Headphones Only Work in One Ear: Common Causes and Easy Fixes

The earbuds are high profile when worn

When your headset is playing only in one ear, rule out possible device setting issues then follow these quick fixes to get your earphones working again.

Having headsets playing only in one ear can be frustrating, especially if listening to music or watching videos is part of your daily routine. If you’ve relied on your earphones and your favorite beats to block off noise as you work, then this issue is bound to hurt your productivity as well.

Buying or ordering a new pair is easy. But you may not be ready to give up on your expensive headset just yet. Or perhaps you simply don’t like the idea of throwing away hardware that may still be fixed.

Below are several tips and quick fixes you can do if only one of your earbuds is working. With these tips, you can have a working pair of headphones in just a few minutes. You don’t have to wait for your orders to be delivered, leave your house to buy one, or make do with one working earbud.

Ruling Out Phone or PC Settings

Just like other audio problems like headphone static, when headsets are only playing in one ear, many quickly assume that their earphones are broken. So they start shopping around for a replacement or looking for spare headphones at home.

But before discarding your earphones or attempting a repair, make sure that the issue doesn’t lie with your audio source.

Rule out the possibility that you’re hearing out of one headphone due to your audio settings or a temporary device malfunction that can be easily resolved. Follow the steps below to check whether the problem is being caused by your phone, laptop, or PC.

1. Try another pair of earphones

The first step is to get a pair of perfectly working earphones and connect them to your device. If they are working fine, then you know that the problem truly lies with your headset. In this case, follow the tips below for fixing wired and Bluetooth headphones. But if the functioning headset also starts playing only in one ear, you need to check your device’s audio settings.

2. Restart the device

Another simple fix you may want to try is restarting your device. This may prove especially helpful if the issue occurs right after a software update.

After restarting your phone or PC, check if you can hear out of both earbuds. But if the headset is still playing in only one ear, start checking your device’s audio settings.

3. Check the settings

Headsets may play only in one ear depending on your audio settings. So check your audio properties and make sure that the mono option is turned off.

In addition, make sure that voice levels are balanced on both earbuds. You can check this by clicking on the Sounds icon on your computer, going to Levels, and then selecting Balance. The voice levels must be equal on both sides of your headset.

Audio Balance on PC
Audio Balance on PC

4. Clean the headphone jack

People bring their phones everywhere–from their bedrooms to the rugged outdoors. Eventually, lint and dirt can get trapped in the headphone jack and affect the audio output. This causes a loose connection between your headphone port and the jack.

If your headset plays only in one ear when plugged to your device but works just fine in other gadgets, consider cleaning your phone or PC’s headphone jack. Carefully loosen the dirt with the pointed tip of a brush toothpick, then use the brush side to scoop these out.

What to Do When Wired Headphones Only Work in One Ear

There are a number of reasons why wired and wireless headphones may start working only on one side. As such, you must pin down the source of the problem first before trying out any of the quick fixes below.

Keep in mind that repairing your headphones affects its warranty. If your headset starts playing in one ear within the warranty period, it’s best to contact the manufacturer to have it repaired or replaced.

Diagnosis: Damaged or disconnected wire near the jack

When in a hurry, some users yank out their headset’s jack from their mobile phones and laptops. Others disconnect their headsets from devices by tugging at the cord instead of pulling from the plastic base. This can also result in a bent headphone plug

These habits can damage the wires near the headset’s jack. Over time, your headphones may start working only in one ear whenever the cords are twisted or bent. To resolve this, follow the steps below.

How to fix damaged wires

  1. Use a knife or cutter to slice through the plastic protective base around the earphone jack as well as the cord near it.
  2. Locate the section with the broken wires and cut it off.
  3. Remove the plastic cord around one end of your headset cord. 
  4. Use a match or lighter to briefly burn off the wire’s insulation.
  5. Solder the wires to the earphone jack following the illustration below.

    Make sure to connect the right wires to their corresponding section on the earphone jack.
    Make sure to connect the right wires to their corresponding section on the earphone jack.

  6. Cover the newly joined section with a heat-shrink tube or electrical tape.

Diagnosis: Shorted wire

Another reason for headsets only playing in one ear is a shorted wire. This issue usually happens when earphone cords are always tangled or wrapped improperly. Follow the steps below on how to locate and fix shorted earphone wires.

How to fix shorted wires

  1. Plug your headphones into your device and play an audio or video file.
  2. Locate the short by bending the earphone cord every half inch. Continue doing this until you start hearing sound coming off both earbuds.
  3. Remove the damaged portion of the wire.

    Damaged wire removed from headphones
    Damaged wire removed from headphones

  4. Get the remaining sections of the earphone cord. Slice through both tips of the plastic cord to expose the wires.
  5. Separate the copper wires (ground wires), insulation (white wires), and the colored wire. (The colored wire will be red if you are repairing the headset’s right portion, or green or blue if you’re working on the left section.)

    Separate internal wires
    Separate internal wires

  6. Cut the insulation wires. Meanwhile, twist the copper wires to keep them together.
  7. Use a match or lighter to briefly burn off the enamel at the tip of the colored wires.
  8. Join the colored wires by twisting them together. Secure these with electrical tape.
  9. Link the ground wires in the same way and wrap an electrical tape around these as well. Ensure that the ground wires do not touch the colored wires.
  10. Put an electrical tape around this newly linked section.
For other headphone wire problems, go to our guide on how to fix headphone wires.

Diagnosis: Faulty wiring within defective earbud

Sometimes, a loose or broken wire can cause your earbuds to play only in one ear. Once you’ve determined that the issue isn’t caused by a broken or shorted wire along the cord, follow the steps below to open and fix the earbud.

