Why Headphones Sound Like Underwater & How to Fix Them (Solved)

Written By Soundsight

Have you ever tried listening to audio that sounds muffled and far away — like it’s underwater? Or have you attempted to listen to high-quality audio only to come out sounding tinny, distant, and with a pressured sound like that of the deep sea? You could have experienced problems caused by impaired audio drivers, typically due to low-quality material, dust or dirt build-up, or something more serious.

This blog post will delve into the phenomenon of audio that sounds underwater and how you can identify its cause. Look no further if you’ve been dealing with deep bass tones or blown-out speakers. We’ll look at several solutions to help you quickly get your underwater-sounding headphones under control—whether it’s something wrong on the software side, or a distorted output caused by faulty hardware.

Why do headphones sound like underwater

Headphones can often produce a muffled, muddy sound resembling that heard under water due to many reasons:

  • Low bitrate audio encoding.
  • Faulty cables.
  • Blown speakers.
  • Incorrect EQ settings.
  • And moisture damage

When it comes to headphone sound quality, details like these make a vast difference. Thus, it is essential to identify what precisely causes the headphones to have an underwater-like sound effect to know what necessitates rectification.

Low Bitrate Audio Encoding

An aural phenomenon—distinctly recognizable as “tubby”—may cause headphones to sound like they’re submerged in water due to low bit rate audio encoding. This is characterized by the following:

  • Horrendous fidelity and a wan clarity that blemishes the sound
  • A dull, lifeless sound, even at higher volumes
  • Harmonic distortion resulting in audible distortion

They perfectly describe what most identify as “music playing from underwater.” As such, a low bitrate audio encoding can make headphones sound like they’re underwater.

Faulty TRRS cable or damaged headphone jack

TRRS cables offer four 4-ringed connectors, transmitting audio (left and right channels), microphone, and ground signals. If faulty, however, they can lead to a peculiar phenomenon: the so-called underwater sound in headphones. This might result from either a broken contact in the jack or a fault in soldering—in response to government regulations, cost-cutting measures, or damage to the wiring, for instance.

To know whether the TRRS cable is faulty and must be replaced:

  • Check the soldering’s rigorous structural integrity
  • Ensure the cable is neither bent nor frayed – as the latter could potentially harm the buried copper strands.

It is common for copper bends near earpieces and plugs to become worn and therefore cause problems such as the aforementioned auditory distortion and aquatic aura.

Damage to the headphone jack can lead to a flat sound. This occurs from exposure—mechanical stress, when placed in the connector—or from additional conditions, such as:

  • When clipped to clothing while in use
  • Improper storage
  • A straight plug shape.

To avoid this, it is recommended to:

  • Place the plug facing up
  • Use a hard case for storage
  • Buy a headphone cable with G-shaped audio jack.

Blown Speakers

Blown speakers—often referred to as “blown” or “fried” speakers—are audio components that have suffered deterioration to their diaphragm or voice coil, resulting in:

  • Distorted sound quality
  • The so-called “underwater” or “muffled” effect

Damage to your headphones’ speakers is caused by either excessive electrical current flow or inordinate volume levels.

Unfortunately, nothing can be done to stop further destruction and restore the audio – replacement of the speakers is the only solution.

Incorrect EQ Settings

Incorrectly set equalizer (EQ) settings can cause your headphones to sound as if they are underwater—due to a buildup of bass frequencies, muffled mids, and hollow or recessed treble sounds.

To avoid headphones that sound distant or ‘underwater,’ one must carefully adjust the EQ settings. Here are a few areas to address:

  • Lower high-mids and boost low-mids
  • Avoid too much low-end bass
  • Boost treble frequencies.
  • Reduce reverb

When done correctly, these measures can help prevent flat, distant, underwater audio.

