Simple Stereo to Mono Headphone Conversion




So about 9 months ago I had an unfortunate thing happen to me.  For reasons that aren't needed to go into here, I was, upon waking one morning struck with sudden hearing loss in my left ear.  Big bummer indeed. 

After a while I started to figure out the little things about it that are terrible.  For me, the biggest thing was music.  I am a huge music fan.  Thus my inspiration for this project.  I WILL SUFFER NO LONGER!!!

Most people know that headphones put sound into your ears, though some may not realise that that sound is pretty much always STEREO sound.  Headphone manufacturers make headphones this way because they realize that most people using them have two working ears, and would like the stereo effects of their music to be heard. 

But what about those without two working ears?  Are they to suffer having to hear only half of the sounds of our loved music?  Imagine using broken headphones, that only have sound coming out of one side.  You would throw those headphones away, no?  Well, since I can't throw my head away, I came up with a fix.

This project is great for anyone with one deaf ear, or anyone fortunate enough to have both working, but would like to have an open ear while listening to music, a video or other such media.  Great for airports, or anywhere you need to listen for some sort of alert. 

Anyway.  Onto the project!

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Step 1: Gather Materials

What you will need, and might need for this project.

Will definitely need:

Old pair of WORKING headphones (preferably earbuds).  I used some old iPod headphones, they work great, and are good quality.

Housing that can contain the earbuds. 

Hot glue gun. 

Wire.  Thin gauge is more easily malleable.  I used 16 gauge I think.

Fabric.  A small piece of whatever you want.  I used a new sock.

Cutting tool:  Having scissors, wire cutters, and xacto knife will make things easier.

Things you may choose to need:

Electrical tape

Decorative tape

Small screwdriver

That's not too bad.  You might have all these things laying around like I did, and you can get started right now!

Step 2: Prepare Housing

First, you want to take apart the housing for whatever you'll be placing the earbuds into.  This involved ripping off the pads, unscrewing a little screw, and popping off the casing from the speaker.  How this is done depends on what kind of housing you're using.  You really are just getting yourself a capsule for the new headphone, so it's kind up to you.

Instead of using my idea, you could always get creative here.  You could use some sort of lid, or cup.  Maybe a turtle shell.  Whatever you find that you think'll work.

I liked using the piece I did because it had a couple holes in the side which made it easier to thread the headphones through to keep the cord in place, and provide a little structure. 

Once you have your piece selected, do a little decor if you'd like.  I used a piece of aluminum foil duct tape (which just so happens to be one of my favorite things ever) to make it shiny cool lookin'. 

Step 3: Set Buds Into Casing

Ok, this is the hard part.

First, you want to thread the cord from your bud headphones through the hole in your case ( if you have one), but leave the buds hanging.  Don't place them into the casing just yet. 

Once your hot glue gun is all warmed up, you're going to want to squirt a bunch of glue into the casing, then, while the glue is still hot, place the earbuds, oriented correctly, into the warm glue.  This will, in essence, create a mold to hold the earbuds.  You want to do this all at once, because if you do a little glue, try to get them in place, then add more glue a little at a time, the glue will dry in layers.  You do not want this, because it will make it easier for the buds to fall out, and the glue to come apart.  

So, once you're ready, go ahead and get them in there. 

All good?  Well done.  Hard part's done.  Now just let the glue dry for a little while.  All of ten or so minutes should be fine.  Hot glue dries really fast. 

Step 4: Prepare and Affix Pad

Now you've got your buds in place, you're ready to cover them up. 

I opted out of creating a hard screen to go between my ear and the earbuds, but if you'd like, feel free to do so.  If anyone comes up with a good way to do so, and would like me to add your idea here, let me know. 

Now, take your cloth, whatever it may be.  I used a new sock that I thought would look cool with the black and red.  Cut out a piece that is slightly bigger than the circumference of the casing. 

Lay it over the top.  Now use your wire, and wrap tight tight tight around the outside of the casing to hold the cloth in place.  This wire can be covered in electrical tape or whatever for aesthetic purposes. 

Now go twist-tie on the wire to get it tight.  Then cut off the excess wire leaving the twist-tie part (shown in picture).  This little wire part should help in the next step. 

Your pad should now be in place.  Trim off excess cloth, but not too far.  You don't want it to slip out from under then wire.

You could also just try to find a pad that would fit over the casing, or use the old headphone pad.  But that would be about as DIY as the iPod you'll inevitably be plugging this thing into, eh?

Step 5: Sculpt the Earhold

Ok, so hopefully you still have that little wire twist-tie thingy sticking out?  Good.  Take another piece of wire.  Wrap it in electical tape.  

