Why is the volume button on my headphones not working?

Check Physical Volume Controls

The first step is to inspect the physical volume rocker or sliding button on the headphones themselves. Many headphones, especially over-ear and on-ear models, have volume up/down controls built right into the earcup. Try adjusting the volume rocker and see if it increases or decreases the audio volume as expected. Be sure to check both left and right earcups, as sometimes the volume controls are only on one side.

You should also examine any inline control module on the headphone cable. There may be buttons to control volume up/down, play/pause, etc. Test each of these inline buttons to see if they affect the volume. Press and hold the volume up and down buttons for a few seconds when testing to ensure the full range of volume levels.

According to this article from Headsets Direct, inline volume controls can sometimes be difficult to locate by feel alone, so you may need to take the headphones off to find the inline control module.

Verify Connections

One of the most common reasons for headphones not working is that the 3.5mm headphone jack is not fully inserted into the device’s headphone port. headphone ports can collect dust and debris over time, preventing the jack from sitting all the way in the port. Gently try pushing the headphone jack all the way into the port to ensure it is seated properly [1].

Additionally, try plugging the headphones into another device like a smartphone, computer, or mp3 player to test if the issue is with the headphones or the original device’s headphone port. If the headphones work on other devices, the problem is likely with the headphone port on the original device. If the issue persists across devices, it is probably an issue with the headphones themselves [2].

Headphone jacks come in a few varieties like 3-pole and 4-pole. Make sure the jack matches the number of bands on the plug. If using an adapter, ensure it is the proper type of adapter for the devices [3].

Toggle Sound Settings

One of the first things to check if your headphone volume is not working is the sound and volume settings on your device. Go into your system sound settings and verify nothing is muting or limiting the volume output (Source 1). Make sure the volume slider for your headphones is turned all the way up and that there are no active limits or enhancements reducing volume.

Look through your sound settings for any options like “Loudness Equalization,” “Volume Leveling,” or “Volume Limit” and disable these if enabled. These types of settings are designed to normalize volume across different sources but can inadvertently limit your maximum headphone volume. Turn off any sound effects or enhancements to remove anything that may be interfering with your headphone’s output volume (Source 2).

Update Drivers

Updating your audio drivers can resolve headphone volume issues that are caused by outdated or corrupted software. This process will look a little different depending on if you are using a computer or smartphone.

For PC/Mac

On Windows, go to Device Manager, find your headphone or audio driver, right click on it, and select “Update driver.” This will search your computer and the internet for the latest driver from the device manufacturer and install it automatically. On Mac, open the App Store, go to the Updates section, and install any updates for audio drivers or related system software.

For Smartphones

Make sure your phone’s operating system is updated to the latest version. Many headphone and Bluetooth issues are fixed in software updates from iOS, Android, etc. You can also check the app store for any available updates to apps that control your headphone volume, like music players. Installing the latest versions can resolve bugs that cause volume problems.

Check for Damage

One of the most common reasons for headphones to have volume issues is physical damage to the headphone components. Carefully inspect the headphone jack, cable, and on-device controls for any signs of damage.

Frayed cables, bent plugs, corrosion, loose connections, or damage to the headphones’ internal components can all disrupt the audio signal, leading to reduced volume, intermittent sound, or no audio at all. Damaged parts essentially create a bottleneck for the electrical signal, impeding proper sound transmission.

To isolate whether the issue stems from the headphones themselves or the connected device, test the headphones on multiple audio sources. Try connecting them to another smartphone, computer, or audio player. If the volume problem persists across devices, it likely indicates an issue with the headphones themselves. However, if the headphones work properly on other devices, then the problem may lie with the original audio source.

According to experts, inspecting headphones and cables is one of the first steps for troubleshooting volume problems, as physical damage is a common culprit. Replacing damaged parts, such as the cable or ear pads, can often restore normal audio levels.


Try Different Audio Sources

One way to troubleshoot the issue is to attempt playing different types of audio through the headphones to see if the problem persists. Try listening to music, watching videos, making phone calls, or using other apps that play sound. This will help rule out the possibility that there is an issue with a specific audio source.