Moisture Damage

Moisture damage is a condition in which water, or other liquids, can seep into and damage sensitive elements of a pair of headphones. This pernicious problem can lead to a host of audio-related issues:

  • The debasement of sound quality, soft audio, lesser bass presence, and frequency range alterations—but most noticeably, headphones sound “underwater” when moisture damage has occurred
  • To dry wet headphones, put them in a bag of uncooked rice or silica gel for a few days
  • Oxidization of contacts can happen if headphones are open to the water, ensuing in the sound becoming “distant” or quiet over time, then ceasing to work in the end
  • Is is highly recommended not to listen to headphones in humid or rainy weather due to the risk of damage.

To combat such damage, users must: store headphones in airtight, dry container, avoid exposure to water, use protective waterproof covers when not in use, and apply desiccant agents such as silica gel which absorbs humidity from within your headphones.

How to fix headphones that sound like they’re underwater

To restore headphones experiencing a sound like they are underwater—due to water damage or wear and tear—it’s crucial to take certain steps to restore them to perfect working order, such as:

  • Set the default audio format to 24-bit
  • Check for any damaged cables
  • Check for blown-out speakers
  • Perform hardware troubleshooting
  • Assess for potential water damage

Furthermore, if water damage is identified, disassembling and thoroughly drying the device is essential for complete restoration.

Select default audio format to 24-bit

Due to low-quality playback from 16-bit audio formats, listeners have grown accustomed to a sound of degraded sound quality. The solution is to select a default audio format that is up to the task, like 24-bit.

To select the default format sound in Windows 10:

  1. Open the Start menu and type “sound settings” in the search bar.
  2. Select the “Sounds” tab from the Sound Settings Window.
  3. Under the “Output” and “Choose your output device”, click on “Device properties” then “Additional device properties”
  4. Go to the “Advanced” tab and select the 24-bit, 44100 Hz (Studio Quality) option from the dropdown menu.
  5. Restart the computer to apply the new default audio format.

Damaged headphone cable

Eliminating the underwater sound effect from headphones caused by a defective cable or headphone jack and restoring it to normal requires a wire change. Unless the issue is inside the ear cups (a bad solder joint or lead that doesn’t make good contact with the speakers), you must replace the entire cable.

Removing the earcups of your headphones is required for unsoldering or cutting the existing wires attached to the speakers in order to perform a wire change. It is vital that one take note of the pinout format as well as the wire colors of the existing connections to ensure the new wiring is accurate.

The standard wiring by color:

  • Green: Left channel
  • Red: Right channel
  • Yellow (Copper): ground

When it comes to headphone plugs, a variety of wire counts may arise:

  • Two wires—for mono headphones;
  • Three wires—for connecting either mono or stereo headphones, depending on the connection scheme;
  • Four wires—for stereo headphones;
  • Five or six wires—for headsets comprising a microphone and stereo audio.

Once you have a suitable cable for replacement with proper TRS or TRRS plugs, it is necessary to strip them at the end ever so slightly. For perfect soldering of your headphones’ plug, a few steps must be followed thoroughly—otherwise, the process can be quite challenging.

  • Use a lighter to burn off the lacquer insulation from the wires’ tips.
  • Now use suitable equipment to solder the plug steadily, and make sure that the wires do not cross each other.
  • Check whether you have soldered the plug correctly by testing the electric circuit.

Replace blown-out speakers

To replace blown-out speakers, the first step is to remove the old ones. Refer to your product’s manual or search for instructions online for the specific product you are working on.

Once removed, the next step is to search and identify a replacement speaker for your model “.
Once you have selected and purchased the proper replacement speakers, the final step is to carefully attach the new speakers. Take extra care to ensure all screws, wires, and other components are connected properly.

Hardware troubleshooting

Troubleshooting headphone audio issues on a Windows 10 computer can be daunting. However, following these key steps can help expedite the process:

  • Open the Control Panel
  • Search for “Find and fix audio playback problems” under “Troubleshooting”
  • Click on “Troubleshoot audio playback” under “Hardware and Sound”
  • Select which of the devices you want to troubleshoot.

