Let me count the ways…
Many of the common break points have to do with the fact that wires connect to components in very tiny pieces of soft-ish metal called solder, and that can shatter, oxidize with poor manufacturing, or break under stress or temperature swings.
The most common break is the solder point between the plug and the cable. You may not see that anything’s wrong, but cables are thin, frail, and can break internally without any outward sign of damage. Your headphones will not work if this happens, but a cable is an easy fix if you’re handy with a soldering iron or your headphones have a removable cable.
The next way headphones tend to break is a cable tear… which has the same fix.
It’s also possible to shatter solder points between the wire and the speaker elements, though this is less common than the first two breaks I mentioned. If you have headphones that have screws on the outside, you may be able to fix this yourself with—you guessed it—a soldering iron.
From there, plastic components tend to crack and shatter after years of use, so your band, ear cups, what have you can break. Foam deteriorates, and little pieces get everywhere. Prolonged use over many years can deteriorate the speaker elements, and of course, you could always short the headphones with water by accident.
Wireless headphones will see their batteries deteriorate over time, forcing you to either repair or replace them. Additionally, the extra circuitboards in those can also fail, short, or burn out because it’s yet another point of failure.
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