Headphones Only Work in One Ear: Most Common Causes & How to Fix!

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That phone call with a friend who’s so excited to tell you about how her fresher’s party was all the spark you needed on your weekend. But then you couldn’t hear her because one side of your headphones was not working. You connect and reconnect them, and they still sound the same. This is definitely a mood spoiler.

Having headphones that work only on one side is almost like not having the headphones working at all. But no worries, let me help you out. Let us explore all the possible ways that can cause this unfortunate incident and all the ways to fix it.

Why Are Your Headphones Working Only on One Side, Most Common Causes?

Why Are Your Headphones Working Only on One Side, Most Common Causes?

There are various causes to why your headphones are working only on one side. Below I’ve listed the most common causes, and further in this article, you’ll get the solutions too.

Before we proceed, check your headphones by plugging them into other devices to know if the problem lies with the device or the headphones themselves.

  1. Being Lenient With Your Headphones: We often keep our headphones in places we shouldn’t, which leads to a lot of damage. For instance, you keep it on the kitchen shelf thinking it’s safe, but there’s water on it, or sometimes you unintentionally keep it in a dusty area that damages the headphones or at least one side of it.
  2. Broken Headphone Jack: Not always, but there’s a possibility that the headphone jack might be broken or may have accumulated dust over time which results in damaged headphones or one side of the ear not working.
  3. Damaged Wire: One of the most common causes of headphones not working is damaged wires. Analyze the wires of your headphones for any visible cuts or damages.
  4. Bluetooth Connectivity: Although the Bluetooth range keeps getting farther with every update, you still need to make sure that the devices are in range. It may result in distorted audio or one side of the headphones not working.
  5. Outdated Drivers: Outdated drivers might be a problem if your headphones aren’t working on one side or not working at all.
  6. Device Settings: The device’s settings have a lot to do with the audio output. Sound enhancements, incompatible devices, and sound level settings should be properly set for a seamless music experience.
  7. Not Enough Charge: This one seems naive, but it does happen that we plug in the charger but forget to turn on the power source which leaves us with the assumption that the device is fully charged, although it’s not.

How to Fix The Common Issues?

Now that we’ve discussed the common issues that might cause the problems let us explore what possible solutions can fix these issues.

1. Broken Headphone Jack

Broken Headphone Jack

There are various ways to damage a headphone cable, but few to mend it.

Below I’ll be listing down a step-by-step procedure on how you can repair your headphone wires:

Tools You’ll Need

  • Knife or a cutter
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Match or lighter
  • Electrical tape
  • Shrink tubes
  • Glue

Guidelines to Enact

  1. Figure out where the wire is damaged by analysing the wire thoroughly with your fingers.
  2. When visible, cut out the damaged section of the wire, probably a little more than that.
  3. With utmost care, remove the cable jacket of both ends of the wires you’ve cut out, ensuring you do not damage the cable cords inside.
  4. Divide the wires inside the cable by colours and repeat the same for the other end of the wires.
  5. Using the soldering iron, heat out the coloured wires. This process helps in soldering the wires together more easily and gives a higher-quality connection.(You may skip this step if you want, it’s only recommended if you want a prolonged life for your headphones)
  6. Cut several heat shrink tubes of different diameters and lengths; these will be a cover for the damaged wires.
  7. Now, cut out the excess wires (coloured ones) so they’re all of equal length.
  8. Solder the wires together in pairs. Pair the first one and apply an insulating tape over it to prevent short circuits. Repeat the same with other pairs.
  9. Apply cable glue on the cable joints and also on the end of the cable so it sticks together better.
  10. Put the first heat shrink tubing on top of the cable joints and the end of the wires and heat it. Repeat the same with the other end of the wire. Use as many heat shrink tubes as possible until you think the headphone wire’s damaged area won’t bend and is good to go. 

Note that this method is only for the damaged wires in the middle of the wire. If the damage is close to the headphone jack or the earpiece, you may look up these articles for further assistance.

2. Bluetooth Connectivity

Bluetooth Connectivity

Bluetooth 5.0 can hold a connection to the source device up to a range of 240 metres (800 feet). However, it’s not necessary that the device you bought has Bluetooth 5.0. Make sure to check the device’s specifications to know which version of Bluetooth it comes with. If you want to check the Bluetooth version on your device, go to settings> Apps> Bluetooth> App info.

