How to Fix Earbuds that Work on One Side (2023)

We’ve all been in that dreadful situation where your Apple earbuds betray you and stop working on one side. Anyone in that position is bound to try silly tricks, like twisting and turning the wire until it magically starts working again. However, doing so will damage your earbuds permanently. 

Today, we’ll explain several ways to solve the problem of earbuds working only on one side. If your earbuds are acting up, keep reading to find out how you can get rid of this annoying issue quickly!

Table of Contents

Reasons that Earbuds Stop Working on One Side

  • Earbud is not charged.
  • Poor Bluetooth or Wifi Connection between earbud and device.
  • Earbud has water damage.
  • Earwax blocking sound from earbud.
  • Broken Wires connecting earbud to device.

These are the most common reasons that earbuds stop working. Read on for details on how to diagnose and potentially fix each problem.


Steps to Fix Earbuds that only work on One Side

1. Carry Out A Self-Diagnosis

Before fixing the problem, carry out a little tech diagnosis to understand the source of the problem. 

It’s typically recommended to pair your device with another pair of earbuds. If one apple earbud is still not working, there’s something wrong with your audio settings. 

If you don’t seem to have another pair of headphones on hand, connect your earbuds to another device to test out their audio. If your headphones do not work with another device, your earbuds are to blame. 


Check If the Earphones are Charged 

An easy fix for technical issues is ensuring that both earbuds are fully charged if they’re Bluetooth wireless. Unfortunately, charging cases can often malfunction and not charge both earbuds appropriately and at the same rate. 


Bluetooth & Wireless Connection

The easiest way to fix connection problems is to click ‘forget’ for your earbuds on your device. Then, try re-pairing your headphones to see if the issue resolves itself. If the problem persists, your earbuds are likely at fault. If your Airpods are connected but sound is coming from your iPhone then it is also probably a Bluetooth issue.

However, if you have wired headphones, the diagnosis ends at pairing those with multiple sources and trying out several applications. Then, if the issue remains, your earbuds need repairing. 


Inspect for Water Damage

If you’ve taken your headphones out for a stroll in the rain or if they’ve been carelessly left near the kitchen sink, water damage is the possible cause of your worries. 

Wipe your headphones down with a soft towel. If this doesn’t work, try removing the grille or the soft padding and go for another wipe-down. Water damage causes extreme corrosion, and you might need to replace your headphones completely. 


2. Remove Earwax Accumulation

Most wired earbuds’ malfunctioning can be directly attributed to earwax clogging your earbuds’ speakers or damaging its parts. So if your earbud produces low-quality sound from one side or only the small grille is working on your Apple earbuds, your earwax is to blame. 

Falling asleep in your Apple earbuds or using them excessively in one specific ear for a prolonged period can cause earwax build-up. This build-up is caused by the warming of wax in your ears, making it a thin invisible film. This completely coats the metal grille, which can’t be seen even by close inspection at times. 

Don’t be fooled by how seemingly clean your wired earbuds look. If the sound is muffled; earwax is clogging it!


How To Clean Earwax From Your Earbuds

There are multiple ways to go about this inevitable problem. It’s best to tackle each process individually until one method finally works for you. 


Bobby Pin or Toothpick 

If you can see the visible chunky bits of earwax, use a toothpick or a bobby pin to pick it out. Cover the end of your desired tool with an alcohol swab to ensure it’s sanitary. Make sure you’re targeting every hole in the grille for a clean and slightly nauseating inspection. 

After you’re done, leave your headphones to dry for over a minute. Play some music to test if the sound quality has improved and if it hasn’t; it’s time to employ another method! 



Get an unused toothbrush and brush gently against the grille. It’s important to remember that this method would work for any unseen earwax residue still left on your earbuds. Wipe everything down with an alcohol swab after you’re done, and try again. 

To prevent earwax from accumulating repeatedly, a quick fix is to keep an alcohol swab with you at all times. Wipe your wired headphones down after every use, and you’ll be good to go. 

