If you’re not hearing music or phone calls through the headphones connected to your iPhone, you may be worried your headphone jack is broken. And it could be. Audio not playing through the headphones is a sign of a hardware problem, but it’s not the only potential culprit.
Before scheduling an appointment at the Apple Store, try the following steps to figure out if your headphone jack is really broken or if there’s something else going on that you can fix yourself – for free.
1. Try Other Headphones
The first thing you should do when trying to fix a broken headphone jack is to confirm that the problem is actually with your headphone jack, rather than the headphones themselves. It would be better if it’s the headphones: it’s usually cheaper to replace headphones than to do a complex hardware repair to the jack.
The easiest way to do this is to get another set of headphones – ideally, ones that you already know work properly – and plug them into your iPhone. Try listening to music, making calls, and using Siri (if the new headphones have a mic). If everything works properly, then the problem is with your headphones, not the jack.
If the problems are still present even with new headphones, move on to the next item.
2. Clean the Headphone Jack
Many people keep their iPhones in their pockets, which are full of lint that can find its way into the headphone jack. If enough lint or other gunk builds up, it can block the connection between the headphones and the jack, which can cause trouble.
If you suspect lint is your problem:
- Look into the headphone jack to see if you can detect any lint. You may need to shine a light into the jack in order to get a good look.
- If you see lint, blow into the headphone jack or shoot some compressed air into it (compressed air is probably better since it doesn’t have the moisture that’s present in breath, but not everyone has it handy).
- If the lint is packed tightly and can’t be blown out, try a cotton swab. Remove most of the cotton from one end of the swab. Put a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol on the end you removed the cotton from and then insert that end into the headphone jack. Move it around gently and try to pull out the lint.
If the headphone jack is clean and still not working, try fixing the problem in software as described in the next steps.
Expert tip: While you’re cleaning, be sure to clean your headphones, too. A periodic cleaning will increase their life expectancy, and will ensure they don’t carry harmful bacterial that could irritate your ears.
3. Restart the iPhone
It might not seem related to problems with the headphone jack but restarting the iPhone is often a key troubleshooting step. That’s because a restart clears the iPhone’s active memory (though not its permanent storage, like your data) and preferences, which could be the source of the problem. And since it’s easy and quick, there’s no real downside.
How you restart your iPhone depends on the model, but some general guidelines are:
- Hold down the on/off button (it’s at the top or side of the iPhone, depending on your model) buttons at the same time. On the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, you’ll need to hold down the volume up button, too.
- Move the Slide to power off slider left to right.
- Wait for the iPhone to shut down.
- Hold the on/off button again until the Apple logo appears. Let go of the button and let the phone start up again.
If holding down just the on/off button doesn’t restart the phone, try a hard reset. How you do this depends on what model iPhone you have. Learn all about hard resets here. If you’re still not able to hear audio, move on to the next item.
4. Check Your AirPlay Output
One reason that audio might not be playing through your headphones is that your iPhone is sending the audio to another output. The iPhone is supposed to automatically recognize when headphones are plugged in and switch the audio to them, but it’s possible that that hasn’t happened in your case.
One potential cause is that audio is being sent to an AirPlay-compatible speaker or AirPods.
To check for that:
- Swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone’s screen to open Control Center (on the iPhone X, swipe down from the top right).
- Long press the music playback controls in the top right corner of Control Center.
- Tap the AirPlay button in the top right of the music controls to reveal all available output sources.
- Tap Headphones.
- Tap the screen or click the Home button to dismiss Control Center.
With those settings changed, your iPhone’s audio is now being sent to the headphones. If that doesn’t solve the problem, there’s another, similar setting to investigate.
5. Check Bluetooth Output
Just like audio can be sent to other devices over AirPlay, the same thing can happen over Bluetooth. If you’ve connected your iPhone to a Bluetooth device like a speaker, it’s possible the audio is still going there. The simplest way to test this is to:
- Open Control Center.
- Tap Bluetooth in the top-left group of icons row so that it’s not lit up. This disconnects Bluetooth devices from your iPhone.
- Try your headphones now. With Bluetooth off, the audio should play through your headphones and not any other device.
Your Headphone Jack is Broken. What Should You Do?
If you’ve tried all the options listed so far and your headphones still aren’t working, your headphone jack is probably broken and needs to be repaired.
If you’re very handy, you can probably do this yourself – but I wouldn’t recommend it. The iPhone is a complex and delicate device, which makes it hard for laypeople to repair.
And, if your iPhone is still under warranty, fixing it yourself voids the warranty.
Your best bet is to take it to the Apple Store for a fix. Begin by checking your phone’s warranty status so you know if a repair is covered. Then set up a Genius Bar appointment to get it fixed. Good luck!