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Why Headphones Work on Only One Side?

Headphones are great audio devices that let you enjoy your favorite music, podcasts, and videos. But it’s quite irritating when one of your headphones suddenly stops working. Luckily there are various solutions when only one headphone speaker fails. 

Well in this article, we have covered everything right from tweaking your sound setting, the general causes for failure, solutions, steps to fix both wired and wireless headphones, and soldering the damaged wires. Moreover, understanding the connections between various components of headphone systems can help you in figuring out where problems may exist when experiencing such an issue. Dive into the article to know more.

Why is One Side of My Headphones Not Working?

Usually, this may not be a common issue for many users. Unfortunately, if it arises that can be due to various reasons. It can be due to software (or) hardware issues (or) yet times may be due to connectivity problems. Here are some common causes which lead to the failure of one headphone speaker.

1. Hardware Causes

  • Loose wiring connections within the headset 
  • Impedance mismatch between headset and connected device
  • Faulty components like capacitors within the headset’s circuit board

2. Software Causes

  • Incorrect configuration settings on the connected device
  • Malfunctioning drivers in the operating system that are incompatible with the headset model

These are some potential hardware and software issues that may damage one of the speakers on your headphones, wherein they can be fixed with some techniques. But before that let us look at the issues that may pop up from your audio sources. 

When audio problems crop up like unwanted noises (or) hearing music in only one ear, we always assume that the problem lies within the headphones. However, these problems can be fixed easily by changing your device settings. 

How To Fix If Headphones Work On Only One Side?

Here are some simple setting-related fixes you can try on audio source devices before discarding (or) repairing headphones yourself. 

1. Try Listening to the Audio with Another Pair of Headphones

Play the audio using another set of headphones. If the audio plays properly on the second pair of headphones, you can conclude that the first pair is defective. Whereas if there is an issue with the audio, you must fix the bugs in your audio device to get it working again. 

2. Try Restarting the Device

Restarting your device is another simple fix. When you restart your device, it shuts down all active apps and deletes all caches, effectively refreshing it. This is very useful if your audio problem occurs after a software upgrade since certain components are deleted or changed during this procedure.

3. Adjust the Sound Balance

When audio signals are directed more toward one speaker than the other, the sound becomes unbalanced. When this happens, one speaker will have noticeably softer or no sound at all. The Windows sound balancing option allows you to adjust the left and right audio output such that both signals are loud and clear.

4. Disable Sound Enhancements

When you select the audio enhancements function, your sound undergoes further processing in order to increase its quality even more. The extra enhancements like bass boost, room correction, etc can affect playback on your headphones because they manipulate the different audio frequencies. This sometimes results in no sound output on one side. 

Disable this option and hear the audio again. If there is no problem in the audio then you can try fixing your headphones. 

5. Update Device Software and Drivers if Required

Outdated software and drivers can cause problems with your system’s sound card. This can lead to various sound problems, such as your headphones not being detected by your computer or hearing sounds in only one ear. Ensure your audio devices and drivers are up to date before coming to a conclusion. 

6. Clean the Headphone Jacks Properly

Headphones must be properly maintained. Lint and dirt get stuck in the headphone jack if not taken care of.  This loosens the connection between the plug and jack, affecting the audio output. This is really not an option in all cases, but yet times it works. 

Regardless of what’s causing your headphones to fail on one side, replacing them with a new set is usually going to solve the problem quickly and effectively.

Many wired and wireless headphones are readily available in the market with distinct features, prices, designs, and brands. Now let’s see how to fix if the problem arises in both wired and wireless headphones. 

How to Fix if Wired Headphones Only Work in One Ear?

Wired headphones are reliable and excellent audio devices with good sound quality. But headphone wires are very fragile due to their thickness. This could be one of the most common reasons we find ourselves with one headphone that stopped working. 

If you suspect a wiring issue is creating a problem in your headphones’ audio. Here are a few ways to fix them.