Below are the steps to ensure Bluetooth connectivity is not a reason one side of your headphones isn’t responding:

  • Check the Bluetooth version of both devices and make sure they are in range.
  • Check Bluetooth connectivity, and ensure that the devices are properly connected.
  • Disconnect and reconnect the devices.
  • Turn off and turn on the Bluetooth again.

Note that different Bluetooth versions in different devices won’t cause disrupted audio or any issue in that matter. However, the devices are set to follow the one with the lower version. For instance, if your headsets have Bluetooth version 5.0 and your mobile has Bluetooth version 4.2 or any other, the range you can be in will be based on the mobile version.

3. Outdated Drivers

Outdated Drivers

You might have forgotten to check this one. Outdated drivers are a major cause of why your headphones give out distorted audio, or only one side of them is working, or they aren’t working at all.

Try updating your drivers to fix the issue with your headphones. To do this, follow the steps below:

  • Right-click on the ‘Start’ icon, and from the list, choose ‘Device Manager.’
  • A pop-up box will appear. Find ‘Sound, video and game controllers,’ which will show you a list of devices that are or have been connected to the system.
  • Right-click on your device, and you’ll get the option to update drivers.

4. Device Settings

Device Settings

If it’s a mobile device, I’m afraid nothing needs to be changed since the settings aren’t very complicated like PCs or laptops.

However, there are things that you might check if only one side of your headphones is working on your mobile device.

Headphone Jacks

The headphone jack is the most common problem while listening to headphones. It may be because the jack has accumulated lint or dust over time since it is not protected with a covering. You can try cleaning the headphone jack with a cotton swab and see if that works.

Filthy Earbuds or Eartips

No matter how often we use our headphones, the fact that they also need to be cleaned never crosses our minds.

Have a look at the earbuds or the ear tips (if they have one). If they are untidy, clean them with the help of a cotton swab or toothpick. You can even use alcohol wipes to tidy them.

Now that you’re set to clean your earbuds, why not follow the complete procedure? You can read out this article for the complete guide to clean your headphones.

System Settings (Pc or Laptop)

There is a list of things that may cause disruption to your immersive music experience. Sit back and follow the steps by step guide to see where your system settings were hindered.

Step 1: Search ‘Control panel’ in the search bar and go to ‘Hardware and Sound.’

Step 2: Click on ‘Sound.’ This will open a new window where you’ll see the tabs such as ‘Playback,’ ‘Recording,’ ‘Sounds,’ and ‘Communications.’

Step 3: Look for the headphones you’re facing issues with. Right-click on them and choose ‘test’.

Step 4: You should be able to hear the sound on both sides. If you can hear it on one side, know that the issue lies with the system.

Step 5: Now set your headphones as the default device by clicking them and choosing them as default. They will have a green check mark if they’re the default device.

Step 6: You can try disabling the other devices in the list to see if they are interfering with your headphones in some way or the other. You can do this by clicking on the device and choosing ‘Disable’ from the options.

Make sure you re-enable them once you’ve tested out your headphones.

Step 7: Now, find your headphones again and double-click on them. A window will appear. Within that, go to the levels tab and click ‘Balance’. Another window will pop up wherein you can check your headphones by adjusting the balance of the dedicated side of your headphones.

Step 8: You can try enabling and disabling the headphones from the system. You can do this by going to the ‘Device Manager’ and in the ‘Audio inputs and outputs’ Tab, double click on them and then switch to the ‘Driver’ tab in the same window. Select ‘Disable’ and then select ‘Enable’ again after a few minutes.

Step 9: You can even try uninstalling and installing your headphones again to see if that works.

Step 10: The next step you can follow is running the troubleshooter. Go to settings and click on ‘System.’ Under the system, click on Troubleshoot, which will open another page for where you should choose ‘Other troubleshooters.’ If you’re using Windows 10, you can simply use the search bar to get here. Now click on ‘Run’ next to the ‘Playing audio’ troubleshooter and choose your headphones from the list to allow Windows to look for any possible problems.

So there are ten simple steps that might restore the device’s audio. If it hasn’t, try consulting the manufacturer for a repair or replacement (if the gadget is under warranty).


I know how frustrating it can be when your headphones don’t work, but I’ve tried my best to list out all the possible solutions for you to try.

At the end of this, I’m certain that I can congratulate you because your headphones are back to normal if they aren’t, the only possible solution left for you is to buy a new pair.