My iPhone Is Stuck In Headphones Mode. Here’s The Real Fix!

You’re absolutely sure that headphones aren’t plugged into your iPhone, because, well, they’re not. You see “Headphones” above the volume slider when you press the volume buttons, but your iPhone isn’t making any sound. You’ve tried a hard reset, putting your headphones in, and taking them out again, but it’s not working. In this article, I’ll explain why your iPhone is stuck in headphone mode, an awesome trick to get junk out of your headphone jack or Lightning port, and how to fix the problem for good!

My iPhone Doesn’t Have A Headphone Jack! How Can It Be Stuck In Headphones Mode?

Apple got rid of the headphone jack when they released the iPhone 7. It was very controversial at the time, but many people have moved onto using Bluetooth headphones like AirPods.

However, Apple didn’t completely eliminate the ability to use wired headphones on newer iPhones. Your purchase of an iPhone 7 or newer model includes a pair of wired headphones that plug directly into your iPhone’s Lightning port (also known as the charging port).

A new iPhone 7, 8, or X also includes a dongle which lets you connect your old headphones to your iPhone’s Lightning port. However, Apple stopped including this dongle with the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

Even though the iPhone 7 and newer models don’t have a traditional headphone jack, they can still get stuck in headphones mode! The steps below will help you fix any model iPhone that is stuck on headphone mode.

No, iPhone, There Aren’t Headphones Plugged In!

Your iPhone is stuck on headphone mode because it thinks headphones are plugged into the headphone jack or Lightning port, even though they’re not. This is usually caused by a problem with the headphone jack or Lightning port itself. 99% of the time it’s a hardware problem, not a software problem.

iphone display headphones volume

Eliminate The Possibility Of A Software Problem

The easiest way to make sure a software problem isn’t causing your iPhone to stay stuck in headphones mode is to turn it off and back on again. To turn off your iPhone, press and hold the power button (also known as the Sleep / Wake button) and slide the button next to “slide to power off” across the screen.

slide to power off power icon on iphone

If you have an iPhone X or newer, press and hold the Side button and either volume button until “slide to power off” appears on the screen. Swipe the power icon left to right to shut down your iPhone X or newer.

It can take 20 seconds or so for your iPhone to turn off, and that’s completely normal. To turn your iPhone back on, hold the power button (iPhone 8 and older) or the Side button (iPhone X and newer) until the Apple logo appears on the screen. You can let go of the power button or Side button when the Apple logo appears.

If your iPhone is still stuck on headphones mode after your iPhone turns back on, there’s a hardware problem with your iPhone. At this point, this problem is being caused by one of two possibilities:

  • Debris stuck inside the headphone jack or Lightning port is fooling your iPhone into thinking that headphones are plugged in.
  • The headphone jack or Lightning port is damaged, either physically or by liquid.

Take A Look Inside Your iPhone

Grab a flashlight and shine it inside your iPhone’s headphone jack or Lightning port. Is there any debris stuck inside? I’ve seen everything from rice, to brown goo, to broken-off tips of cheap headphones stuck inside. Trying to extract something from your iPhone’s headphone jack or Lightning port is extremely difficult, and some Apple techs won’t even try.

Poking around in your iPhones headphone jack or Lightning port can cause damage, but most people I’ve worked with agreed it was worth the risk because they really had nothing to lose. If I had to guess, I’d say I was successful about 50% of the time when I tried to extract something from a customer’s headphone jack when I worked at an Apple Store.

How Do I Get Junk Out Of My iPhone’s Headphone Jack?

There’s no right way to do this, and Apple Stores don’t have any tools designed to extract debris from headphone jacks. There are, however, some unofficial tricks that Apple techs sometimes use to get stuff out. Be careful — none of these are Apple-approved methods because they can cause damage, but I’ve had success with each of them in different situations.

The BIC Pen Trick

I really wanted to write this article so I could share this trick with you. An Apple Genius showed me how to do it, and I still think it’s brilliant. Be warned: Your pen will not survive this procedure. Here’s how to use a BIC pen to remove debris from an iPhone’s headphone jack:

  1. Use a standard BIC pen and remove the cap.
    IMG_0277IMG_0278
  2. Use pliers to pull the pen tip away from the plastic housing.
    IMG_0282 IMG_0293
  3. The tip is attached to a circular plastic cartridge that contains the ink.
    IMG_0299 IMG_0298
  4. The opposite end of the cartridge is the perfect size to remove debris from the headphone jack.
    IMG_0304
  5. Insert that end into the headphone jack and gently twist to loosen the debris, and then shake it out of your iPhone or iPad.
    IMG_0309

I’ve saved lots of headphone jacks using this trick. Be careful not to press too hard. If the debris isn’t coming out, move on to the next tip.

