(Last Updated On: July 3, 2020)

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.

Me wearing the Tin HIFI T2000
Me wearing the Tin HIFI T2000

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

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.

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 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.

For wired headphones

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.

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.

After removing the damaged section, solder the earphone wires to the jack. (From: Bong Maker)
After removing the damaged section, solder the earphone wires to the jack. (From: Bong Maker)

How to fix it

  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.
  6. Cover the newly joined section.
Make sure to connect the right wires to their corresponding section on the earphone jack. (From: Bong Maker)
Make sure to connect the right wires to their corresponding section on the earphone jack. (From: Bong Maker)

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.

Remove the damaged portion of the earphone cord. (From: RichsMethods)
Remove the damaged portion of the earphone cord. (From: RichsMethods)

How to fix it

  1. Plug your headphones to 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.
  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.)
  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 an 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.

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.

Resolder loose wires in the earbud. (From: The Family Handyman)
Resolder loose wires in the earbud. (From: The Family Handyman)

How to fix it

  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 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.

For wireless headphones

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 fix it

  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 it

  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.

Open the casing and look for loose wires. (From: Creative & Duck)
Open the casing and look for loose wires. (From: Creative & Duck)

How to fix it

  1. Open the Bluetooth device and remove the casing.
  2. Locate the broken wires and reconnect these using a soldering iron.
Rejoin broken wires using a soldering iron. (From: Creative & Duck)
Rejoin broken wires using a soldering iron. (From: Creative & Duck)
  1. Return the internal components inside the casing.
  2. Turn on your Bluetooth earphones to test it.

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.

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.