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Wired headphones acting up? Try these 6 fixes

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure the headphone cable is fully plugged in for proper audio output — a partial connection can lead to no sound.
  • Check the headphone port for dust and dirt buildup to ensure a clear connection — clean with air or a gentle tool if necessary.
  • If troubleshooting doesn’t work, try testing headphones on another port or device to rule out other issues like a faulty audio source.

Imagine this: you want to listen to your favorite album to decompress after a long day. You plug your headphones in, put them on, press play, and nothing happens. You can’t hear a thing coming out of the drivers. Worst of all, after angrily pausing and playing your music, you just can’t seem to figure out why.

Before you go out and buy another pair of wired headphones, take a moment to check on a few things. Chances are, there’s just a little problem going on that’s easily fixable. With a keen eye and some patience, you should hopefully get your headphones working in no time.


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1 Make sure the cable is fully plugged into the port

No connection means to playback

Wired headphones in NYC coffee shop

If you’re not getting any sound from your wired headphones, there’s a chance you didn’t plug the headphones in all the way. This could be because you didn’t push it in until you heard it lock in, or maybe the port is a little loose, or it could be blocked (more on that later). Whatever the reason, if your headphone cable is only partially plugged in, the contacts in the port and on the cable won’t meet, and you’ll get either no audio, or very quiet, unbalanced audio.

Just make sure the cable does go all the way into the port, and you might be able to hear a little bit of noise when you’re plugging them in while wearing the headphones on your head. After making sure the cable is plugged all the way in, if you’re still not hearing anything, move on to the next step.


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2 Ensure the port isn’t clogged with dust

Time to get out your cleaning tools


If you’re plugging in your cable all the way, but you’re still hearing no sound, the port might be clogged. This can happen over time as your devices build up dust or dirt in all the little crevices. You can clean out the port to see if it is plugged up with something, and hopefully that’ll solve your problem.


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To clean out the port, you can use a can of compressed air to get anything out that isn’t super tightly packed in.

To really fish stuff out, you might want to use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, or very carefully use a toothpick or rolled up paper towel to get in there.

Make sure not to go too crazy in there, because you don’t want to damage anything.

3 Test the headphones out on another port or device

Use all your accessible options

A woman listening to music on a phone using wired headphones.

After ensuring the port is clean, you can try out the headphones on another port if they’re still not working. This allows you to figure out if the problem is with the headphones or with the device itself you were trying to use them with.

If you’re using headphones with a 3.5mm connector and don’t have access to other devices with that port, if you have a dongle for 3.5mm to Lightning or USB-C, you can always try out one of those ports with the dongle attached.


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4 Check your audio source

It might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked

A pair of Audio-Technica ATH-SR50 plugged into and sitting beside a slightly open Macbook Pro.

In the event that the headphones do work on another device, there’s also a chance that it’s not the port, but something to do with the audio source. First, check to make sure the volume is set properly on the device and wherever you’re trying to place audio from. For example, check to make sure the volume isn’t turned all the way down on YouTube or Spotify.


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You can also check to make sure the right device is selected for audio output on your device. This can be done in your system settings, likely under the audio menu. Make sure the source is set to the headphones you have plugged in, and not another device or the built-in speakers.

5 Check the cable to make sure it isn’t broken

Hopefully your cat isn’t chewing on your cables

wired headphones

Once you’ve ruled out the port being the problem, it’s time to look at the headphones themselves. If your headphones have a detachable cable, first make sure that they’re plugged all the way in. Next, you want to inspect the cable for any damage.

If the cable has any open areas, especially if you see any fraying happening on the inside, there’s a good chance your cable is broken.

If you have a pet, check the cable for any bite marks, because a cat’s teeth can puncture pretty far into a cable, just as an example.

If the cable is the issue, and you’re able to detach the cable, you can try replacing the cable to see if that fixes your problem.


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6 When all else fails, try another pair of headphones

At the end of the day, sometimes you have to change it up

The Audio-Technica ATH-M30x being held by a hand, showing the ear cups close up

If you’ve exhausted all your options, it really might just be that your headphones are broken. Try out another pair of headphones with your device to confirm that, and if the problem is definitely your headphones, you may have to replace them.

Maybe you have a non-detachable cable that’s torn beyond repair, or maybe the drivers are busted, or whatever else. You should definitely look up the model of the headphones to see if they’re repairable or if you can send them to the manufacturer for repair or replacement.


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A good pair of headphones are hard to let go of, but there might be some indicators that this spring is time to trade-in and up.

I will note that that is unlikely, because most companies will only replace or repair a pair of headphones in the case of a manufacturing defect, so if any damage is from regular wear and tear, you’re more than likely on your own.

Additionally, because the right to repair is so unpopular among popular headphone companies, you’re probably not going to be able to repair them yourself. If worse comes to worst, you’ll have to use a different pair, or replace the broken ones.

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