Why Is One Earbud Louder Than The Other and How to Fix?

While using your earbuds to listen to music or audio, have you ever encountered unbalanced earbud sounds? Have you ever asked, why is one earbud louder than the other? Having the left earbud louder than right or the right headphone quieter than left is indeed a predicament! Most of the time, we conclude that there’s something wrong with our earphones or it’s time to get a new one. But do you know that there are ways to fix this problem?

How to fix earphones one side is quieter? Don’t throw away those earphones just yet! We came up with a list of the possible reasons why one headphone is louder than the other and of course, tips on how to make your headphone louder. Try the tips out before considering buying a new pair.

Audio mixing issues

Don't immediately discard your earbuds or headphones as these may not be the one at fault. If you look at professional DJ, sound engineers, and music producers' headphones, you'll notice that one side is louder than the other. This is so because sound specialists need to listen to all the aspects of sound. Usually, one side is louder and may produce the beats while the other side is quieter and may produce the vocals.

But if you think that this is not a mixing issue and you’re just using regular earbuds, use another device to play the audio file you were listening to before. If you find that the issue has remained then you may be listening to audio at 8D. But if the issue is resolved, then the problem is with the device or audio source.

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Audio signal problems and loss

If the sound is fine but there is obvious audio signal loss then you can end up having good audio from one ear and poor audio from the other. Usually, this happens if you have a very long audio cable. The longer your cables are, the farther audio has to travel. There is also higher signal resistance and thus, you’ll end up getting very weak audio in one of your earbuds.

Another possible scenario is that you’re playing music from a portable music player that has a line remote. The line remote must be disconnected from the music player to improve the volume on your headphones or earbuds.

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Connectivity problems

If you’re using wireless or Bluetooth earbuds and you’re wondering why is one earbud louder than the other then you might be facing connectivity issues. Sometimes, wireless earbuds or headphones may disconnect from the audio source or device through Bluetooth and this can lead to one earbud being quieter or louder than the other. In some cases, pairing issues may also lead to imbalanced audio. This holds for all wireless audio listening devices such as wireless or Bluetooth headphones, earbuds, Airpods, and headsets.

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Device settings problems

Another reason why problems like headphones louder in one ear happen is a computer or smartphone settings problem. Sometimes, one of the earbuds is quieter or there is too sound or there is a very loud sound on both ears and this could be due to the settings on the media player of your computer or smartphone.

But before anything, you must first check if the problem is from the headset or earbud. Do this by connecting your device to another computer or smartphone. Check if it is working okay and if it does, the problem comes from your device media player.

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If you’re using an Apple or an iPhone, any similar issue may be due to incorrect left and right balance. You can check this by going to the device’s Settings under the General tab > Accessibility > Hearing. The channel balance must be in the middle.

If you’re on an Android smartphone, go to Home > Headphone Settings to check the headphone volume settings. You may also access this from the Google Assistant app. From the app, click More > Settings > Headphones. Now you can tweak your headphone volume settings.

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To check this setting on your PC or Mac computer, go to the audio settings. But if you have an external sound card made by a third party, bypass this sound card by disconnecting the audio connection and connect this to the motherboard sound card. If the issue is resolved, you may have a faulty third-party sound card.

If you are using a Windows PC, here are some ways to access volume settings.

  • Locate the sound icon from the lower right corner of the screen. Right-click and choose the Open Volume Mixer and check the volume level and the headphone settings.
  • Locate the Start Menu and type Sound Settings. You may now check the sound volume from here. Go to Device Properties to manage devices like audio devices connected to the PC. 
  • From the same page, go to App Volume and Device Preferences. You may now check the headphone volume here.

If you are a MAC user, here are ways to check your device settings.

  • Go to Apple Menu, go to System Preferences and click Sound
  • Go to the Output tab and select Headphones. If you can’t find the Headphones option, then your headset/headphone is not connected to your computer.
  • Adjust the volume and select the balance; this must be in the middle of the Left and Right slider.

If the issue continues, restart your Sound Controller by going to the Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor. Choose coreaudiod to access the Core Audio controller. When you click the coreaudiod and exit this by clicking X, this application will exit and the sound controller will immediately restart.

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Dirty earbuds

Earbuds are in close contact with your ears and thus, dirt along with the outer ear and ear wax may sometimes fill the speaker grid. When the grid is full of wax and dirt, the sound won't fully come out of the earbud causing a sound imbalance.

If you notice that one of the earbuds is quieter or louder than the other, check the condition of the buds first before you troubleshoot your device or audio source. To clean the earbuds properly, use a cotton tip applicator or cotton buds. Wet the tip with a small amount of alcohol and carefully clean the grid. This is also the best time to inspect your device for any tears, breaks, and frays.