Take one end of the wire, and wrap it around the twist-tie thingy.  Clamp and wrap a time or two. 

Then run the wire up the side of casing, and wrap it around the spot where the wire comes out of the casing.  I did this twice to hold the wire in place, as well as provide stability to the earhold. 

Now you probably want to wrap the rest of the wire quite a bit in electrical tape so that's more comfortable and sturdy. 

If you haven't already, clip the excess wire after you see how much you'll need.  I doubled back with the wire to make it thicker and sturdier.  Bend the wire to curve you want it to be, so it fits well to your head. 

This part is going to be different for everyone, so just feel it out to see how much support you need, and how it should curve. 

Step 6: Done, Notes and Bonus!

You should be about done at this point.  I chose to wrap the two wires from the earbuds in electrical tape so that it just looks like one wire. 

Plug it in and try it on!  Do some tweaking.  The nice thing about the wire earhold is that you can bend it to fit to your head and ear. 


I would recommend, if available, turning on bass booster on whatever media player you're using.  The distance now between your earbuds and ear is further, and the thing you'll lose the most is bass.  Most iPods have this function in their settings. 


Having a case for your new awesome creation is a pretty good idea.  No sense in just lettin' it flop around in your bookbag or satchel, risking it damage.  I used an old Minidisc case I just so happened to have in the drawer next to me.   Works great. 

I hope this was useful.  If you have a friend or relative with a deaf ear, and you make this for them, I promise they will be more grateful than you can possibly imagine.  It affects more people than you may realize.  Some may not even know what they are missing! 

Questions, comments and concerns are welcomed.  Negativity is not.  Good luck!

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    12 Discussions


    3 years ago

    The best solution I've found is using a software mono output (Apple, Samsung, and soon to be Android Nougat will do this).

    Second best are stereo to mono earbuds (marketed for joggers, etc).

    Third best is using an adapter that uses resistors to avoid any problems mixing stereo channels. This isn't so great because it makes things quiet.


    3 years ago

    This is awesome... I lost my left ear hearing totally from an acoustic neuroma about 14 years ago. people just don't understand how frustrating it is! earphones drive me nuts because sometimes I will just hear the baseline, or just vocals depending on the mix. Thank you for this. (but no problem sleeping with a snorer, and it is great in boring lectures when you can just put a finger in the good ear surreptitiously and no one knows that you can't hear at all!)


    3 years ago

    Nice solution :) If you have a nice pair of headphones which you don't wish to take apart though, you could use this Sound Scan 1BUD stereo-to-mono converter:

    It doesn't short the left and right channels together, so there's no risk of it damaging your hardware.


    3 years ago

    If you look at a typical headphone / earbud jack, you will see it is 3 pieces of metal separated by two plastic insulating rings. The one nearest the wire is common; the tip and the middle are left/right (not sure which way around). Use a file or a rotary tool to grind a little bit into the gap with the insulating ring between the left/right sections i.e. the tip and the middle section. Then dab a bit of solder to join them. Not too much so it does not interfere with it sliding in and out of jack sockets. The headphones / earbuds will now play mono.

    You may also refer to this step by step guide to convert audio channel from Stereo to Mono or convert Mono to Stereo at

    Another way to accomplish this (I have the same "left ear story"): purchase an 1/8 in. stereo to mono converter, with male stereo and female mono. Also purchase a,1/8 inch mono to stereo converter, with male mono and female stereo. This will create a chain that converts stereo to mono, then splits the mono into 2 channels of the same mono signal, so that you have complete mono with either side of your headphones!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I have been deaf in my right ear since birth, so I never knew what having two working ears would be like. I am a fan of music, but the main annoyance for me was always video games. When a sound goes through the right ear bud, i can't tell if the sound has stopped, or the sound is just coming through the right ear bud. (this was a HUGE problem if I needed to locate objects making sound in games) my one complaint is the not-so-appealing look of the finished project. I might put a better casing on the outside, or cover it with Sugru. Great 'ible!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Should your honestly impressive invention ever fail, you may find this company interesting they are technically for people running (safety of still being able to hear traffic etc) but great if like me, you can only hear in one ear. good luck! One ear isn't so bad, makes sleeping when it's noisy outside pretty easy and you can pout annoying people on your deaf side :)

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    yea, I always sleep so that I can't hear, it's great for late-night thunderstorms.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I had the same thing happen to me - woke up one morning (in 1969) totally deaf in my left ear. Why doesn't matter, the important thing is adjusting to all the things that change - including loss of the ability to determine direction of sound as well as stereo sound. I once had headphones with a stereo/mono switch on them but I have never seen another set like them. I will definately do this! I once tried hanging earbuds from a headband, but that didn't work too well (too much external interference). Thanks for the idea!