How to fix faulty wires inside earbuds

  1. Open the earbud casing using a small flat-blade screwdriver. You can also detach your nail clipper’s lever and use it to pop the earbud’s front case or ear tip open.
  2. Do not pull the case to further open the earbud–doing so can further rip the wires if they’re attached to the front case. Instead, push the cord up through the earbud’s upper housing. This will shove the front case and expose the internal components.
  3. Resolder the loose wire and let it cool before testing the headphones.

    Soldering loose wire
    Soldering loose wire

What to Do When Wireless Headphones Only Work in One Ear

Wireless headphones can save you from the hassle of untangling messy cords. However, these won’t spare you from issues that may cause headsets to play only in one ear. Below are 3 common causes of malfunctioning wireless headphones and guides on how to fix each.

Diagnosis: Needs reset

When one side of your earbuds isn’t working, sometimes a quick factory reset is all it takes to resolve your Bluetooth headset’s connectivity issue.

How to reset Bluetooth headphones

  1. Press your device’s power button.
  2. Keep holding it down until the headset’s light flashes blue or red. You can also follow these steps on how to reset each brand of Bluetooth headphones.
  3. Pair the headphones again with your device.

Diagnosis: Halfway point issue

If your headphones are functioning well when the aux cable jack is plugged in but start working only on one side when you shift to wireless mode, you may be dealing with a halfway point issue.

These issues occur when one of the jack port’s mechanical triggers is stuck halfway, causing one of your headphone speakers to malfunction.

How to fix a halfway point issue

  1. Insert then remove the aux cable plug from the jack port.
  2. Repeat step 1 at various angles to keep pushing the mechanical trigger back in place.
  3. Test your Bluetooth headphones to find out if the issue is resolved.

Diagnosis: Broken internal wires

If one side of your earphones still won’t work despite being fully charged, start checking for damaged or displaced wires in the hardware. Read the steps below on how to repair Bluetooth headphones.

How to fix internal wires

  1. Open the Bluetooth device and remove the casing.

    Open bluetooth earbuds
    Open Bluetooth earbuds

  2. Locate the broken wires and reconnect these using a soldering iron. 
  3. Return the internal components inside the casing.
  4. Turn on your Bluetooth earphones to test it, then re-seal if it’s all good.

How to Reuse Multiple One-Side Working Earbuds

If you have several headsets with only one earbud working, you can reuse these so long as they are of similar models.

Note though that the audio quality may no longer be as good as it used to.

Use a headphone splitter to reuse one-side working earbuds. (From: Amazon)
Use a headphone splitter to reuse one-side working earbuds. (From: Amazon)
  1. Get an earphone splitter and plug it into your audio device’s aux output.
  2. Insert the two earphones’ jacks into the splitter’s output jacks.
  3. Play an audio or video file to test for sound quality.
  4. Keep your earphones looking neat by removing the excess cords and intertwining the functioning earbuds’ wires.

If you wish to skip the trouble and buy a new pair of headphones instead, make sure to read our tips on what to do with broken headphones.

Find Ways to Extend Your Earphones’ Life

If you are investing in quality headphones, you want to be able to use these for a long time. And even if you don’t have a pricey pair, you may not want to throw yet again another hardware just because one earbud isn’t working.

With the tips above, you can determine if your earphones simply need a quick fix before buying a new one. Aside from saving you some money, repairing your headset lets you help reduce electronic wastes. Most importantly, you can quickly go back to enjoying your music playlist or watching videos.

What are your thoughts on the fixes listed above? Do you have other tips and tricks for repairing headphones with only one earbud working? Share these below.

22 comments

  1. I looked over all the methods (for the wired ones) and my headphones have none of those problems but only one side works. could you help?

  2. My headphones work on my phone but the right ear is cut out when I’m on my PC. I have had this PC for around a month and it has been in clean conditions. Any suggestions?

    1. you might need to clean the jack because thats happened to me or the headphones are the problem because some headphones only work on certain devices

  3. My merlin earbuds both are working good. but not the same time. if Left is work then right side stop & Vice versa. how to fix this problem? please help me. my contact no. is 9987469278

  4. Oh God, thank you so much for this! I went to my settings on my Mac and somehow the balance had shifted all the way to only the right headphone. After I switched it back to the middle, it started working perfectly. Thank you so much, I am indebted

  5. Hey, thank you so much for this amazing website. I have a JBL live 650BTNC and it had the half way point issue. Followed the steps and wallahhhh!! Now it’s fixed????

  6. I looked over all the problems, and I can’t seem to figure out what is going on. I can’t test my earbuds in someone else’s device because mine is the only one with this type of jack. What do I do?

  7. My earphone is only working from one side I tried restarting my phone to see if it was that but it’s not and I’ve checked a few other articles and it’s still not working I’ve tried everything they’ve said

    1. you might need to clean the jack because thats happened to me or the headphones are the problem because some headphones only work on certain devices

  8. I have indy vevo blue tooth headphones and i have tried ones with wire’s but i can inky hear out of one ear does anyone kniw what i do

  9. Me tooo I have got problems on my headphones , I just brought it yesterday, My wireheadphones just working on the left side not in right side , i mean , the occured thing is when i first connect to pc its working on the right side , but when i connect to the tab its working on the left side , untill then its working on the left side even if on the pc , Anyone have any solution ???/

    1. Same I also have the same problem but my left side is not working and right side is working!

  10. Huge shoutout to Barsin for leaving a comment above who had the same halfway point issue as me on JBL Live 650BTNC and because of whom I could find this page.

  11. both right and left of my headphones are doesn’t work sometimes. and sometimes only one is working could you help me?

  12. my earbuds work without the ear cushions….when you put the ear cushions the sound become very low that i can hear even in full volume

  13. The left side of my headphones doesn’t work I’ve opened the case so I can see the speaker and it looks fine apart from the fact it has disconnected from the case…

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