How to Fix iPhone Stuck in Headphone Mode

You know no headphones are attached; why doesn't your iPhone?

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 problem isn't exactly rare, and in most cases, it's easily fixed.

Instructions in this article apply to the iPhone 6 and later.

iphone headphone mode
iPhone image: Apple; screenshot
  1. Plug and unplug headphones. 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.

  2. Check audio output settings. 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:

    1. 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.
    2. On iOS 10, swipe right to left to reveal the music controls. On iOS 11 and up, tap the music controls in the top right corner.
    3. 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.
    4. In the menu that appears, if iPhone is an option, tap it to send the audio to your phone's built-in speakers.
  3. Enable and disable Airplane Mode. 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:

    1. Open Control Center in the way that works for your iPhone model.
    2. Tap the Airplane Mode icon, represented as an airplane.
    3. Wait a few seconds, then tap the Airplane Mode icon again to turn Airplane Mode off.
  4. Restart the iPhone. Many problems can be solved by restarting the iPhone. Being stuck in headphone mode can be the result of a simple, temporary technical glitch that can be cleared with a restart.

    Restart procedures for your iPhone vary, depend on what model you have.

  5. Clean the headphone jack. The iPhone thinks headphones are plugged in when it detects there's something in the headphone jack. It's possible something else in the jack could send a false signal.

    If lint or other gunk has built up in the headphone jack and is tricking the iPhone into thinking something else is there:

    1. On most models, it's easy to see if there's anything in the headphone jack. On very old models, you might need to shine a flashlight or penlight into the jack to get a good look.
    2. When you look into the jack, you really shouldn't see anything except the metal insides of the phone. If you see lint or anything that looks odd or out of place, there might be something there that shouldn't be.
    3. The best and safest way to remove lint or other debris from the headphone jack is with compressed air. Buy a can of it at most office supply or computer stores. Use the included straw and shoot a few bursts of air into the headphone jack to blow out any debris. If you don't have compressed air, or can't get your hands on any, try a cotton swab or the plastic ink tube in a ballpoint pen.

    It might be tempting to try to use an unfolded paper clip to clean lint out of the headphone jack; a paper clip is the right size and offers some strength, too, but this should be a true last resort. You probably won't do any damage to your iPhone using a paper clip, but scraping a metal object around inside your phone definitely has the potential for damage. If you choose to use this option, proceed carefully.

  6. Check for water damage. 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.

  7. Get tech support from Apple. 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!

  • How do I connect Bose headphones to an iPhone?

    To connect Bose headphones to your iPhone, ensure Bluetooth is enbled on your iPhone, then download and launch the Bose Connect app on your iPhone. It should automatically detect the Bose headphones. You'll see a Drag To Connect message. Swipe down to begin connecting your Bose headset to your iPhone. 

  • How do I connect Sony headphones to an iPhone?

    To connect Sony headphones to an iPhone, ensure Bluetooth is enabled on the iPhone, then tap and hold the power button or ID Set button on the headphones to put them in pairing mode. On the iPhone, go to Settings > Bluetooth > Other Devices and select the Sony headphones.

  • How do I make headphones louder on an iPhone?

    To make headphones louder on an iPhone, go to Settings > Sound & Haptics > Headphone Safety. Ensure Reduce Loud Sounds is turned off. You should also try cleaning your headphones, checking the file compression, or using an amplifier.

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