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iPhone Stuck On “Headphone Mode” – How to Fix It

iPhone Stuck On “Headphone Mode” – How to Fix It
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If you’ve ever used a mobile phone to listen to your music for long periods of time, then you may have experienced a bug where your iPhone thinks that your headphones are plugged in. This can be frustrating, as it effectively nullifies your phone’s ability to output sound properly. You may even have tried plugging your headphones back in and then removing them, with no effect.

This can be fairly frustrating for people who often switch out their headphones, or those who hook up their iPhone to things like hands-free jacks and other gadgets. After all, most modern iPhones don’t even have a headphone jack! What gives with it being stuck in headphone mode? To fix this problem, we first must figure out what exactly is wrong with the phone, which can take some poking around.



Are the headphones still plugged in?

Headphone mode is meant to automatically switch the sound output on your phone to use any connected headphones. The purpose of this is to quickly switch between headphone output and speaker output without having to mess with settings and such within the phone itself. The problem is that due to software failure or hardware failure, the phone sometimes gets stuck thinking that the headphones are plugged in. This makes it impossible to use the phone properly, as the iOS will continue trying to output sound from the headphones, even though there are none plugged in.

The first thing we need to do is figure out if it’s a software problem or a hardware problem. This is fairly simple to do, we just need to turn the iPhone off, and then on again. For iPhone X or more recent, push and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons until the words “slide to power off” appear on your screen. It can take 15 seconds or more for the phone to turn off completely.


Once your phone is off, simply hold the power button (if you’ve got an iPhone 8 or a more old model) or the side button (if you have an iPhone x or newer). Once the Apple logo is visible on screen, you’re clear to stop holding the button as the phone boots up. Once it’s finished initializing, you can hit the volume buttons to check whether or not the phone is still in headphone mode.

If your problem is fixed, great! That was easy, right? However, if the problem persists after restarting your phone, it could indicate a hardware issue, which is a bit more complex to fix.

We have to go deeper

Once you’ve determined that the problem is not with the software, it’s time to start poking around inside your phone. Don’t get ahead of yourself, though. Poking around in the headphone jack or lightning port of your phone can easily damage the internals, which will make the problem worse or even cause new problems entirely. The first thing we need to do is actually take a look inside the jacks.

Take a light and shine it into the holes. Look really closely for any kind of debris that could be causing the issue. Typically it will be something like a ball of lint or something that became inadvertently lodged in the jack from inside your pocket. In rare cases, there could be a buildup of softer tissues that are harder to dig out. If you can’t see any debris or buildup, then check the connectors for signs of rust and wear.


Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can formulate a game plan for removing the debris. If it’s a piece of dust or lint, then this is fairly straightforward. We can use one of a few different methods for removing the offending piece:

  • Use a pen. The key here is to be gentle. If you take apart a Bic pen, you can use the open end (the backside) of the ink reservoir to gently poke inside the headphone jack. If the offending debris is lint or something similarly soft, it can become lodged in the pen rather than stuck in your headphone jack. This approach isn’t the best for the lightning port.
  • Compressed air. This option is a bit safer. Use a can of compressed air to try and blow out and debris that may be stuck in the headphone jack/lightning port. If the debris is dry, this will usually work. If something is actually lodged in there, however, this typically doesn’t do the trick.
  • If you have tweezers small enough to fit in the headphone jack or lightning port, then you can use those to try and remove debris. Just be careful about poking around in there so you don’t end up damaging the internals or giving yourself a little shock.
  • Anti-static brush. This is probably the best option for cleaning the lightning port on your phone. Anti-static brushes have soft bristles that won’t carry a static charge into the internals of your device. Gently brush out any debris and hope for the best.


If these approaches do not work, then it may be time to take the phone to get repaired by a professional. If you noticed rust inside the headphone jack or the lightning port, then chances are you’re dealing with water damage and you will actually need parts to be replaced within the iPhone. Do not under any circumstances attempt to dismantle your phone to do these things yourself. Doing this voids the warranty, and is very likely to make things worse as opposed to better.

If your phone has become water damaged, consider taking better care of it going forward. For example, if you work in a place with lots of water, keep the phone in your bag, or wrap it in plastic if you simply must have it on your person. The easiest way to fix problems like this is to prevent them altogether.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to fire away in the comments section!

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About the author



Tom is a gizmo-savvy guy, who has a tendency to get pulled into the nitty gritty details of technology. He attended UT Austin, where he studied Information Science. He’s married and has three kids, one dog and 2 cats. With a large family, he still finds time to share tips and tricks on phones, tablets, wearables and more. You won’t see Tom anywhere without his ANC headphones and the latest smartphone. Oh, and he happens to be an Android guy, who also has a deep appreciation for iOS.