Do headphones lose volume capacity over time?

Ive been using a cheap set of headphones for about two years. Until now Ive been extremely satisfied and tell everyone what a great deal they were.

I recently noticed, however, that the highest volume setting on my ipod isnt as loud as before. After some reminiscing, I realized that over the life of my headphones the highest volume setting had gone from ear-piercing to loud to not quite loud enough. This isn’t a problem with my ipod, which can still tear up some eardrums through speakers.

So, do headphones gradually lose their volume capacity?

I dunno about the headphones, but Apple has added a volume limit option to iPods via the updates, in response to threats of legal action. You might want to check that.

iPod>Settings>Volume Limit

Are you in the habit of listening through headphones at the highest possible volume level? If so, that might be a large part of the problem right there. Cumulative hearing damage begins at continuous exposure levels of ~85 dB. Many personal audio electronics are easily capable of exceeding this through headphones; I’m pretty sure iPods are/were, hence the lawsuit mentioned above.

I was going to ask the same question. I have headphones plugged into the jack in the back of my PC computer. Lately I’ve had a very difficult time hearing music from internet radio, CDs, or many video downloads of news or other short pieces. A very few do still come through at normal volume, so it may not be the headphones. But my problem certainly has nothing to do with iPods or hearing loss.

Speaker cones tend to become stiff as they get older, so it is harder to move the cone and thus move the air that you hear. So it takes more energy (higher volume level) to get the same effect. This is probably especially true of cheaper quality speakers.

In your case it’s possible that one of the system volume settings was accidentally lowered. Check both the master volume and the wave volume, as well as any other settings that show up in your sound card software (or whevever the settings for your computer’s sound are accessed).

To build on what others have suggested, have you had others listen to your ipod through your headphones to confirm that the problem is not with your ears?


If the actual headphones are decreasing in volume, given the same inputs, I’d look at one of two possible culprits:’s “wear on the cones” is one of them.

The other is wear on the wires: solder gets lose at the connection of the wires inside the headset, the glue gets loose where they connect to the speaker portion, or the wires themselves get broken inside their insulation (but still maintain contact). From experience, this can sometimes occur without sound quality degregation (other than volume) for a while, but the headphones will be on their way out pretty quick once it starts happening.