So, one of your earbuds is louder than the other. This is actually a common issue, and one that could have many reasons for happening. Thankfully, there are also a number of potential solutions to this issue.
As I can’t see your exact headphones to diagnose it myself, here are a number of things you can try to make both earbuds the same volume again. Go through each one by one until you find one that works for you.
Your Earbuds Need to be Reset
This is a tip for if you have wireless earbuds. An occasional issue with Bluetooth headphones is they can have connection issues to and from the phone. This can lead to unbalanced sound or, in some cases, no sound coming from one earbud.
If you think it may be the case, start by turning off your earbuds. Some brands do this by simply returning the earbuds to their charging case. Some other brands require you to hit a button on the case or the earbuds to restart them.
Your best bet is to consult the manual for the earbuds you have to see how to reset them. As with most electronics, turning it off and back on again is a good place to start.
Your Device Needs to Be Reset
What are your earbuds connected to? If they are wireless, you are likely connected via Bluetooth. While Bluetooth is very convenient and allows you to have your earbuds in without wires tying you up, occasionally, you may encounter connection problems.
If you suspect the issue may be between you and your device, then restarting your device is a good place to start. If you are on a Mac or PC, simply navigate to the option to power down or restart. On PC, you can find this option in your start menu, while on Mac, you can find it in the upper left corner of your desktop.
If you are using a smart device like a phone or tablet, you likely need to press or hold the power button to power it down or restart it.
If you're uncertain how to restart your computer or device, you can consult the manual for your device to find out how to do this.
When you power your device back up, you may find that the sound issues have been fixed. If not, then continue to try another fix on this list.
One Earbud is Dirty
Over the life of your earbuds, they can pick up dust and debris that can eventually clog up the tiny speakers. This can be particularly true if you are the type of person to have a lot of ear wax build-up.
When you first notice that one earbud isn't as loud as it once was, look at the section that would go in your ear. It may be blocking the sound if you notice a build-up of dust and wax.
If you have a build-up on one or both of your earbuds, you can try cleaning them. For some light dust and debris, you can try wiping them out with a q-tip or a cloth.
If you have a bit more built up and want to use something to clean it, then it is safe to use a little isopropyl alcohol. To use isopropyl alcohol, tip your q-tip or a small part of your cloth into the alcohol and use that too wide out your earbud.
Alcohol is safe for cleaning electronics as it evaporates in moments and doesn't leave a residue. Remember to only put the alcohol on a q-tip or cloth to clean the earbud. You do not want to submerge your earbud in alcohol, which may damage them.
Additionally, if you try to clean your earbuds, be very careful. The internal mechanisms can be very delicate so try not to abrasively scrub your earbuds.
Moisture in Your Earbuds
Did your earbuds get wet recently? Accidents happen, but water can affect the sound quality of your earbuds.
If you suspect moisture in your earbuds, you can try to get them out by taking them out of your ear and shaking any potential water.
If that doesn't work, leave the earbuds in an airtight container overnight with silica gel packets. The silica gel is often used for removing moisture and will be able to absorb excess moisture from the earbuds.
Earbuds Not Fitting Properly
Another reason one earbud may be louder than the other is due to a poor fit.
The way most earbuds are designed, the piece that goes into your ear creates a seal in your ear canal. The seal helps to conduct sound properly so that you get the clear, crisp sound that your earbuds were designed for.
But human ears and ear canals are not identical in size. If you have small tips on your earbuds, that may be the perfect size for one ear, but it may be too loose for the other. The result is an improper seal that allows sound to escape from the canal, making the earbud seem as though it is not as loud as the other earbud.
If you suspect this may be the case, the easiest fix is to find the tips that came with the earbuds (if there were any) and swap out the lower volume one with a different size. The goal is to customize your earbuds to fit your ears perfectly.
Once the tips are changed so that the earbuds fit your ears, you could notice a difference in the sound quality.