  • Fix damaged wires
  • Fix shorted wires
  • Solder faulty wires within the defective headphones

1. Damaged Wires Near the Plug

Cause: Most times people remove their headphones by pulling the cable rather than the plastic plug base. A lot of stress is exerted on the plug and jack, causing the protective rubber shell to wear down over time. The headphone wires will become damaged, and the plug will bend at times.

Fix: Follow these below steps if you notice wear and tear near the headphone plug. 

  1. Cut the protective plastic base and the wire around the earphone plug with a knife (or) cutter
  2. Identify the damaged wires and cut them off
  3. Remove the plastic cable around one end of your headset cord
  4. Use a lighter (or) match to burn off the insulation on the wire
  5. Solder the wires to the earphone jack. Make sure to connect the correct cables to their corresponding section on the earphone jack
  6. Once the connections are made properly, cover the newly joined wires with electrical tape (or) heat-shrink tube

2. Shorted Wires

It is quite difficult to detect a short in your headphone wires. This is due to the fact that they don’t show any outward signs of a breakdown, like damaged wires.

Cause: Shorted wires occur when a powered wire comes into contact with a neutral wire, exposing it to too much electricity and causing it to short circuit. Usually, this problem pops up if the headphones are tangled or wrapped improperly.

Fix: “Wiggle test” is the best way to fix shorted wires. Here is the procedure.

  1. Plug in your headphones and play any audio (or) video file
  2. Now bend the headphone wires at every half inch to identify the short. Continue doing so until you hear sound coming from both headphones
  3. Remove the damaged section of the wire
  4. Cut off both ends of the cable using a knife (or) cutter
  5. Isolate the copper wires and insulation based on the color
  6. Cut away the insulation and twist the copper wires to keep them together
  7. Burn off the enamel at the tip of colored wires using a match (or) lighter
  8. Twist the colored wires and join them with electrical tape (or) heat-shrink tube
  9. Repeat the same for ground wires as well. But make sure that ground and colored wires are not in contact
  10. Finally, wrap the newly linked section with electrical tape (or) heat shrink tube

3. Faulty Wires Inside the Headphones

Similar to shorted wires, even it is difficult to identify faulty wires within the defective headphone. 

Cause: Faulty wiring can be due to various reasons including poor handling, improper care, and maintenance. Sometimes the headphones get damaged due to the accumulation of moisture and yet times it can be a manufacturing fault as well. 

Fix: Follow the below instructions to fix faulty wires inside your headphones.

  1. Open the headphone casing with a nail cutter (or) small blade (or) a screwdriver
  2. Don’t pull the casing completely because sometimes the wires may shred that are attached to the front case
  3. Push the cord through the upper housing. This will shove the front case and expose the internal components
  4. Locate the damaged wire and solder it 
  5. Now let it cool down to room temperature before testing them and close the headphone casing 

How to Fix if Wireless Headphones Only Work in One Ear?

Wireless headphones and earbuds eliminate the need to untangle tangled cables. But that doesn’t mean you’re resistant to the issues that cause headphones to only play in one ear.

Here are a few things you can do while experiencing audio malfunctions in one earbud or headphone speaker.

  • Reset your headphones
  • Check for low battery 
  • Check for disconnected wires inside the headphones

1. Restart your Headphones

Cause: Sometimes you may miss out on important software updates on your audio devices. Eventually, this might result in audio and pairing issues. Resetting your headphones helps in clearing unnecessary data and firmware updates.

Fix: Refer to the below steps to reset your headphones.

  1. Press the power button on your device
  2. Hold it until the headphone’s light flashes blue (or) red
  3. Finally, pair the headphone again with your mobile (or) any audio device.

2. Check for Low Battery

Bluetooth headphones come with separate batteries that require individual charging. 

Cause: In certain cases, one battery may drain faster than the other, especially if you like to work or commute with only one earbud to keep awareness of your surroundings.

Fix: Follow the below steps to fix this issue.