To help troubleshoot audio issues, it is important to check for corrupt or outdated audio drivers, as this is one of the most common reasons for sounds being underwater-sounding is corrupt or outdated audio drivers.

Following these steps can help to resolve audio hardware and software-associated issues.

  1. Uninstall the sound driver from Windows’s Device Manager. Go to Device Manager > Audio Inputs and Outputs, then right-click on your audio device and select “Uninstall device”
  2. Restart the computer
  3. Download and install the latest sound driver from the manufacturer’s website—ensuring full compatibility with your unique system.
  4. Select a high bit-rate audio setting. Go to Control Panel > Sound, select the “Playback” tab. From there, right-click on your sound device and select “Properties”. Select the advanced tab and select the default format from the drop-down menu for any setting with 24-bit audio.
  5. Go to “Spatial Sound” tab and select the “Off” option.
  6. Adjust bass and treble controls (if available) in your sound software and disable any bass boost function.

By taking these proactive measures, you can enjoy a smooth sound experience.

Fix underwater sound caused by water damage

Water-damaged headphones can be difficult to repair because of the various symptoms they present—from distorted or muffled sound, sudden changes in volume, intermittent audio, to no sound at all. To fix headphones damaged by water, follow these steps:

  • Dilute any contaminated water (e.g., salty water or water with chemicals) with distilled water to make the drying process more effective.
  • Place the headphones in an air-tight container with drying agents such as silica gel or uncooked rice.
  • Treat any corrosion on the contacts with an anti-corrosive solution or vinegar, water and baking soda.

Water-damaged headphones should only be plugged in once they are dried, and any corrosion on the contacts has been treated with an anti-corrosive solution.

As a final reminder, when it comes to headphone maintenance, always remember to keep them in clean, dry places—away from humid environments, liquids, and extreme cold or heat.


Why do the headphone’s audio sound muffled

When it comes to headphones and wondering why they sometimes sound like they’re underwater, the answer could lie in several factors:

  • Dust and debris accumulating in the audio drivers.
  • Faulty or damaged wires.
  • Earwax buildup.
  • Misconfigured EQ settings.
  • Overexposure to high voltage.
  • Spatial Audio being enabled on Windows 10/11.
  • Finally, dampened audio can also result from a disruption in the air pressure from the poor fitting of the earpiece.

All of these issues can lead to a distorted, muffled sound—as if the sound is emanating from the depths of the sea. The solutions to these issues can be found in this article.

How to fix underwater sound when I talk on the microphone?

Underwater sound can be extremely irritating when trying to communicate—especially if it occurs only when using the microphone (of your headphones or separately).

Here’s the steps one can take to fix it:

  • Adjust the microphone input volume—This ensures that the microphone is not capturing excessively much sound from its surroundings.
  • Enter Control Panel, choose Sound, and then click on the “Recording” tab.
  • Right-click on your microphone, click “Properties”, and go to the “Enhancements” tab. There, enable “Noise Suppression” and “Acoustic Echo Cancellation”.
  • Move the microphone away from the source of the sound – If the background sound is being generated by something close to the microphone, try moving it farther away. This will reduce the amount of noise that is picked up by the microphone.

In addition, one can deactivate the Playback Device, which initiates these audio problems. To do this, right-click on the sound icon in the system tray, select Sound Settings, then select “Manage sound devices”, and disable whichever device by clicking on the Disable option.


The underwater-like sound often emitted by headphones can be attributed to multiple factors ranging from low-bitrate audio encoding to faulty cables to moisture damage.

It is necessary first to identify and understand what causes the problem to remedy this issue. After, one can implement solutions like selecting a higher audio bit-rate format, replacing faulty cable/blown-out speaker, or basic hardware troubleshooting.

In conclusion, if your headphone sound resembles an underwater effect, take the time to identify and rectify the underlying cause for a vastly improved listening experience.