For example, if the volume works fine when listening to music but not during phone calls, then the issue may be isolated to the phone application. Or if the volume button works with some songs but not others, there could be a compatibility problem with certain file formats. Testing a variety of audio sources will reveal if the volume problem only occurs in specific situations.

As suggested in this Reddit thread, trying different combinations of audio can help isolate the issue. If the headphones work properly in some scenarios but not others, focus troubleshooting efforts on the problematic sources.

Adjust Equalizer Settings

One way to make your headphones louder is to adjust the equalizer (EQ) settings. The equalizer allows you to boost or reduce volume levels across different frequency ranges. To increase overall headphone volume, try increasing (boosting) the decibel levels across all or most frequency bands in the EQ settings. Just be careful not to boost too much to the point of distortion. Popular music streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music have built-in EQ settings you can adjust.

If you previously modified the EQ settings, first try resetting to the default flat/balanced EQ profile. This removes any custom adjustments made previously. Then you can start boosting volume from that default state. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Music > EQ and choose Default to reset. On Android, in the Spotify app go to Settings > Playback and toggle EQ to Off to reset.

The key with EQ adjustments is subtlety. Boosting too aggressively can negatively impact sound quality. Aim for a modest volume increase across frequency bands. You may need to experiment to find the right EQ customization for your headphones and preferences.

Clean Headphone Parts

One of the most common causes of volume button issues on headphones is a buildup of debris, corrosion, or dust in the headphone jack and volume controls. Using compressed air is an effective way to clean out these areas.

First, turn the headphones off and disconnect any cables. Then, use short bursts of compressed air (such as canned air duster) aimed at the headphone jack and volume buttons to dislodge any particles. Avoid prolonged blasts, as this can push debris further into the headphones.

Compressed air will remove dust, lint, and other external contaminants. For more thorough cleaning, use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently clean the inside of the headphone jack and the crevices around the volume buttons. Let the headphones fully dry before reconnecting them. As noted by WikiHow, rubbing alcohol can disinfect surfaces and remove built-up grime in headphones.[1]

Take care not to get any liquids into the internal components. Cleaning out the physical headphone jack and volume controls can often resolve button and volume issues caused by dirty contacts.

Reset Device

Sometimes resetting a device can fix headphone volume issues by clearing any corrupted settings or faulty configurations. For smartphones, restarting the phone or resetting it to factory default settings can often resolve headphone problems. On a computer or laptop, restarting or reinstalling the audio drivers can reset the headphone connectivity and settings. Here are some tips for resetting devices:

  • For iPhones, try hard resetting the device by holding down the Power and Home button together for 10 seconds until the Apple logo appears. This will reset the phone to factory settings and often fixes headphone issues.
  • On Android phones, reboot the phone by powering it off completely and then turning it back on. You can also reset to factory defaults in the Settings app (cite: https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-fix-headphones-4589104).
  • For Windows PCs and laptops, restart the computer and then reinstall the audio drivers from the manufacturer website if the issue persists. This will reset the headphone output connection.
  • On Macs, reboot the computer and reset the PRAM by holding Command+Option+P+R during restart to reset audio settings.

Resetting headphones themselves can also help in some cases. Refer to manufacturer instructions for resetting wireless Bluetooth headphones or gaming headsets to factory settings.

Replace Your Headphones

If your headphones are still not working properly after trying them with multiple devices, the headphones themselves may be faulty. At that point, it’s likely time to replace them.

Headphones can stop working properly due to a hardware malfunction or physical damage. Some common reasons headphones can fail include:

  • Broken or frayed wiring
  • Corrosion or moisture damage
  • Failed drivers
  • Detached/damaged connectors or jacks
  • Cracked or damaged housing

If you’ve tried all the other troubleshooting steps like adjusting settings, updating drivers, cleaning connections, etc. and the headphones still won’t work, then an internal component has likely failed. Replacing the headphones is the only option at that point.

Before purchasing new headphones, consider warranty coverage. Some headphones come with 1-2 year manufacturer warranties. If your headphones are still covered, you may be able to get a free replacement directly through the manufacturer.

Otherwise, inspect your headphones to determine the exact point of failure, then look for headphones built to withstand those issues. Seek out quality materials, sturdy construction, and robust driver enclosures when choosing replacement headphones.

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