If you are an audiophile like me, you know nothing is more annoying than one of your Earbuds stops working. Music in only one ear means no music at all.
I have had my fair share of this issue with both wired and wireless earbuds. However, both types of earbuds have different reasons for the issue and need different troubleshooting methods.
If you are here reading this post, that means you, too, are holding such an earbud in your hand, wondering why is only one of my earbuds working. But don’t worry, as I am going to lay out a detailed troubleshooting guide for both wired and Bluetooth wireless earbuds.
By the end of this article, you will either have a working earbud or you will know exactly what to do next to resolve your problem.
First, we are going to discuss wireless Bluetooth earbuds because they are the most common these days. If you have a wired earbud that is not working, you can skip to later sections of the article.
Why is only one of my earbuds working?
Below, we are going to look at the most common causes of the issues and will also discuss how to resolve them.
So, let’s get started with the most obvious one.
Bluetooth pairing issues
Incorrectly paired earbuds is probably one of the most common causes of getting audio in one earbud only. If you don’t follow the correct pairing process, it is common for one earbud to get paired while the other stay disconnected.
Many brands are notorious for occasional Bluetooth glitches, including big names like Skullcandy, Beats, and JBL. However, most often, the problem isn’t with the earbuds themselves but how they are paired with your phone or PC.
Skullcandy, for example, has a range of affordable wireless earbuds, but people have reported frequent issues with pairing. Often, only one of the Skullcandy Jib True or Jib True 2 earbuds would pair, leaving the other out of sync.
This issue can typically be resolved by first syncing the earbuds to each other before attempting to pair them with your phone.
Beats wireless earbuds, too, can run into similar problems. For instance, the Beats Studio Buds are well-received for their sound quality, but users have reported trouble in getting both earbuds to connect at the same time.
The solution is quite easy. Reset the earbuds, forget them on your device’s Bluetooth settings, and then pair them again.
JBL earbuds, such as the Endurance Peak 2 and Live series, aren’t free from pairing issues either.
Sometimes, the right earbud – which typically connects first – pairs without any problem, but the left one does not. You have to follow the correct pairing process and let the earbuds sync together first before pairing with your phone.
Each earbud brand and model has its own correct way of pairing. Always follow the pairing process explained in the manual, and you will be fine.
Most problems arise if you skip one or more of the crucial steps in the pairing process.
Earbud is in mono mode
Mono mode is a feature in most earbuds where only the left or right earbud receives audio. This feature is particularly useful when you are talking on the phone.
However, if you don’t follow the manufacturer-specified steps to transfer between Mono & Stereo modes, you might get stuck with only one earbud working.
For instance, Skullcandy Sesh Wireless earbuds can function in mono mode, and it’s handy for taking calls or listening to music or podcasts with one earbud in and the other out.
The problem arises when the earbuds fail to sync together for stereo mode after using them in mono mode, and you get stuck with only one earbud getting audio.
Beats Flex, another popular wireless earbuds, can also be used in mono mode. However, I have faced this problem where they won’t automatically switch back to stereo mode.
The solution is rather simple: Follow the brand-specific process to switch between mono and stereo modes, and you will be fine.
Each brand will have a different process for switching between mono and stereo modes. Some may be more intuitive than others. I have Skullcandy Sesh Evo, and they switch between two modes flawlessly almost every single time.
Always check the user manual for the correct steps. If your earbuds are stuck in mono mode, try resetting and pairing them again, and they will be back in stereo mode.
Earbud is low on charge
One of the most overlooked causes of one earbud not working could be as simple as it being low on charge.
Sometimes, you may not have placed the earbud correctly in the charging case. Other times, the issue could be dirty or damaged charging pins.
Whatever the reason is, if one of your earbuds has no charge, it won’t work, and you will get audio in one ear only.
The earbuds from brands like Skullcandy, JLab, Sony, and JBL have charging pins on their earbuds and charging cases. Over time, these pins can accumulate dirt or debris, causing the earbuds to not charge.
Another reason for one earbud to not charge is battery unbalance.
If you use one earbud more frequently than the other in mono mode, it will discharge faster, and an unbalanced battery will prevent one of the earbuds to not charge.
In short, make sure both your earbuds are sufficiently charged before using them. Usually, you can easily find the charge level in the earbud companion app on your smartphone.
Earbud battery is dead
There are instances when one earbud simply won’t work because its battery has died. While wireless earbuds are designed for repeated use over several years, the reality is that their batteries can die.
Earbud batteries have a finite lifespan. Over time and with repeated charge-discharge cycles, the battery’s capacity gradually degrades.
If you frequently use one earbud more than the other, you might find that earbud’s battery life falls short.
When an earbud’s battery fails, you won’t be able to charge or power it up, resulting in no sound.
Your best option is to contact the manufacturer for possible battery replacement or earbud exchange if it’s within warranty.
If you are a DIY person, you might be able to swap the battery yourself. You can easily find a replacement battery for your specific brand and model online and replace it.
Sound balance is off
This one is about your audio setting in your connected device. Every device has a sound balancer in stereo mode, which lets you balance the audio level in each ear.
