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 and how to fix the problem for good! When you play audio and there’s no sound coming from your iPhone, yet there’s an onscreen message showing your headphone volume even though no headphones are connected, then your smartphone thinks you’ve still connected to the headphones. This is usually caused by a problem with the headphone jack or Lightning port itself. 99% of the time it’s a hardwareproblem, not a software problem.
This problem isn’t exactly rare, and in most cases, it’s easily fixed.
Apple got rid of the headphone jack when they released the iPhone 7. 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).
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.
Here’s how to fix an iPhone that’s stucked in headphone mode.
The first thing you should try if your iPhone thinks headphones are plugged in is simple: plug in, then unplug, a pair of headphones. It’s possible the headphone jack on your iPhone didn’t recognize when you last unplugged your headphones and still thinks they’re connected.
If this trick fixes the problem, and if this situation doesn’t happen with any regularity, chalk it up as a weird one-off and not something to worry about.
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.
If you have an iPhone Xor 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 8and 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. In recent versions of iOS, you control where audio is played: headphones, the iPhone’s speakers, HomePod, other external speakers, etc. It’s possible your headphone mode problem has to do with your audio output settings.
To check these settings:
- Open Control Center. On most iPhones, swipe up from the bottom of the screen. On the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, and XR, swipe down from the top right corner.
- On iOS 10, swipe right to left to reveal the music controls. On iOS 11and up, tap the music controls in the top right corner.
- On iOS 10, tap the audio controls at the bottom of the panel. On iOS 11 and up, tap the AirPlay icon, represented as three rings with a triangle in it.
- In the menu that appears, if iPhone is an option, tap it to send the audio to your phone’s built-in speakers.
Grab a flashlight and shine it inside your iPhone’s headphone jack or Lightning port. Is there any debris 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.
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, and I do not recommend it, so try this at your own risk.
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.
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.
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.
Compressed air and tweezers are also possible solutions if something is lodged in your in your iPhone’s Lightning port.
If cleaning the headphone jack didn’t help, you could have a different hardware problem. It’s possible the phone has been damaged by water or other moisture getting inside.
In that case, the headphone jack is the place the iPhone’s water-damage indicator appears on many models. For more recent models, it shows up in the SIM Card slot. For detailed instructions on where the water damage indicator appears on every iPhone model, Apple Support has everything you need.
If you see the orange dot indicating water damage, you’ll need a repair to get your iPhone out of headphone mode. You can also try to save the phone from water damage.
It’s possible your iPhone still thinks it’s connected to an external audio source like Bluetooth headphones. It’s easy to fix by taking the phone into and out of Airplane Mode.
Turning on Airplane Mode temporarily disconnects all networking on the phone, including disconnecting the phone from Wi-Fi networks and, most importantly, from Bluetooth devices. If Bluetooth is the culprit, cutting off the connection should solve your problem.
Here’s what to do:
- Open Control Center in the way that works for your iPhone model.
- Tap the Airplane Mode icon, represented as an airplane.
- Wait a few seconds, then tap the Airplane Mode icon again to turn Airplane Mode off.
If your iPhone still thinks headphones are plugged in, you need to consult the experts at Apple. They’ll be able to help you diagnose the cause of the problem and fix it through software or by taking your phone in for repair. You can either get support from Apple online or make a Genius Bar appointment for in-person support at your nearest Apple Store. Good luck!