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.
  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.
  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.

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.


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. 


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.


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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11 months ago

Thanks for your advice it worked. I found a toothpick was right size, and soft enough to minimise risc of damage

Mehroz Rahi
1 year ago

Hey guys, i tried all the solutions but still not working so please someone tell me how I can solve this. When I plug in handsfree then iphone sounds is working but without handsfree I can’t be able to do phone calls, nor I cant watch any video (Video is playing but audio isn’t working). Also when I am making any video from camera, then audio isn’t working on that video.

Naïma Heldmann
1 year ago

It did not work with the pen I don’t know what to do anymore

Karen Polischuk
1 year ago

So, I tried all your tricks, then I was thinking, when did it all start… I had connected to a receiver for music…I went to blue tooth settings, forgot/ deleted connection…head phone icon left phone back to working normal again. Thought you might want to add that to your tricks? Or not🤗
it was an older receiver, surprised it even connected????

1 year ago

Wowza THANKS a million. Rolled up paper towel on toothpick on earjack on iPhone 6s helped… compressed air completed the fix. So relieved.

1 year ago
Reply to  Thanks

thx a worked

1 year ago
Reply to  Thanks

Your toothpick/paper towel idea finally did the trick for me. Thank you!

Stephanie H
1 year ago

Hey guys. My phone randomly got stuck on headphone mode and I tried everything to fix it. Nothing worked. Then I read on another site to just slide it into silent mode (the little button above volume keys) and then slide it back off of silent mode and hit a volume key and it actually worked for me! I’ve been messing with this phone for hours and so happy it was something simple. Also learned a lot on this website about what not to do. Hope this helps someone else.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stephanie H
Naïma Heldmann
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephanie H

OMG TY ado much it worked🤗

2 years ago

My iPhone 6s did same thing . It went I o headphone mode when I was working in rain , I clean it with toothpick stick and volume came back and phone came out of headphone mode. Very happy . Thanks guys . This method really works

1 year ago
Reply to  Rick

Yes, thank you! I tried this and it also worked for me.

2 years ago

T have a suggestion that I’m aware of someone is comfortable with soldering techniques that Amateur Radio Operators buy is dental pics are much stronger just turn off phone ☎️ and remove the battery before servicing ANY electronic devices also a go. Od anti static strap nothing like blowing a device and ground the alligator clip. I known someone blew up a $40.00 VCR microprocessor just going across the carpet.

2 years ago

guys, try rolling up a super thin piece of paper town and clean the headphone plug by shoving it inside and pulling it out! It worked for me and I’m so grateful!

2 years ago

What About iPad 8th generation? I might have splashed water on she side the headphone plug is… any tips? I can’t afford a new iPad or repair!!

2 years ago

thanks, was having this problem and didn’t even think to use compressed air, but it did the job

2 years ago

iPhone X phone only working while connected to car blue tooth

2 years ago

My phone is an iPhone X and when someone calls me my phone doesn’t ring but I can see on the phone a call is coming in. When I answer it they can hear me but I can’t hear them. I can’t hear videos either. But I can hook my phone to my car blue tooth and it works perfectly! Help please

2 years ago

I tried all that hardware staff and cleaning it didn’t work. Finally I figured I could reset all settings and see what happens and it worked perfectly.

2 years ago

I don’t usually use head phones on my 6s plus, other than an SUV aux Cord in the car. But I did drop my phone into some snow. However, it still worked for a while then suddenly quit. I can hear with my blue tooth headband, but other than that it acts like head phones are in. I even get a notification that “hoopla” is often used with head phones. Do you think it was the snow? The Jack is clean, all the other things checked, phone of updated etc. That’s for all this info tho, at least I know… Read more »

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