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If you have a warranty I would definitely send it back to the manufacturer. Most companies will pay for shipping for warranty repairs as well. What sounds like has happened happens a lot. The plug the jack plugs into (inside the Mp3 player) gets a cold soldier joint or the jack on the ear buds gets caught on something one to many times and breaks a soldier joint loose.
I usually open the media players and reheat the soldier joints myself. If you have already tried a different pair of ear buds it is almost certainly the jack inside the MP3.
Your assessment seems to be correct. The problem is most likely in the iPod.
The stereo headphone connector (called a "jack") may have a broken connection, most likely on the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) inside the iPod. You may try carefully wiggling the plug in the jack and see if the sound comes on and off. Do it with the volume low so you don't damage the amplifier in the iPod.
I have opened them up before. It can be done, but is not particularly easy, and must be done carefully.
If you are technically inclined, or know someone who is, open the iPod and examine the jack connections to the PCB. If there is a break, it can be repaired by soldering a wire across the trace on the board.
If you're not able to do this and don't know anyone who can, it will probably have to be professionally repaired if the warranty has expired.
It is very likely that the problem is in your MP3 player and not your ear phones. If it is still under guarentee, then take it back to where you bought it. If not it may be that the earphone jack plug is faulty? It is a trade off between the cost of repair against the cost of a new one. These things are often glued together so opening it could break it anyway - sorry
The usual cause for that is that the headphone jack is loose or the connectors are loose inside the unit and therefore not keeping complete contact with the headphone piece. It can be repaired but would probably be cheaper to get a new MP3 if that is the sansa one.
This is a hardware problem that happens every so often on mp3 players regardless of manufacturer. Unfortunately, the whole player will have to be replaced, b/c there is no repair svc, and no headphone jack components for sale.