Dust and Debris Inside the Audio Jack
Remember to pay attention to the audio jack if your earbuds are wired. It is very easy for an audio jack to get dust or debris that will affect your sound quality.
We understand that it may be difficult to clean out a headphone jack, but there are ways. One is to use something like a tissue on the end of a toothpick or needle. This will be thin enough to wipe out the inside of the jack. You could also try a thin q-tip or the twisted corner of a napkin.
While you're at it, don't forget to wipe off the jack.
Check Earbud Wires
This is another one for if you have wired earphones.
Anyone with wired earbuds knows that the wire is usually the first thing to go. The wires inside the rubber or cord coating are extremely delicate and easy to snap over extended use.
If you are having trouble with one of your earbuds, look at the cable connecting that earbud to the rest of the earbuds. If you see any small tears in the outer coating or signs of wear, it could be that the wire is worn down and broken.
Another test for this is to put your earbuds in and turn on some music. While the music is playing, gently flex the cable to see if there are any changes in how the sound comes out. If you notice a fluctuation in sound quality, it may be that the cable is damaged internally and that the life of your earbuds is coming to a close.
Bluetooth Connection Issues
If you have wireless earbuds, the issue may lie in the connection from the earbuds to the device you are using. In a previous section, we mentioned resetting the device or the earbuds to resolve this issue. If the problem persists, you may need to take it one step further.
Most wireless earbuds come with a way to clear stored Bluetooth connections. For example, one brand may ask that you hold the Bluetooth connection button for 10 seconds or longer to whip its Bluetooth connections. Start by finding out to do this with your earbuds, and return them to their case or power them off.
On your device, go to your Bluetooth settings. Inside the Bluetooth settings, you should find a list of connected devices. Locate your earbuds and select the menu next to the device. Inside the menu, you should see the option to forget your earbuds.
Now that you have cleared the Bluetooth settings for your earbuds from both the earbuds and your device, you can turn your earbuds back on and connect to the device as normal. You will need to redo the full pairing process again, which should only take a couple of moments.
This resetting of the Bluetooth connection should clear any connection issues that may have been occurring between the earbuds and the device you were using. Some connection issues will cause one earbud to be lower than the other or not work.
Your Software Needs to be Rebalanced
Today's sound technology does not always see equal sound to both earbuds. This is most common to see in settings like movie speakers. When you're watching a movie where the action is happening to the left of the screen, you may notice sound coming mostly from the left side of your speakers. This is called stereo sound.
Most modern earbuds are also capable of stereo sound. With that capability, it is possible that the software is to blame for sound coming out of one earbud over the other.
If you ever notice the sound balance changing after playing with sound settings or even after a software update, you may need to rebalance the sound.
This is most easy to do in PC or Mac settings. On a computer, you can go into the sound settings on your computer and easily find the balancing slider.
If the slider is further to one side than the other, then you must place the slider back in the middle.
If your slider is already in the middle, you can still use rebalancing to turn up the volume on one side of your earbuds to fix your issue. Try playing some music while sliding the slider slowly toward the side of the lower earbud. With a little adjustment, you can make them equal.
Doing this on a phone or tablet set may be more difficult. The first place to look would be the sound settings on your phone or tablet. You may be able to find a sound rebalancing setting to help fix the issue.
If you can't find anything in the sound settings, then you can look at the settings of the particular app you were using. Sometimes the balancing issue comes from a single app rather than the full device. If you suspect a single app is to blame, try out the settings for that single app.
The last place to look for rebalancing settings would be in the Accessibility settings. Accessibility settings are there to help those with disabilities such as hearing impairment or colorblindness. If you have poor Hearing in one ear, you may want one earbud to be louder.
Under Accessibility, you will either be able to find a rebalancing slider much like the one we described with the PC or Mac-sounding settings. Apple devices, for example, have their audio settings in the Accessibility folder under Hearing.