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Dirty or faulty headphone jack

A dirty headphone jack may also cause one side of headphones quieter or one side to be louder. When a headphone jack is dirty, you won’t be able to notice any damage and thus, you won’t know what’s wrong with the jack or your device.

Most of the time, a dirty jack just needs a bit of cleaning. Only a small dirt piece of dirt like your fingerprint on the tip of the jack can also affect the volume of your headphones. To clean the jack, use a soft cloth and place a small amount of alcohol. Wipe the tip clean and follow up with a dry, clean cloth.

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Ear problems

Hearing issues on one ear can lead to imbalanced headphone volume. To check if you have hearing issues, switch to another pair of earbuds. If you have the same problem, then you may have to go to an ENT specialist or an Otolaryngologist to have your ears checked.

Having impacted earwax may also cause hearing issues. Have your ears professionally cleaned for effective and safe ear cleaning? Some specialists use a special tool that can suck up earwax effectively.

Imbalanced left and right audio

Another way to fix an imbalanced earbud issue is to check the left and right audio balance from your smartphone. To start doing this, test the audio first and make sure that the volumes on the left and right earbuds are level or balanced. If you still spot problems adjust the audio carefully.

Adjust the left and right audio according to the system that you use. For iOS users, go to Settings > General > Accessibility. Move down the menu until you see Hearing; you may now adjust the left and right balance here.

If you're using an Android smartphone, press and hold the Home button and choose Headphone. You may also use the Google Assistant app to access Settings and then, Headphones where you can check your headphone volume.

Moisture on earbuds

This is why you should never get your headphones or earbuds wet! If your earbuds become wet while you're using them, you may end up damaging the electrical circuit of your device. This usually happens if you use your earbuds while exercising, jogging, or working out. If you want waterproof earbuds, choose one with an appropriate IP rating like IP7 or IP6 as these mean that your device is water-resistant.

If you think that your earbuds became wet, remove it from your device, tablet, computer, or laptop. Give these a shake and dry these immediately with a soft, dry cloth. Use a cotton tip applicator to clean the speaker grid.  

Not completely seated audio jack

If the headphone jack is not completely plugged into the socket then you might find one of the earbuds louder or softer than the other. So before you troubleshoot, check first if the headphone jack has been seated or inserted properly.

Problems with the audio file

The audio file refers to the type of file that you’re trying to listen to. If the file you’re trying to listen to has been recorded or possibly transcoded then the audio may sound lower. Usually, if the audio file is the culprit, the sound will remain low or very low no matter how you increase the volume.

Switching device outputs

Devices have different outputs; mono and stereo outputs. Mono uses only one channel to produce sound while stereo uses two or more. If you are using stereo earbuds or headphones and you are playing a stereo source you can hear different sounds from various channels from the left and right speakers.

If your device is mono, the audio will only be heard from the left speaker or the left side of the headphone as this is the single sound output. To prevent this, ensure that the audio source is capable of playing stereo outputs.

Check the label on the jack to find out if you can use it for mono or stereo. If the jack is made for earphones, the label will say mono, meanwhile, a jack with stereo outputs is made for headphones.

Wires, plugs, or socket problems

Wired headphones may start to produce problems when the wires start to bend, open, and fray. Damage to the wires near the jack, plugs, in-line controls can also lead to skipping, loud noises, and low audio from the earbuds.

Somehow, no matter how you prevent bending, warping, and fraying, these will ultimately happen. But to preserve the life of your earbuds, until you can find a better quality pair, take good care of it by not pulling and grabbing the wires. If you must remove the earbud or headphone from your device, pull the wire from the jack. Keep these securely in a separate bag or pocket and never with your keys, spare change, or pens.

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Earbud defects

If you checked everything and you still have one headphone louder than the other then the headphone you’re using may have some kind of defect. A headphone with a factory defect won’t sound good and may even show all kinds of symptoms too. If this is a newly-purchased headphone, then check the manufacturer’s warranty or store warranty. You may still qualify for a return if the earbuds are still under warranty.

Sometimes, the problem might show up after a few weeks or months of use therefore, it's always best to buy products that are covered with a longer warranty. If you're unsure about the warranty of your earbuds, earphones, or headphones, contact the manufacturer or the store where you purchased it. 

Now that you know why is one earbud louder than the other and how to remedy this problem, you don’t need to throw away a problematic pair plus, you’ll save money in the long run.

(Last Updated On: January 21, 2021)
john andrews
 

HI, John Andrew here. I’ve been an audiophile since I was a little kid. I’m an original member of myaudiolover . It emerged as a way for me to share my passion and knowledge for audio technology. If you’re looking for tips, techniques, and insights about audio-tech, that can enable your productions that professional edge, then MyAudioLover is the place for you!

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