However, ensure you’re not dampening the headphones too much, as you don’t want to cause water damage. Make sure the alcohol swab is merely moist and not dripping into your earbuds. Don’t squeeze it while wiping your headphones, and only swipe. 


Clean Your Headphone Jack

This is an essential step that most folks forget to consider. For example, if you’re using Apple wired headphones or Beats headphones, your headphone jack being grimy might cause a malfunction. 

Many folks don’t regularly remember to clean their phone ports, and they’re commonly full of dust, debris, and all sorts of grime. So use the toothpick and bobby pin method to clean those cramped areas. Re-insert your wired headphones to check if this solves the issue. 

Cleaning your Airpods also helps if your Airpods sound muffled or unclear.


3. Inspect All Cords And Wires

If your headphones still refuse to work after all the work you’ve put into them, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of its tech parts. Audio transmission can malfunction with the slightest twist and turn of your cords, causing one earbud to stop working. 

The most obvious trick in the book is to re-insert your wired headphones into the headphone jack. This usually solves it for most people. You can check if the audio transmission glitches, if it does, there’s an internal wiring problem or a headphone jack issue. 

Lastly, try engaging your headphones properly into the plug to see if the audio transmission improves. 

If your headphones’ cords are pinched or twisted, straighten the loops and try again. If you have accidentally pinched the wire too hard or unknowingly damaged it, you’ll need to get them repaired by a professional or save your time and buy a new pair. 


Broken Wires

If there’s an apparent broken wire, your problem is in front of you. If you’re into DIYs and are willing to solve the issue of frayed earbud wires, you can try splicing your speaker wire. We’ve linked a tutorial on how to do so safely and efficiently. 

On the contrary, if the broken wire is inside the earbud, trying to mend it on your own is almost impossible as this requires technique and precision. It’s time to take your earbuds to the repair shop, but we’d recommend just opting for a new pair of headphones since the problem might persist after a short period. 


Earphone Splitter

While this sounds silly, it can be used as a last resort if nothing else seems to work. A headphone splitter takes two orphan working headphones and uses a gadget to combine them to work together. 

Connecting two functioning earbuds from two different pairs of headphones sounds like too much work, but if you’re not ready to let go of your headphones, this shall suffice. You can extend the lifetime of the earbuds you bought and also solve your issue! 

If you have an Apple device, you can buy the Headphone Jack Adapter If you have another device such as an Android, you can buy this headphone splitter.

The downside to opting for this contraption is that spare wires will hang out everywhere. You’ll also need to buy another pair of headphones with only one earbud working alongside buying an earphone splitter. 


4. Replacing Your Headphones Altogether

If you’ve tried every trick in the book and nothing seems to work, it’s time to repair your earbuds with a new pair. While it’s understandably disappointing and pricey to do so, this is the last resort. 

If you’re buying wireless Bluetooth headphones, battery degradation is an important factor to consider. Your batteries can degrade disproportionately; therefore, one side might lose its sound completely. Also, if your earbuds are failing, it’s typical for battery-charged electronics to do so after a long period. 

If you’re buying new headphones, ensure to purchase water-resistant or waterproof ones to prevent water damage. Sweating, crying, or even rain can cause inevitable corrosion, which causes one earbud to stop working properly. 

Headphones are an investment, so make sure you buy from a reputable brand with trustworthy reviews. Beats, Airpods, and Apple earbuds are all suitable options. If you are considering a cheaper brand, we have an article on how to connect Jlab earbuds.


Final Thoughts

There is a multitude of reasons why earbuds stop working on one side. These problems range from water damage to earwax build-up to troubleshooting issues. However, there are adequate solutions to all of these problems. 

It’s always best to find a reasonable homemade solution before rushing to buy a new pair or taking them to the repair shop. However, if you’ve made it through this guide and nothing seems to work in your favor, it’s probably best to let go of your beloved pair of headphones and invest in a functioning new pair!