Why Is One Earbud Quieter Than The Other (And How To Fix It)
When listening to music or your favorite podcast have you ever noticed one earbud is just that bit quieter than the other? Having the right earbud louder than the left, or the left quieter than the right can be hard to ignore once you’ve noticed it but is this a sign that your earbuds are broken and need replacing?
Not necessarily! Having imbalanced audio in your earbuds could be a result of some really common issues, most of which have simple fixes you can try at home. So don’t throw away your earbuds just yet! Give these earbud fix tips and try and see if you can save yourself some money or a trip to the store.
Check your device settings for imbalanced audio
Firstly it is a good idea to check the sound settings within your device. The sound settings are there to ensure that both sides of your earbuds play smoothly so it’s always worth checking these out to make sure that the problem isn’t something to do with this, rather than the earbuds themselves.
If you’re an Apple user, you can check this by:
- Accessing your settings
- Going to the accessibility tab
- Scrolling down to hearing
- Tapping into audio/visual
- Then from here you should see a slider – you need to make sure that this is set to the middle so that the balance of both earbuds is equal.
If you find you’re having trouble finding anything in your settings we have a great little hack for you. When you’re on your settings main page if you swipe down slightly, a search function will appear above your Apple ID. From here you can just type in what you’re looking for and it should pop up. By tapping on it you should be easily taken into the setting, where you can make any needed adjustments.
If you’re on an Android smartphone this can be checked by:
- Simply touching and holding the home button on your phone
- Then going into headphone settings where again you can check the earbud volume settings and make sure that balance is set to the middle.
Alternatively you can also use the Google Assistant app (in the top right) and tap settings, then your headphone. From here you can then check your volume settings. If the issue is not with your smartphone or tablet but rather with your earbuds connected to your PC or Mac then don’t worry! It’s still possible to check the balancing and volume on these devices.
Before we dive in, if you know that you have an external sound card made by a third party, then firstly we need to disconnect this and try connecting directly with the motherboard sound card. If you find that this resolves the issue then it is likely a problem with the third party sound card and not your headphones or computer.
If you are just simply using a Windows PC and don’t have a third party sound card 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. Again, you can now check the headphone volume here.
If your issue still persists then it can be worthwhile to do a troubleshoot which should hopefully be able to pinpoint the issue. The option for troubleshooting should be available from the sound setting window.
If you are a MAC user, you can access your volume settings here:
- 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 you have tried the above but the issue still continues, you will need to restart your Sound Controller. To do this you will need to:
- Access applications, select utilities and then double click on the activity monitor.
- You then need to search for ‘coreaudiod’ which should bring you to the Core Audio controller.
- Select coreaudiod and quit it by clicking X, this should then force the application restart and will hopefully fix your issue.
Connectivity issues with wireless earbuds
If you’re using a pair of Bluetooth or wireless earbuds and you’re experiencing quietness in one of your ears then this could be due to connectivity issues. Occasionally your wireless earbuds may disconnect from your device or source of audio and this could be the reason why one earbud is quieter than the other.
Pairing issues may also lead to an imbalance in audio and can affect all manner of wireless audio listening devices, including Airpods and headsets! If you think this may be what is causing your audio imbalance check your connectivity or try disconnecting and restarting to see if this rectifies the problem.
There could be audio signal problems
If you have found that the sound quality is absolutely fine but that there is still obvious audio signal loss it could be due to the length of the audio cable. If you are using an audio extension cable then this might just be the issue.
The longer your cable is, the further the sound has to travel. Combined with a higher signal resistance, due to the length, this can result in you receiving a very weak audio in one of your earbuds.
Have you checked your output device?
Do you know if your output device is mono or stereo? As this is an often forgotten about reason for an audio imbalance. If you don’t know the difference, in the simplest terms: a mono output will only use one channel for sound whereas stereo uses multiple.
If you’re using stereo headphones and listening through a stereo source then you will be able to hear sound through each speaker. However if your device is mono it could be very likely that this is why the sound is coming out of only one side.
If this happens you will need to check that your audio source actually has stereo output capabilities. The label on your headphone jack will tell you which output it is. If it’s mono it will say so whereas a stereo output will simply state ‘headphones’.
It might be a mixing problem
Your earbuds may not be to blame at all! In fact the issue could lie with the music producers instead. Stereo output speakers are designed to pick up all the sounds and changes within the and more often than not the music is intentiall mixed to be louder on one side than the other! This is used to give the music depth and is common practice in the industry.
If you don’t believe this to be the case however, try playing the song on a different device and see if that solves the problem. If you notice that it still sounds the same then the problem isn’t your earbuds and is simply the way the song was meant to sound!
Your earbuds could need a good cleaning
If you’ve checked all of the technical side of things but the issue still persists, the answer could be a lot simpler than you’d first thought! Your earbuds may just simply need to be cleaned.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that our ears are constantly producing ear wax and this combined with other dirt and dust can accumulate and get caught in the mesh part of our earbuds. Take a look and see with your own earbuds!
If this is the case then you’ll want to give them a good clean to remove any waxy debris and residue. In fact it is good practice in general to keep your earbuds clean and the best way to do this is by using some isopropyl alcohol.
All you need to do is dip a cotton swab in the alcohol, squeeze out the excess liquid and give it a good thorough cleaning. Then when you’re finished give them a couple of short soft blows to make sure they’re completely clear.
Hopefully after doing this, you’ll have a nice clean set of earbuds and your sound will be back to normal. It is very important however that you do not drip any excess liquid into the earbuds or may just have a whole other issue to deal with!
Your earbuds got wet
Accidents happen, it’s an unavoidable part of life and getting your earbuds wet can be one of those unfortunate things. If this happens when you’re using them, then the damage to the circuits can be irreversible. But if your headphones weren’t plugged in when they got wet then there’s a chance you will be able to save them!
If this is the case then don’t put your earbuds back in until you are sure they are dry. As soon as you notice they’ve gotten wet, give them a light shake and pat the dry with a cloth. This will hopefully remove some of the water and reduce any water damage. You should then put them in rice to soak up any remaining moisture.
The sooner you can act, the higher your chances of saving your earbuds will be but when it comes to water damage chances are you will simply need to buy a new pair.
Perhaps you’ve got an ear problem
Lastly, if you’ve exhausted all of your options then perhaps it’s time to consider there’s an issue with your ears rather than the earbuds. Say if the music always sounds quieter in your left ear, you can try switching your earbuds and put the right in left and left in right. If you notice the imbalance still remains in your left ear then it may be worth taking a visit to the ENT to get your ears checked out.
If it is confirmed that you do have a hearing problem, then you can try changing the audio balance to allow for more power to reach your deaf ear.
You purchase earbuds with the intent of listening to your favourite songs or watching online videos, and it can be frustrating when they dont work how they are intended. Hopefully this article has helped you figure out what was causing your earbuds to be quieter in one ear than the other and multiple different options to pursue, there should be a solution as to how best fix the problem.
However if you have tried all of the above and nothing worked, it could just be time to get yourself a new set of earbuds. Whilst this may be the more expensive option, at least you will get yourself a nice new pair of headphones that should be completely free of any issues.