This is a fairly common problem and can have a negative impact on your audio or listening pleasure. Many people wonder why is one earbud louder than the other. There are several possible reasons. We look at the potential causes and how to correct them.
It can be frustrating and irritating. You unplug them and reconnect them, wiggle and jiggle, or reboot your device. You might even consider throwing them away and investing in a new set. This is rarely necessary and the cause is often very simple and easy to solve.
The best way to solve the problem is through a process of elimination. Start with the more obvious answers first and work your way down to the more complex causes of this problem.
Could you be the problem?
We are all too quick to blame the equipment but one always has to ensure that the problem does not lie with you. The easiest way to do this is to simply swop the earbuds around. If you put the one that is “not working” into the other ear and it is suddenly OK then there could be an issue with your ears.
This could be something as simple as a build-up of wax or relate to something more serious. The best idea is to consult a doctor. Hopefully, this is not the issue but it is the first step to work out where the problem is.
Check the audio jack connection
Often, the problem is as simple as a jack that is not completely or correctly seated. Unplug and plug in again, wiggle it a bit, and see if this makes any difference to the balance of the sound from the softer earbud.
Try a different output
Many devices have a range of audio outputs. Some will have mono and stereo outputs. Using incompatible earbuds on the incorrect output could cause problems.
Test on another device
Test the headphones on a different media device. If the problem persists you know that the fault is with the headphones.
Test from a different audio source
The audio source you are listening to could be the root of the problem. The way in which it was produced and recorded could well be the reason why one earbud is louder than the other. Try a few different tracks from different sources to establish if this is possibly the cause.
Clean the earbud
Identify which side is quieter and inspect the earbud. While you are at it, you may as well do both but it is important for later testing to know which one has the issue.
As earbuds are transported they can accumulate grit and grime. Ear wax build-up is another common issue. Using a Q-tip carefully clean the surface. You can use a drop of alcohol on the Q-tip for better results.
Moisture on the earbuds
This is a common problem and rain, sweat, accidental spills could kill your earbuds. If they come into contact with moisture remove them immediately from whatever device they are connected to. Shake the excess water off and dry with a cloth. Use a Q-tip to dry the grid of the speakers. Do not use them again until you are sure they have dried completely.
If you use them outdoors, particularly for jogging or exercise, rather invest in a set of water-resistant earbuds. Look for a set with at least an IP 6 or 7 rating.
Inspect and clean the headphone jack
These also accumulate dirt over time and could be the cause of the problem. Even dirt that is not visible can cause volume and clarity issues. Use a bit of alcohol on a soft cloth to give it a good clean. Follow this with a clean dry cloth to ensure it is completely dry.
Check the wire
If you can see any damage to parts of the wire then tape them securely with electrical tape. If no damage is visible, work your way up and down the wire while listening to music.
At some point, you might notice an improvement as you give that area a tweak. Place tape tightly over that spot and test again. There may be more than one area at fault so do this exercise slowly.
The cause of the audio imbalance could be an issue or setting on the device you are connecting the earbuds to. If you have eliminated all of the potential physical problems above, you might need to look at the hardware delivering the audio.
The solution will depend on the device you are listening to the audio on.
Here, you need to go into the control panel and go to “Sound” and then “Properties”. You will have full control of all settings and you just need to tweak a few to see if that solves the problem. You want to check the level and balance, and possibly disable some of the special sound effects. These work on some audio but not all and can cause an imbalance.
This could also be a mono or stereo setting issue. You need to go to “Settings” Accessibility’ You will see the speaker balance setting allowing you to adjust the balance left to right. There is also a ‘Mono Audio’ feature. Enabling this could correct the problem.
With Android, you might also want to use the Google Assistant app. Lead it to settings then headphones to check and adjust.
iPhone or Apple Devices
The same issues could be present here and you need to check the settings and balance. Go to “Settings” then “Accessibility” and “Hearing” to tweak these controls.
Apart from physical connections such as audio jacks, if you connected over Bluetooth, this could be the cause of the problem. You need to ensure that your pairing is set up correctly.
There could be many reasons why one earbud is louder than the other. Some are very simple while others might be a bit more complex. Many come down to physical issues with the earbud equipment while others relate to the setup from the system delivering the audio.
This guide should help you to identify and correct the issue. Hopefully, it can be resolved with minimal effort.
This article was last updated on February 14, 2022 .