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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Anonymous
5 years ago

Thanks buddy..!! That blow air concept worked here

Anonymous
5 years ago

Compressed air worked on my wife’s phone

Anonymous
5 years ago

The q-tip with most cotton off really works!!! Yall are awesome! I was so upset I was going to have to buy a new phone! Thank you! 🙂

Anonymous
5 years ago

I used an open hair pin and a napkin… worked immediately for liquid

Anonymous
5 years ago

My cousin threw water at me while my phone was in my back pocket upside down (exposing al of the holes of the phone). Now my phone says its on headphones, its been in rice for 2 days. But nothing has worked.

Anonymous
5 years ago

Compressed air worked for me! Thanks for the advice!

Anonymous
5 years ago

I used a toothpick

Anonymous
5 years ago

Its 2018 but hey the pen tricked worked! Got water and debris into it cleaned it out and Walla!

Anonymous
5 years ago

Thank you James Phillips. I dont know what caused it – rainstorm? detritus? – but the q-tip fixed it. Did just what you said, voil!

Anonymous
5 years ago

I didnt have a bic pen, but what worked really well for me was a wire bread tie.

Gently push it in and spin it a few times around. The wire makes it stiff enough to go into the jack and the paper coating seems to brush out anything that is stuck in there without damaging the jack.

Hope it helps!

Anonymous
5 years ago

I used the dust blaster , tg it worked

Anonymous
5 years ago

I had some pocket fuzzies and debris in my headphone jack that caused it to go to headphone mode… carefully wiggled a thin toothpick around and extracted the junk then blew it out with an airgun… shizam! Thanks for the info

Anonymous
5 years ago

Its work for me with cotton swab. Thank you so much.

Anonymous
5 years ago

The cotton end did not work but the cut edge of the q-tip did the trick. Thanks for all the helpful suggestions especially those that encouraged patience.

Anonymous
5 years ago

I see it go in ringer mode but then if I go to music its back on headphones

Anonymous
5 years ago

Wish ur suggestions worked .. and I never use headphone mode .. so Im puzzled

Anonymous
5 years ago

Q tip did the trick , had to thin the cotton down , and left it in for 60 seconds or so , yay!! Its working , thanks

Anonymous
5 years ago

The turn off turn back on worked for me. So I dont know what the cause was. So I was thinking why isnt there a little cap or plug if you will to cover this opening so this doesnt happen? Maybe a slide to close that area when not in use.

Anonymous
5 years ago

Cleaning junk out of headphone’s jack work out! Thanks! I’ve been this multiple times during this week, I usually dried it with hair dryer that I thought that some moisture could be there. It worked out, after trying this. But this time, your suggestion works either.

Anonymous
5 years ago

I LOVE YOU!!!! COTTON SWAB REALLY WORKS!!

Anonymous
5 years ago

Incredible the bic works! After entire day wasted in the “no genius” Apple Store. Thank you !

Anonymous
5 years ago

I had this problem. Yesterday was raining a lot at the skatepark and my iPhone 5s got a little wet. I tryied everything and then late at night i thought about the good ol Rice Trick. (Rice its supposed to absorve humidity from any device) So i put a good amount of RAW/DRY rice on a tupperware, put the phone on top of it, closed it overnight and six hours later, my phone was working perfectly

Anonymous
5 years ago

Thanks to you and a can of air

Anonymous
5 years ago

Thanks a lot. Its worked.

Anonymous
5 years ago

Thank you for the article and this wealth of information. Got my ringer restored and all is well!! Much appreciated.

Anonymous
5 years ago

The Q-tip worked for me. After cleaning the dirt out I left the Q-tip in for about 15 minutes. When I removed it my iPhone was back to normal. Thank you, thank you!

Anonymous
6 years ago

Mine is not working , tried everything and it doesnt go back ?? 🙁

Anonymous
6 years ago

so my son had my phone in his mouth and slob was all over it and only thing Im having trouble with is it being stuck in headphone mode what do I do

Anonymous
6 years ago

thanks, it help so much!!!

Anonymous
6 years ago

My ringer went to headphones today and I have never even used mine. I did just about everything suggested above, turning the phone off, using a Qtip, plugging headphones in & out, going to ringtones and playing all my tunes (up/down) and it would show ringer but when I left settings screen, it was back to headphones. I putz around for maybe 3 hours, and I finally decided I would call Apple after I recharged my phone because I knew it would be at least an hour w/Apple (almost takes that long to get a person), and I was responding… Read more »

Anonymous
6 years ago

Qtip trick worked for me. Thanks

Anonymous
6 years ago

Thank you- inserting the bic pen in and out until it went off did the trick!

Anonymous
6 years ago

Thank you!!! My phone started to get stuck in headphone mode after i spilled a glass of water on my apron pocket that my phone was in while waitressing. The BIC trick worked!

Anonymous
6 years ago

Done all the above, everything, then someone said turn airplane mode off and back on again! Completely solved!!

Anonymous
6 years ago

Thank you!!! I was losing my mind. I used a dry Capri Sun straw and it worked!

Anonymous
6 years ago

Thank you. I could NOT figure out what was wrong. As soon as I read about the water I knew exactly what had happened. So now the decision to fix or replace.

Anonymous
6 years ago

I was stuck too, called my phone received it and put it on speaker, voila, speaker worked from then on…

Anonymous
6 years ago

I used an extra small Q tip and twisted it gently in the headphone jack and the sound came back on. 🙂

Anonymous
6 years ago

Roll up tape and use that to pull out dust and debris! Worked for me

Anonymous
6 years ago

THANKS THANKS , YESTERDAY MY IPHONE FELL DOWN INTO DEEP WATE AND TURNED TO HEADPHONE MODE , YOUR TIPS WORKED , THANKS FOR SAVING MONEY THANKS THANKS THANKS

Anonymous
6 years ago

I don’t think it is debri. I have tried all of the above. It probably got wet due to sweating during work so Ill replace or something. Thanks for thew tips though.

Anonymous
6 years ago

So my iPhone is stuck on headphone mode but when I stick my headphones in, I can hear. It just wont play any sound when the headphones are not in. Can I fix it at home?

Anonymous
6 years ago

Miracle!! We tried EVERYTHING in this article. What worked for us was twisting off the cotton of a Q-tip and then gently twirling the paper stick around inside the jack “hole.” I had 1 foot out the door to go buy a new phone!

Anonymous
6 years ago

Still not working driving me bonkers.

Anonymous
6 years ago

The Cotton thing worked!! 😀 Thank you! Thank you!!

Anonymous
6 years ago

Phone is stuck in the earphone mode. The Q-tip solution did not work. Try using gravity to pull moisture down and out. Remove any post market protection case from the phone. Turn phone off. Stand the phone upright with the headphone jack on the bottom. Keep the phone as near vertical as possible, rest the top edge of the phone against a solid object. Allow the phone to rest in this position over night. The moisture should obey gravity and flow down and out of the phone. After eight hours turn off and back on. Reapply the protection case to… Read more »

Anonymous
6 years ago

Thank you! The bic trick worked great! Thanks again!

Anonymous
6 years ago

Thank you… tried it and worked instantly…. am so relieved right now

Anonymous
6 years ago

I tried the pen trick and it didnt dislodge the debris and I didnt have any compressed air so I used my hair dryer on high with the cool button and it dislodged the debris !! Yay . Try it

Anonymous
6 years ago

Thank you so much. None of this worked but it gave me the idea to try my vacuum cleaner with the small attachment. It worked like a charm. Thanks again

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