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Fix Apple’s in-ear headphones February 12, 2007

Posted by farshadf in iPod.

After going through three pairs of Apple’s in-ear headphones (replaced by AppleCare) I finally decided to find out why they were going bad. All of my in-ear headphones would eventually lose most or all sound in one or both earbuds, somewhat suddenly. I took them apart to find that the speaker itself was still nice and loud; the culprit was a small amount of wax embedded in the fine mesh in the cap of the earbud. Disgusting, I know, but I kept the headphones extremely clean and they still became clogged. I’ve read about many people having this same problem on other forums, so here’s how I fixed it.

  • Pull off the silicone ear piece
  • Using a pin or a tiny screwdriver, pry off the metal ring against the back part of the earbud
  • Using the same small, sharp instrument, CAREFULLY pry the end cap off by inserting the pin into the seam that is revealed after removing that metal ring
  • Take the endcap that you just pried off (the piece with the metal mesh in it) and take it to a sink
  • Close the drain stopper in your sink so you don’t accidentally lose the little endcap
  • Flush it out with hot water and blow through the open end of the earbud (the end without the mesh) to clear the mesh
  • Repeat until screen looks clear
  • Reassemble earbuds. They should just snap back together and stay that way without any glue. Use a little glue if it’s not sticking, but be careful not to get any on the speaker or in the mesh screen (naturally).

Notes: You don’t have to blow through it using your mouth. That’s what I did, because I don’t have any compressed air, which might be a better solution since I can’t comment on the potential toxicity of the dried glue left on the open end of that endcap. I did this and haven’t died, so, uh, Q.E.D. Also, you might as well do both earbuds at the same time here. Even if one seems OK here, it’s almost definitely got some amount of blockage that you can clear.

So there you have it! You’ve saved yourself a phone call if you have AppleCare, and $40 if you don’t. It’s amazing how such a tiny amount of junk can block almost all the sound from those speakers.




1. cleaning the earbuds - March 30, 2007

Yeah, this works – I just did it. Not that I want to be messing around with microscopic earwax, but at $40 a pop I’m not replacing these every 6 months.

It’s a real pain to get the things apart though…you need to remove the outer cap from the actual speaker itself, which will pop out of the outer back part of the earpice with the speaker still glued to the inner cap section. But once you get that inner cap removed and can see through it, you will see clearly that there is a yellowish earwax film over the INSIDE of the cap. Yes, gross, but you’re shoving these things way hella up inside your ear canal AND playing loud music into them – it’s inevitable some wax will get in there no matter how clean your ears are.

I soaked it in isopropyl alcohol and made it hospital clean. The ear pieces do kind of snap back together well, and if I have to clean the same ones again, they’ll come apart easier next time.

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