Compressed Air

Try using a can of compressed air to blow air directly into your iPhone’s headphone jack. This may work even if you don’t see anything stuck inside. Compressed air can loosen debris just enough to shake it out or blow it out completely. Be gentle: Don’t stick the hose all the way into your iPhone’s headphone jack and start blowing. Start from the outside of your iPhone and work your way in.

If you don’t have a can of compressed air, you can try blowing it out yourself, but I don’t particularly like that option because our breath contains moisture that can damage your iPhone’s internal circuitry. If you feel like you have nothing to lose, then by all means, give it a try.

Tweezers

Really thin tweezers can sometimes reach just far enough inside to pull a piece of rice or other debris out of an iPhone’s headphone jack. Using tweezers is risky, though. It’s a lot like the game called Operation (by Milton Bradley). It’s very easy to damage the sides of the headphone jack if you shove tweezers in too far.

I Don’t Recommend This, But…

Some tech-savvy people (and secretly, some Apple Geniuses) have had success extracting debris from iPhone headphone jacks by disassembling the iPhone and poking the debris out from the underneath of the headphone jack. There are some excellent teardown guides of iPhones if you’d like to try, but I don’t recommend you do. 

How Do I Get Junk Out Of My iPhone’s Lightning Port?

Just like a headphone jack, it can be difficult to remove gunk and debris from from a Lightning port. The safest way to remove debris from an iPhone Lightning port is to use an anti-static brush.

clean ipad lightning port

If you try to clean out the Lightning port with an object like a paperclip or a thumbtack, you can run the risk of causing an electrical charge within your iPhone, which could cause even more damage. Toothpicks are also risky, because they can splinter and get stuck inside your iPhone.

However, most people don’t own an anti-static brush, and that’s okay. A brand new, unused toothbrush makes a fine substitute if you don’t have an anti-static brush.

The Cocktail Straw Trick

This method could also be called the “coffee stirrer” trick, as either utensil can be used. Flatten out the tip of your cocktail straw or coffee stirrer so it can fit inside your iPhone’s Lightning port. Use the flat tip of the straw to scrape or scoop any gunk out of the Lightning port.

clean iphone lightning port with cocktail straw

Compressed air and tweezers are also possible solutions if something is lodged in your in your iPhone’s Lightning port.

I’ve Tried Everything And My iPhone Is Still Stuck On Headphone Mode!

If your iPhone still isn’t working after you’ve tried everything above, there’s a good chance your iPhone needs to be repaired. Usually, the headphone jack or the Lightning port on an iPhone will stop working for one of two reasons:

Water Damage

A very common reason for iPhones getting stuck in headphones mode is water damage, and a lot of the time people don’t know how it could have happened. Here’s how the conversation went: I’d ask, “Are you an athlete?”, and they would say yes. I’d ask, “Do you listen to music when you run or work out?”, and they’d say yes again. Can you guess what happened?

A lot of the time, this is problem is caused when sweat runs down the cord of an athlete’s headphones. At some point, a small amount of sweat gets inside the headphone jack or Lightning port and causes their iPhone to get stuck in headphone mode.

Other types of water damage can cause this problem too — it doesn’t take much. The headphone jack on older iPhones and the Lightning port on newer iPhones are two of the only openings on the outside of the iPhone, and that makes them particularly susceptible to water damage. Even if the rest of an iPhone works perfectly after it gets wet, the headphone jack or Lightning port may not.

Physical Damage

If your iPhone is smashed into 1000 pieces, you probably know what’s wrong. If it’s still in one piece, there is another very common reason why iPhones get stuck on headphone mode: The headphone jack or Lightning port gets pulled away from the logic board.

“Wait a second. I keep my iPhone in great shape.”

Plugging headphones in and out of your iPhone should never cause this problem. I’ve never seen it occur from normal use. Here’s the question I’d ask: “Do you wrap your headphones around your iPhone when you’re not using it?” The customer would say yes. (Come to think of it, the same Genius who turned me on to the BIC pen trick told me this, too. I’d give him credit if I didn’t think he could get in trouble.) Can you guess what happened here?

IMG_0313 IMG_0316

After a while, the strain from the headphones wrapped around the iPhone on the end plugged into the headphone jack or Lightning port becomes so great that they entirely start to pull away from the logic board. It’s OK to wrap your headphones around your iPhone, as long as you unplug them when you do. 

IMG_0318

Unfortunately, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance the damage is already done and you’ll need to repair your iPhone.

Repair Options: Apple vs. Puls

This problem is especially frustrating for people who go to the Apple Store because the only repair option Apple offers to fix a broken headphone jack is to replace the entire iPhone. A lot of people simply refuse, opting instead to use a Bluetooth headset or speaker dock to make and receive phone calls, but it’s a major inconvenience when the sound doesn’t work on your iPhone.

