones. Your ears will thank you and so will the musicians you treasure for you’ll be able to appreciate the exquisitely fine-tuned sounds they create with the utmost pleasure.


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