How to Fix iPhone Headphone Jack Problems

Problems with your iPhone headphones? It could be the headphone jack

broken iPhone headphone jack
image credit: Gary John Norman/Image Source/Getty Images

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 could be 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 truly broken or if there's something else happening 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. It would be best if it's the headphones: it's generally 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 can confirm work properly before using – and plug them into your iPhone. Try listening to music, making calls and using Siri (if these new headphones have a mic), etc. If everything works properly, then the problem is with your headphones.

If the problems are still present even with new headphones, move on to the next checklist 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. 
  • 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 little 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.

    3. Restart the iPhone

    It might not seem to have anything to do with 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) and preferences, which could be the source of the problem. And since it's easy and quick, there's no real downside. To restart your iPhone:

    1. Hold down the on/off button (it's at the top or corner of the iPhone, depending on your model) buttons at the same time.
    2. Move the slide to power off slider left to right.
    3. Wait for the iPhone to shut down.
    4. 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 holding the Home button and on/off button at the same time. If you're still not able to head audio, move on to the next checklist item.

    4. Check 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 AirPort Express. To check for that:

    1. Swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone's screen to open Control Center.
    2. Look for the AirPlay button just below the volume slider and above the bottom row of icons. If AirPlay is being used, that option will be lit up and show where audio is being sent. 
    3. Tap AirPlay
    4. Tap iPhone when the next screen appears.
    5. Tap Done.

    With those settings changed, your iPhone's audio is now being played through its speaker or 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:

    1. Open Control Center.
    2. Tap Bluetooth in the top row (it's in the center) so that it's not lit up. This turns Bluetooth off.
    3. 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, after trying all the options listed so far, your headphones still aren't working, your headphone jack is probably broken and needs to be replaced.

    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 lay people 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!