If this balance is off, it can cause the audio to lean more towards one earbud than the other or in severe cases, mute one earbud entirely.
Before you dive deep into further troubleshooting, it’s a good idea to check if your audio balancing setting is not the cause of the issue.
If you’re an iPhone user, you can adjust the audio balance by going to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual > Balance. Here, make sure the slider is perfectly centered.
Any deviation towards the left or right can cause audio to favor one earbud over the other.
Android users can find similar settings. The path may vary slightly depending on the brand and model, but generally, you can navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Hearing > Audio balance or Sound Balance.
You will find similar settings on Windows and Mac as well.
Reset your earbuds
Sometimes a temporary software glitch or error can cause your earbuds to act erratically. A simple reset can fix most such issues and get your earbuds working again.
Resetting your earbuds removes all cache memory from the processor and reverses all the customization and settings back to the factory state.
Most earbuds have a straightforward reset process, usually involving holding down the power button or a combination of buttons for a certain number of seconds.
For the exact process and button combination, you can look at your user manual with earbuds or the brand’s website. Below are the reset processes for some famous brands:
- Take your Jabra earbuds out of the charging case and turn them ON.
- Now, press & hold the button on both earbuds for about 10-15 seconds until the LED light flashes purple.
- Your earbuds will go through the reset process, and once completed, the LED will blink blue, indicating pairing mode.
- To reset the JBL earbuds, you put the earbuds back in the case.
- Press the right and left buttons simultaneously for about 15 seconds.
- The earbuds will turn off and then on again, indicating a successful reset.
- For the Beats Studio Buds, you put them in the charging case.
- Hold down the system button until the LED indicator flashes red and white. This indicates that the earbuds are resetting.
- To reset your Skullcandy earbuds, touch and hold both earbuds together for 10 seconds.
- Both earbuds will enter reset mode, where they will go through these states; POWER ON > PAIRING > POWER OFF > POWER ON
- You will hear both earbuds say power on, pairing, power off, and power on.
- Release the button when you hear the 2nd Power on message.
After resetting, your earbuds will forget all the previously paired devices, and you will have to go through the pairing again.
This is good because if the problem was due to incorrect pairing, pairing again could fix it too.
In some cases, the problem of only one earbud working could be down to outdated firmware. This is particularly true for wireless Bluetooth earbuds.
This might seem insignificant, but I have fixed quite a number of issues with different headphones and earbuds with just a simple firmware update.
Manufacturers often release firmware updates to resolve common bugs, improve performance, or even add new features.
Updating earbud firmware varies from brand to brand, but it is quite easy.
You will have to download your earbud brand’s companion app on your smartphone and connect your earbuds. If an update is available, you will get a notification.
Before updating, always make sure your earbuds are sufficiently charged, as running out of battery mid-update could lead to more significant problems.
Also, make sure your phone has a stable internet connection for the update process to run smoothly.
Check for hardware damage
If things haven’t worked out yet after doing all the troubleshooting steps above, then chances are that you have an earbud with internal hardware damage.
Try remembering if you have dropped your earbud recently or if it has got into some water incident. I once ruined a perfectly working pair of headphones by spilling coffee over them.
If you have dropped your earbuds, chances are that something has broken inside. Even a small connecting wire that breaks away from the circuit board can render your earbud useless.
The issue is earbuds are not easy to repair, especially if you are not a DIY person. You will either have to get help from a professional or send them back to the company for repair/replacement.
Wired earbuds only one side working
Although most people today use wireless earbuds for convenience, a lot of people still prefer traditional wired headphones. One less thing to charge. Right?
If you’re among those, you might also face the issue of one earbud not working. The primary reasons for this problem could be:
- Broken or damaged wire: Wired earbuds rely on a physical connection to transmit sound. If there’s a break or damage anywhere along the wire, it can disrupt the transmission, leading to the audio being played in only one ear. This is perhaps the most common issue with wired earbuds.
- Faulty jack: The 3.5mm jack that plugs into your device can also cause problems if it’s damaged or dirty. Clean the jack carefully with a dry, lint-free cloth, and inspect it for any visible damage.
- Loose internal connections: Inside each earbud are small wires that connect the speakers to the main wire. If one of these becomes loose or detached, the earbud will stop working. This is common when you use your earbuds roughly.
- Broken or damaged speaker: If the speaker in one earbud is broken or damaged, it won’t produce any sound. Again, this is a problem that usually requires professional repair or replacement.
- Clogged or dirty earbuds: Over time, earbuds can become clogged with dirt or earwax, which can obstruct the sound. Regular cleaning can help to prevent this issue.
Remember that if your wired earbuds are under warranty and one side stops working, it’s usually better to consult the manufacturer or a professional repair service rather than trying to fix the problem yourself. Doing so might void your warranty and potentially cause further damage.
Contact the support team
If everything fails and you are still with a broken earbud, your last resort is to contact the support team and seek professional help.
Most good earbud brands have dedicated technical support teams to help users fix their most common issues. You can find the contact details on their website.
If your earbuds are in warranty, it is a good idea to claim that and send in your earbud for repair or possible replacement.