The case is similar for broken iPhone Lightning ports. Apple will typically just replace your iPhone if its Lightning port is broken. The replacement is covered by your AppleCare+ warranty.

To make matters worse, debris stuck inside your iPhone’s headphone jack or Lightning port isn’t covered under warranty, so repairing this simple problem can be very expensive.

Puls

If you’d like to repair your iPhone today for a lot less than Apple, Puls will meet you at home or a location of your choice in less than an hour, and they offer a lifetime warranty on parts and labor.

Get A New Cell Phone

You may want to consider getting a new phone instead of having your current one repaired. iPhone repairs can get expensive quickly. If more than one component is damaged — which isn’t uncommon if you dropped your iPhone or exposed it to water — the repair company typically has to replace every part, not just the headphone jack. Check out the UpPhone cell phone comparison tool to review your options!

Wrapping It Up

It’s frustrating when an iPhone gets stuck in headphones mode, because it seems like a simple problem should have a simple solution. It’s unfortunate that a tiny piece of debris or a little drop of water can have such a detrimental effect on your iPhone. I sincerely hope that your iPhone is no longer stuck on headphone mode, but if it is, at least you know what to do next. Feel free to leave a comment below. I’d like to hear about any creative ways you’ve found to remove debris from the headphone jack or Lightning port of your iPhone.

About Author

I'm a former Apple employee and the founder of Payette Forward, and I'm here to help you with your iPhone.

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Luke
2 days ago

Actually quite helpful, but unfortunately I know what to do next 😢

Kanak
3 days ago

Excellent, Thanks, My issue got resolved using BIC pen method.

Brian
5 days ago

Thanks! Fixed mine by extracting a lot of pocket lint with a wooden toothpick. Same problem and solution as I’ve had previously had with my charger port, a couple of times.

The toothpick wasn’t picking up much until I angled the tip toward the front of the phone, midway down the hole. There must be a little recess there.

Sadie
12 days ago

I just cut a qtip in half and used the harder end to clean my headphone jack out. I was very gentile and it worked so maybe try that

zzzzzzzzza
21 days ago

i dont know what happened bc i dont use headphones on my phone

Leila
22 days ago

thank you that was helpful, it helped me realize it was because of water while i was jogging and it started raining…at least I will stop looking for random solutions, thank you for your article!

Bob
24 days ago

Hi all, can’t thank you all enough for all the shared and helpful comments. I had the same trouble with “stuck headphone” condition this morning for the first time in more than 6 years on my iPad. I think everything I tried contributed to the fix – paper clip, Q tip, “twistie” from a loaf of breadr – but the final thing that took me over the “fixed” line was arranging the headset entrance angled to expose the entire iPad directly and immediately in front of a large fan on low setting for about an hour – the mic came… Read more »

Melany
26 days ago

I tried what you guys said to try but my phone is still in headphone mode

Editor
Liam Shotwell
26 days ago
Reply to  Melany

It’s most likely that this is a hardware issue, not a software issue. If your iPhone is still stuck in headphone mode, you should probably take it to get it repaired or replaced.

Bob
24 days ago
Reply to  Melany

Hi Melany, I was in the same boat yesterday…I tried just about all the suggestions from helpful folks, no joy…until, lacking a compressed air capability, I put the iPad in front of a fairy large room fan, low setting, taking care to put it on an angle that exposed the empty headphone “port” as well as the back of the whole iPad….after 30 mins, mic was back but not speaker…after another 30 minutes, both speaker and mic worked, verified several times with SIRI and YouTube…final confirmation was absence of “Headphone” label when I pressed the + — and mute controls… Read more »

Bob
23 days ago
Reply to  Melany

Hi Melany, see Bob comment 18 hours ago – good luck!

matteo
1 month ago

i need a lot of help

Dylan
1 month ago

If your phone has water damage then here’s a (possible) way to fix it: grab a bunch of rice and put the rice in either a big bowl or a ziplock bag (depending on your phone size), then put your phone in the bag for about 12 hours, that’s how long it took for me to fix my phone and I was in a lot of water. Hopefully this fixes it 🙂

Editor
Liam Shotwell
1 month ago
Reply to  Dylan

Be careful when you do this. Rice can get into the ports of your phone and cause problems with charging. Just make sure to clean up when you’re done to get the rice out of your charging port and headphone jack

mac
1 month ago

I had this problem and managed to fix it. First I tried compressed air and the Bic pen, no progress. It was the paper clip that did the trick, first poke pulled out a thick piece of lint. Then after some further poking around, it cleared the port and now it’s working. Dave: Thanks for your article, it gave the right inspiration. Otherwise I would have spent $$ on a new phone or some repair.