  1. Place the headphones in their charging case
  2. Wait until they are fully charged
  3. Hold the headphones until the blue (or) red light blinks
  4. Pair them with your mobile and check if the audio works in both headphones

3. Disconnected Wires Within the Headphones

Despite full charging, if the headphones still don’t work properly then definitely it may be due to internal issues.

Cause: The wires can be damaged internally due to various reasons including improper care & maintenance, accumulation of dirt, moisture, and lint. Yet times it can be due to manufacturing problems as well. 

Fix: Read the steps below on how to repair headphones.

  1. Open the casing of the headphones with a screwdriver (or) small cutter
  2. Don’t pull the front casing careful
  3. Now take out the internal components carefully
  4. Identify the damaged wires and solder them
  5. Let it dry to room temperature and return the internal components inside the casing
  6. Now turn on the headphones and check if the audio is working properly


We hope that this article acts as a comprehensive guide for fixing headphones that only operate on one side before discarding them (or) getting a new one. You can resume listening to your favorite music immediately after resolving the issues. These simple hacks and tweaks help you save money, energy, and time, as well as reduce electrical waste. Prefer branded headphones over inexpensive ones that may break down frequently.  

Further, before you can fix the problems, you must first determine what the potential causes are. Moreover, proper care and maintenance must be taken in order to avoid future problems.  

Headphones – FAQs

1. What type of headphones should I buy?

Ans: Selecting headphones is completely your choice. It is entirely based on your requirements and needs. We can just guide you with some suggestions. 
a. Over-ear headphones provide better sound quality and cover more space in the ear, allowing for greater bass response and noise isolation.
b. On-ear headphones also offer good sound quality. They are smaller in size when compared to over-ear models and can be carried easily. 
c. Even wireless Bluetooth headphones provide optimal sound quality. They are pretty convenient as no wires are required for connection and are easy to carry.
d. Noise-canceling headphones are ideal for the ones who want to enjoy conversations, music, and phone calls with exceptional sound quality in crowded and noisy areas. 

2. Are there any health risks associated with using headphones?

Ans: Yes, wearing headphones can lead to some health problems. Some studies state that using it for an extended time may damage the ear canal leading to permanent hearing loss. 
Some debate that wearing headphones results in the accumulation of moisture resulting in the growth of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. This causes ear infections. 
It is always recommended to take breaks while using headphones and keep the volumes at minimal levels to mitigate these risks. 

3. Are there any special cleaning instructions for headphones?

Ans: When it comes to cleaning headphones, the best approach is often a combination of gentle scrubbing with a lint-free cloth and using an alcohol solution. One way to clean them is by using the pointed tip of a brush toothpick (or) an interdental brush to loosen any dirt, then using the brush side to scoop it out. A cotton swab can also be used for cleaning headphones.

4. What is the average lifespan of a pair of headphones?

Ans: This is a difficult question to answer. The lifespan of any headphones usually depends on the materials used, the brand, and so on. The headphones made of cheap plastic materials generally withstand for 2-3 years. Branded ones that employ high-grade materials may last up to ten years. Some headphones, on the other hand, use rechargeable batteries that can be charged on a regular basis.

5. Is there any sound quality difference between wired and wireless headphones?

Ans: Actually both wired and wireless headphones offer similar kind of sound quality. Wired headphones are considered to have a superior sound quality and are reliable as they are not affected by any latency issues.
Wireless headphones, on the other hand, provide far greater convenience than wired ones due to their portability and ease of use, as well as the ability to connect to many devices at once. Finally, choosing among these is ultimately your choice. 

6. How to fix damaged wire?

Ans: Damaged wires can be fixed with electrical tape or by getting a new pair of earphone cables. Wireless headphones, on the other hand, are free from these problems.

7. What to do if nothing works?

Ans: If none of the above solutions work, try wrapping the exposed wire with electrical tape or changing your audio source or headphones. Contact a local technician (or) the manufacturer to repair the headphones. 

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