If you can't find a slider, try to find a setting that lets you choose between mono and stereo sounds. Switching to mono sound will stop your device from delivering different amounts of sound to other earbuds. Just note that if you stay in the mono sound, you won't be able to get advanced sound effects like directional sound.
Wired Earbuds Connected to the Wrong Port
Using a PC, you may notice up to six audio jacks on the back of a standard computer tower. Audio equipment may also have multiple audio jacks, all with other functions.
If you recently plugged in your wired earbuds to one of these ports and are experiencing lopsided sound, then we recommend looking at the port you plugged it into. You may have an unbalanced sound if you accidentally use a port dedicated to a right or left speaker.
The available audio out port will likely be labeled “Out” or have a tiny symbol of soundwaves with an arrow pointing away. On a PC, the color of this port is usually lime green. You can usually find it if it's not green by locating the center top or center bottom audio port among the other audio ports.
Check Sound Effects
If you were playing with sound effects on your PC, whatever software you are using could be affecting your sound balance. Lots of sound effect programs include the option to change sound balancing. Not only that, but certain sound effects may be throwing the sound to one side rather than the other.
To check if this is the case, simply close the software you are using or disable any sound effects. If you’re using a physical sound mixer rather than software, then try disconnecting from the mixer and trying the headphones with something else to test them.
What to Do When Nothing Works
If you have tried everything in this article and your earbuds are still not working, then consider that your earbuds are simply broken. All electronics will break down over time, and something as small as earbuds can be very difficult to repair, thanks to the tiny mechanisms within.
If you suspect your earbuds are broken, then consider your warranty. If you are still under warranty, you can contact the manufacturer of your earbuds and ask about having them repaired or replaced. Every manufacturer will have slightly different ways they like to deal with warranties.
If you are outside your warranty, you will likely need to get a new pair of earbuds.
Before you throw in the towel, however, I recommend trying a different pair of headphones or earbuds first. This will give you an idea if the sound issues are the fault of your earbuds or if it's a software or setting issue with your device.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions about having one earbud be louder than the other.
Why is one earbud louder than the other?
Check your earbuds for dust, debris, moisture, or damage if that doesn't work. The most common culprit for wireless earbuds is connection issues. To fix this, reset your earbuds, reset the Bluetooth settings, and reset the device you were using with your earbuds.
How to reset earbuds?
For wireless earbuds, the most common way is to place your earbuds back in their charging case. Sometimes you may need to press and hold a button in over to make them fully reset.
For wired headphones, unplug the jack from the audio port and plug them back in.
Are my earbuds still under warranty?
Most earbuds have at least a one-year warranty. If your earbuds break down within that first year, the company should be able to replace or repair them. Terms may differ very.
Some larger companies may offer up to five years of warranty protection.
Can I repair my earbuds?
You can certainly try. If you know the issue, like a broken cord or a damaged speaker, you can try to repair it. Most parts can be found on the internet if you need them.
If you're comfortable repairing it yourself, you can leave your headphones with a technician. However, depending on the value of the earbuds and the cost of the parts, it may be easier and cheaper to purchase new earbuds.
How do I know if my earbuds are broken?
If you suspect your earbuds are broken but you’re not sure, start by trying everything in this article. Reset any connections between the earbuds and the device you are using, check for damage, and clean the earbuds of any dust, debris, or ear wax.
If none of that is working, try using a different pair of earbuds or headphones to check that it’s not a software issue that is causing the sound balancing.
If none of that works, it may be physical damage. If you want to know for sure, you can bring the earbuds to a technician to test. While they may not be able to fix your earbuds, they can let you know if they’re broken beyond repair. Some shops can steer you in the right direction for repairs or can help you purchase a new pair.
Why is One Earbud Louder Than The Other? Final Thoughts
If one earbud is louder than the other, there may be several ways to fix the issue. This article will help you fix your earbuds so that you can get back to listening to your favorite videos, podcasts, or music again.
If your earbuds are broken, we hope you have better luck with your next set with the bright side of great sound in the near future.