What Is the Problem if There's Static in My Computer Headphones?

By Dan Stone

Computer headphone static can ruin your listening experience.
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That crackling static sound can really hamper the experience when you're listening to your favorite songs on your computer headphones. Possibly even more annoying, static buildup can also give you a little discharge shock if the conditions are right. If your computer headphones are constantly picking up noticeable static, it is probably because your headphones are experiencing some sort of interference. However, other connectivity issues can cause the static sound.

Radio Interference

The microwave in this picture could cause audio static with the nearby laptop.
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Even if you live in a remote part of the Mojave Desert, chances are there are still radio waves coming from a wide range of broadcasters and household devices. There's very little you can do to completely avoid interference from other devices; however, properly grounding your audio devices and using shielded cables should help. The headphone jack and cable can actually pick up radio waves from other devices, which creates the static you hear. You may even be able to hear AM radio broadcasts on a pair of computer headphones. If the static comes and goes, check what other household devices are on when you hear the static to help figure out which device is responsible.

Dry Conditions

Fabrics like nylon can contribute to static charges.
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Computer headphones can build up a static electricity charge that both disrupts the sound and can discharge through you when you touch a grounding object. According to Apple, this problem can be amplified by very dry environments that are prone to static buildup. Apple also says you can build up a static charge through the headphones if you're wearing clothes made with synthetic fibers. There's a chance that the static discharge can damage some computer hardware, but unless you're working inside the system the only real risk is to your comfort.

Dirty Connection

A dirty plug can cause static.
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A dirty audio jack can cause static. According to MEElectric, if the headphones produce the static sound whenever the jack is moved, it is an indication that the connection port is dirty. This problem can be resolved by using a soft cloth to clean the jack and port with rubbing alcohol.

Damaged and Exposed Wires

Damaged wires can cause static.
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Static can also be caused by damaged and exposed wiring. The headphones could be picking up static if the wiring warps when moved. According to Belkin, exposed wiring can lead to frequent physical shocks to the wearer and should no longer be used when this happens. Additionally, damaged wiring could break and establish connections depending on how the cable is positioned or bent. Weak or non-established connections can also lead to auditory static.