It's an interesting take for sure, but I'd have to disagree with you on the running hotter part. My PC is theoretically cooler and produces less heat than the very heavily OC'd i7 950 (130W) and GTX 770 (230W) that I replaced in early 2020. I'm now on a stock i5 9600k (95W) and RTX 2070 (175W). The audio cut-out didn't manifest itself until two years after the upgrade, but the "crackling" has always been there since I had that first gen i7 - again, regardless of OS and driver. The bigger variable is the constant heat cycling of the room over the years most likely weakening solder joints, and now that the card has "degraded," when the room is hot enough, starts to trip thermals in whatever IC does the digital encoding - the problem does NOT occur over analog (headphones) from my testing last week. I'm willing to bet some of the AE-5/7/9 owners experiencing audio cutting out for a split second may have a heat issue as well since that entire card is sealed up in metal and plastic garbage.It's been 9 years. Many things has happened during those 9 years.
During those 9 years have you never changed any other part of your system? It has always been the same old parts? Alot of consumer hardware do not really look too far into the future. It is really unpredictable in the consumer space and frankly a waster of RnD money. So your creative card was probably designed with the 9 years ago hardware landscape. Alot of newer hardware along those 9 years appeared that started to defy those expectations that use way more power and produce way more heat in a small area. The Creative engineers of that time simply didn't think that the inside of a computer case would attempt to expel so much heat out of box, and therefore did not take into account the surrounding heat would overwhelm their chips on their soundcard. Unless you tell me you have never upgraded your hardware, take note that there are alot of other heat sources in your PC that have increased in leaps and bounds during those 9 years. It accumulates until hardware decides its time to start giving up. Its beyond the thermal design of the hardware itself.
Secondly, don't you notice the weather has been going crazy lately. Do not take your room thermometer at face value. Don't forget things like humidity and how the heat really "feels like" after taking into account everything else. Some hardware eventually will take its toll after experiencing all these things. Especially hardware that is designed to work in an environment that was normal 9 years ago. It happens. Just deal with it. Its not like we can command the human race overnight to fix everything.