How to Fix Headphones With No Sound in One Ear

By Joe Murray

Whether you're on the go with your MP3 player, watching a movie on an airplane or just relaxing at home, you already know that listening to an audio program with headphones is both entertaining and convenient. When, as occasionally happens, the sound goes out in one ear, all is not lost. Generally, the problem has to do with a loose or broken connection at one end of the connector cable. This runs between the headphone speaker ear pad and the plug that connects to the amplifier. You can apply one of several fixes to resolve the problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Volt ohm meter or circuit checker
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Soldering iron and electronic solder
  • Replacement headphone plug (if needed)
  • Wire cutter and wire strippers
  • Replacement speaker (if needed)

Step 1

Check whether the headphones work with another device, to make certain the problem lies with them.

Step 2

Open the side of the headphones that is not functioning. Use a flat head screwdriver to pry open the speaker compartment, exposing the wires connected to either side of the speaker. The wires are different colors, usually red (for positive) and black (for negative or ground).

Step 3

Examine the connections for cracks in the solder. If these are present on either side, apply a hot soldering iron to melt the flux and re-solder the leads if required. If the connections appear intact, proceed to Step 4.

Step 4

Use a circuit checker or a volt ohm meter (VOM) to test the wire for breaks. Set the VOM on “Continuity” and touch the leads together. The meter arrow should move all the way to the right side of the gauge. Place one of the leads on the black wire at the metallic junction where the end of the wire touches the speaker. Touch the other end to the lead wire at the base of the headphone plug. The meter should move all the way to the right side of the gauge; on the circuit checker, the light-emitting diode (LED) should light up and stay lit as long as the leads are connected.

Step 5

Touch the VOM lead to the red wire at the speaker connection and touch the other lead to the tip of the headphone plug. If nothing happens, touch the same lead to the next spot down -- on the plug above the base area. One of these actions should move the meter all the way to the right. If not, strip the wire an inch or two above the headphone plug and check for continuity by connecting red to red and black to black. Both these tests should move the meter all the way to the right, representing continuity. If either side fails the test, replace the wire lead from the headphone to the plug.

Step 6

Replace the headphone plug if you get continuity in the wire, but not in the plug. Cut the wire at the place you stripped it to check for continuity and slip the headphone plug collar over the wire. Gently strip the wires and solder them to the appropriate connections. Left and right channel wires generally are red and white or yellow; ground is always black. The plug connectors are generally labeled “L” for left channel; “R” for right channel and “G,” “Neg” or “—“ for ground.

Step 7

Replace the speaker if you get continuity from both the dead channel and the ground connections. Order the replacement speaker from the manufacturer or from a speaker vendor (one is listed in “Resources” below). Manufacturers mount headphone speakers in various ways.

Tips & Warnings

  • Working with electronic components requires a specific set of tools designed for computer and electronics repair and maintenance. If possible, obtain such a set and use it when working with this type of unit. Use a soldering iron and electronic solder designed for electronic components.
  • Wires in headphone cables are extremely delicate. Be very careful when stripping and soldering them.