TV's and headphones

Inspired by this thread: What might be wrong with my earbud and how to fix it?

I’ve always wanted to use headphones on my TV but for some reason, when I plug the headphones into the little headphone jack on the TV, I can only hear out of one ear. I set the TV to stereo sound, I mess with the volume, but still nothing.

However, I’ve found that if I half plug the headphones in, that is, stick it in just barely so that it’s not secured and would fall out, then I can get perfectly fine stereo sound on both ears. What I usually do is plug the headphone in halfway and then tape it to the TV so it doesn’t fall out, therefore I’d get stereo sound without having to worry about it falling out.

When I went shopping for a new TV a couple years ago, I took my headphones with me and tried this on other TV’s on display. With 100% unanimity, all the TV’s gave me one ear of sound when fully plugged it and stereo only if I half-plug it in. I asked the guy at Circuit City why that is but he couldn’t give me an answer either.

I’ve tried this on on at least 3 different TV’s of mine over the years and many display TV’s and 3 or 4 different headphones so I’m guess it’s an internal problem. What’s the deal? Why can’t I get headphones to have sound in both ears and why don’t they fix this problem?

Most television headphone jacks are mono. Stereo headphones have two positive connections and one ground. A mono jack has one positive connection and one ground. You can buy an adapter for mono to stereo headphones that applies current to both ear pieces but it’s not stereo sound.

Is it indeed stereo sound, or is it monaural sound going to both sides?

Not sure. I can hear out of both ears, so that’s good enough for me.

Your headphone plug has three contacts; one for left, one for right, and a common, as in this picture. I think the common is the band farthest from the tip. Your (mono) jack only has two contacts.

Two things might happen to get sound in both ears: Plug in all the way, one contact touches the common, and the other contact touches the middle band, and you hear sound in one ear. Plug it in barely, and the second contact is touching at the dark bit between the tip and middle parts of the plug, making contact with both of them, and you hear sound in both ears (but still mono). The two ears are wired in parallel.

Alternatively, when you plug it in part way, the jack contact could make contact with the tip and middle bands, and not the common at all. In this case, the two ears are wired in series. Current goes in the tip, through one speaker, out to the common, then into the other speaker, and out the middle ring.