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How to Fix Headphones When Only One Side Works

This issue can happen to any set of headphones. You might not even notice because you can still hear audio; therefore, it must be a poor quality video or track. You even try increasing the volume level to compensate.

On the next track, or during the video, you realize something still isn’t right. You lift one of the ear pads. Yep, everything’s fine there. You lift the other, and… nothing. One side of your headphones isn’t working.

But before rushing out to purchase a new pair of headphones, try my handy guide on How to Fix Headphones When Only One Side Works to see if this issue can be resolved.

Tools and Parts

You are possibly going to need some tools and spare parts to repair this issue. But don’t worry too much, only basic skills will be required. I have made a list here of the necessary tools to fix headphones to complete any of the fixes I suggest.

Dowell 10-22AWG + 22-30AWG Wire Strippers

To cut and strip wires with precision, you need the correct tool. This will save your cable from becoming shorter and shorter because you keep accidentally cutting all the way through when trying to strip.

Included are two sets of wire strippers, each suitable for gauges ranging from 10-30 AWG. Because earbud wires are usually very thin, using a tool like this will save you both time and frustration.

Fancasee 3.5mm male plug to bare wire end

If broken, this is the easiest way to replace headphone jacks. No soldering is required, plus it is compatible with stereo audio, and microphone-enabled earbuds or headphones.

It comes in a pack of two, so you can have one spare or fix another pair of damaged earbuds. Measuring 12 inches (30 centimeters) long, it can even become an extension to your existing headphone or earbud cable.

Maveek 6 pack of electrical insulation tape

For covering up, protecting, and preventing any shorts around wires, you will need some electrical insulation tape. The Maveek 6 pack comes in six different colors for identifying wire colors after being sealed.

It has a smooth surface, is resistant to acid and alkali, waterproof, and will still hold true even after exposure to sun or rain. Constructed from rubber and tackifier resin, it is durable and sticky, without leaving messy resin behind.

Wired Headphones

Wired Headphones

You usually receive a pair of headphones included with your phone, before that, your iPod or MP3 player, and even before that a Discman or Walkman. The chances are that you have a drawer or box at home that has multiple pairs of headphones inside.

There’s also a high probability that some of them have been discarded because one side had stopped working. Well, now is your chance to bring these (possibly retro) headphones back to life with some newfound skills.

Broken jack…

This tends to be the most common problem with headphones and earbuds. Headphones are designed to be portable, so they can become snagged on things and the jack to break or snap off completely.

To repair this issue, use some wire strippers to make a clean cut above the broken jack. Strip all the bare cables back, so around 1-inch (2.5 centimeters) of wire is exposed. It is now time to grab one of those Fancasee plugs I told you about.


Join all the wires together to their corresponding colors by lining them up and twisting them together. Then make a neat cut, leaving around about ½- inch (1.3 centimeters) of the wire remaining. Use the corresponding wire color electrical insulation tape to cover each wire.

The wire colors are green for the ground, white is for the right channel, red for the left channel, and finally blue for the microphone. If you don’t have a microphone, just cut the blue cable without leaving any wire exposed. For the last step, cover all wires neatly with some black insulation tape.

Broken earpiece…

You will often find that there isn’t an issue with the earpiece itself; the issue is with the cable. To find out where exactly the problem in the cable is, plug in your headphones and start playing a consistent audio track like some music.

Every ½-inch (1.3 centimeters) or so, bend the cable and listen to see if you can hear any noise coming from the damaged earpiece. Once you have located where the issue is coming from, make a mark in that spot on the wire.

Another chance to reconnect…

Using your wire strippers, cut about 1-inch (2.5 centimeters) back on each side of the mark. Strip each of the cables back, leaving the wire exposed just like in the previous instructions for the damaged jack.

The process is the same. Twist each of the corresponding wires together, make a clean cut, and cover with tape. Once all wires are joined, neatly cover them all with black tape, and try the headphones again.

Bluetooth Headphones

Bluetooth Headphones

If you are experiencing problems with Bluetooth headphones, there is more of a chance it’s a software rather than a hardware issue. The first thing you should always try when having an issue with electronic equipment is the old reset. If you want to know how to fix headphones when only one side works, this is the easiest method.

Turning devices off and then back on again usually resets them to their standard settings. It can also ensure that any connections are reset. Try turning off both your headphones and audio device for 30 seconds, and then turning them back on. You’ll be surprised how often this works.

Stereo or mono…

It is worth checking what the settings are on your device. If it has somehow been set to mono, then there will only be a single channel operating. Switching it back to stereo will activate both the left and the right channels.

This could be in your smartphone, tablet, or computer settings. Here is a quick guide for the most commonly used devices.

Android smartphone or tablet

  • Launch the [Settings] from your device.
  • Scroll down the menu and tap on [Accessibility].
  • Then tap [Hearing enhancements].
  • You will see a toggle switch for [Mono audio].
  • Ensure the toggle switch is set to [Off].

iPhone and iPad running iOS

  • Launch the [Settings] on your device.
  • Within the menu, tap on [General].
  • Then tap on [Accessibility].
  • Ensure the toggle for [Mono Audio] is set to [Off].

Windows 10 desktops and laptops

  • Click on the [Start] button, and then click the Gear Icon for [Settings].
  • Then click the [Ease of Access] icon in the window.
  • Click on either [Other options] or [Audio] under [Hearing] in the sidebar, depending on your Windows 10 version.
  • Scroll down until you see [Audio options].
  • Ensure the toggle switch for [Mono audio] is set to [Off].

MacBook or iMac running macOS

  • From the Apple menu, select [System Preferences].
  • Within that menu, click on [Accessibility].
  • From the sidebar, select [Audio].
  • Ensure the box is not ticked that reads [Play stereo audio as mono].

Check any equalizer settings…

If your headphones have an App, or the audio player on your device has any equalizer settings, it is worth taking a look at them too. The balance might be set too far to either the left or right and requires adjusting back to the center.

Don’t forget that all of these options could also be a reason why your wired headphones aren’t operating correctly too. If, after trying all the above, you still haven’t had any successful results, then professional repair or replacement might be required.

Need More Help on How to Fix Headphones?

We have a few useful guides dedicated to solving headphone issues. Check out our helpful guides on How to Disable a Headphone Jack for PC and PhonesHow to Fix a Loose Headphone JackHow to Use a Single Jack Headset on PC Without a Splitter, and How to Reset Your Bluetooth Headphones for lots of great tips.

Also, don’t miss our articles on How to Wear Headphones with GlassesHow to Fix Sound Delay in Bluetooth HeadphonesHow to Connect Your Gaming HeadsetHow to Use Two or More Headphones On PC or MacHow to Keep Your Earbuds From Falling Out, and How do noise-canceling headphones work for more headphones advice.

You might also enjoy our rundowns on Why do I Hear Static in my Headphones and 5 Reasons Not to buy Bluetooth Headphones in 2023.

How to Fix Headphones When Only One Side Works – Final Thoughts

Don’t be too scared about having a go at making simple repairs yourself. Only very basic tools and skills are usually required, and they are also normally very affordable. You can then put your new tools and skills into practice in other areas.

If anything, it is certain to build your confidence and teach you some lessons. The same goes for exploring all the settings and options on your device. By becoming familiar with what’s available, you might discover something useful that enhances your musical enjoyment in the future.

Good luck, and happy listening!

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