Gia
1 month ago

guys i’ve dropped my phone in water 3 times now but this time i didn’t drop it ..it started to rain and i had my phone in my back pocket ..the first two times i just had put my phone in front of the heater and it worked to get my speaker to work again but this time nothing worked but i kept telling myself God would fix it when i least expect it and he did !i decided to turn an alarm on because my mind just told me too !because i know that you can still hear alarms… Read more »

Darcy
3 months ago

I used a blow dryer and that worked! Thanks for this article….it saved my daughters iPod.

Nicky
3 months ago

Why the F do iPhones not have a switch or something (software?) to just turn headphones on or off? This is a problem every model has!

Shila gauli
3 months ago

I cannot setup my iPad it is stuck
in headphone mode.😭😭😢😢

Ari
4 months ago

Ive tried everything but it didn’t work so im on my way to get a new phone

harlow
4 months ago

i was at school when school ened i grab my phone and put earphones in when i got home i took the earphones out and that when it got stuck on earphones mode i tried everything and nothing worked

Kerry
4 months ago

I fell on ice yesterday and hurt my shoulder, my IPhone 6s Plus screen shattered a tiny bit on bottom right corner and was soaking wet from snow. Phone works but only on speaker-acts like it’s in headphone mode. I’ve Read through and tried all the advice here except for the car thing since I’m out of town and don’t have my car. It’s frustrating and should have a setting-any other new quick fix tips?? Thanks!!!

Daisy
5 months ago

i’ve tried every trick and tip but none seemed to work. the only way i can hear sound is if i plug in an actual pair of headphones. nothing is in the headphone jack and i never dropped it in water.

Ian
5 months ago

Thanks buddy the Bic trick worked with a slight modification it required a cut being made at an angle at the end quick gentle twist and back to normal now

Justine E
5 months ago

Hairdryer!!

Fanda Strouha
5 months ago

Hi! I was taking a bath and forgot that i have my iPhone behind me and now there is a small amount of water in my lightning or jack, but it’s enough to ruin my sound. (I have iPhone SE) I don’t know what to do, could you please help me? And my hairdryer didn’t work too…
Have a nice day.

Admin
David Lynch
5 months ago
Reply to  Fanda Strouha

Check out our article on what do when your iPhone is water damaged.

Abrie
5 months ago

I had this problem with my phone literally just 4 minutes ago and found an easy solution! First, plug in a pair of headphones. Next, do a soft reset (hold the power button and the home button at the same time until the screen turns black). Once the soft reset has finished, slowly remove the headphones! I hope this works as well as it did for me!

justin
24 days ago
Reply to  Abrie

this worked on my ipad! thank you so much abrie 😀

Doug
5 months ago

Thank you for the article that got me thinking. My problem was the iPhone was stuck in headphones mode and so I couldn’t hear callers or online video. If I went to wireless speaker or plugged in headphones it worked. No amount of trying these tips worked so I dipped a small paintbrush in alcohol, dryed it off, then twisted it into the headphone jack. Whala, after two twists, the jack came alive. Hope this helps someone.

Kirsty
5 months ago

This post has just saved my life! Thank you! I was getting so frustrated and couldn’t understand why my poor old phone was getting so confused, used the pen, q-tip and the compressed air (in that order) and its now fixed, the compressed air was the thing that finally did it. 🙂

Zoey Kennedy
5 months ago

I’ve tried everything on the list my phone still has the headphones in even though they aren’t help

Anonymous
1 year ago

Thank you for the advice. I found that using a fine-tipped paintbrush did the trick.

Anonymous
1 year ago

Fantastic, thank you. Cotton bud worked for me 🙂

sAvvy
1 year ago

guess i am f***ed

Anonymous
1 year ago

I have not followed any of his tips, i fixed mine just by using a cotton bud soaked with oil then start to swirl it inside my iphone headphone jack, it turns out my headphone jack got rusty and those rust got removed & also contains some dirt made up of black dusts

Anonymous
1 year ago

i dropped my iphone 6s plus in water now it only working with headphones in it ive powered it off ive put it in rice now what do i do im seriously freaking out

Anonymous
1 year ago

Thank you. Canned air did the trick for my 6 , but it’s intermittent. I don’t see anything in the port but will confess I was out on a snowshoe when I first discovered the problem. Sunny day and I didn’t drop the phone, but maybe some snow (or sweat?) got in there somehow. Hopefully, it just needs more time to dry out. Thanks again!

Anonymous
1 year ago

Thanks heaps. I used a q-tip in the headphone jack.

Anonymous
1 year ago

The bic pen method worked for me, thanks.

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