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How to Fix Your AirPods When One Side Is Quieter: Issues & Solutions

Woman having trouble with one AirPod
Woman having trouble with AirPod quieter than the other

Find out why one of your AirPods is quieter than the other and what you can do to fix it.

It’s unnerving when your AirPods have been functioning like a dream, until one day, one of them just suddenly sounds louder than the other.

With the audio feeling unbalanced, it can easily become a pain to listen to music or even have a proper phone call. Eventually, this gets even more frustrating when it starts to cost you, your productivity!

Agonize no more. In this handy guide, we’ll show you possible reasons why one of your AirPods might sound quieter than the other and share several solutions to help you fix it. Read on to find out how!

Why Is Your One AirPod Louder Than the Other?

A key reason why one of your AirPods is louder than the other can either be a hardware-related problem or a software issue around firmware, files, or audio settings.

The problem is, it’s best to know the root cause before attempting any solutions. That way, you’ll better understand the corresponding fixes and maybe even avoid experiencing it again.

Let’s review some of these possible causes below:

Firmware problems

Apple sometimes releases firmware updates for the AirPods to improve performance and to upgrade their features.

These updates also help patch any bugs, issues, and other incidental errors that may be preventing your AirPods from functioning properly. So if your AirPods’ firmware isn’t updated, they may still have these issues that ultimately result in unbalanced sound.

To check whether your AirPods’ firmware is updated using your iOS device, follow these steps:

  1. Open the ‘Settings’ app, tap ‘General’ then ‘About.’

    General Settings on iOS
    General Settings on iOS

  2. Then tap on your ‘Airpods’ to check the firmware version they are on.

    Checking AirPods firmware version
    Checking AirPods firmware version

It may be difficult to know if your AirPods are on the latest version as Apple does not release notes for new firmware updates. However, at the time of writing this article (June 2022), the latest AirPods firmware is 4E71.

Audio file issues

Sometimes you may overlook the possibility that it’s actually your audio file that has an uneven sound profile.

Most audio files we listen to are stereo tracks that send an audio signal to two different channels – left and right. Sound engineers and artists often use software to manipulate these audio files to create more immersive soundscapes.

Audio panning is one such technique that can alter the perceived distance between sounds in the left and right speakers of a stereo track. For example, producers can attenuate specific instruments to sound more pronounced on one speaker over the other, creating unique sonic experiences for listeners.

To check if it’s indeed your audio file that sounds unstable, you can switch your AirPods to Mono Mode.

Toggling Mono audio disables the stereo output and sends the same audio signal to both speakers. This feature helps disrupt any audio panning and easily verify if your audio file has an unequal sound on either of the speakers.

Here’s how you can switch your AirPods to mono audio:

  1. Open Settings and tap on Accessibility.

    Going to Accessibility settings on iOS
    Going to Accessibility settings on iOS

  2. Scroll down to the Hearing section and tap on Audio/Visual.

    Going to Audio/Visual accessibility setting
    Going to Audio/Visual accessibility setting

  3. Toggle Mono Audio on.

    Enabling Mono Audio for AirPods
    Enabling Mono Audio for AirPods

If you want to experience the best audio experience but are confused between stereo and mono, here’s a complete breakdown of the differences between the two.

Hardware problems

Apart from software-related problems like an imbalanced audio file or outdated firmware, it might simply be an issue with your AirPods’ internal mechanism and hardware.

For instance, dirt build-up inside your AirPods can interfere with the internal circuitry and muffle sound transmission. Also, if you don’t clean your AirPods regularly, earwax can accumulate on the speaker grill mesh and block sound from passing through.

Audio source settings issues

If it’s none of the causes mentioned above, the issue might actually lie with your audio source. Your phone or computer could be experiencing technical bugs affecting sound output.

Having improper audio enhancement settings is another possible reason. While they’re made to create a more personalized sound, having incorrect settings can also create the impression that your music is too soft or unbalanced.

To see if this is the case, try connecting other wireless headphones or another pair of AirPods to your audio source. If the lopsided sound volume persists, then it’s likely that your audio source’s settings are the cause.

One Airpod Louder Than the Other: Software & Hardware Solutions

Now that you’ve identified the possible hardware and software-related problems, let’s explore the solutions.

Reset the AirPods

A hardware reset is a standard solution that can help resolve most issues, glitches, or bugs.

Therefore, resetting your AirPods returns them to their original default configuration, which may remove sound or connectivity issues.

Follow these steps to reset your AirPods or AirPods Pro:

If you’re looking to reset AirPods Max instead, here’s a short guide on how you can do it.
  1. Place your AirPods back into the charging case and close the lid for about 30 seconds before opening the lid again.

    AirPods in charging case
    AirPods in charging case

  2. On your iOS device, navigate to Settings, then Bluetooth.

    Going to iOS Bluetooth settings
    Going to iOS Bluetooth settings

  3. Tap the ‘i’ icon next to your AirPods.

    Accessing more AirPods settings
    Accessing more AirPods settings

  4. Click on Forget This Device and once again to confirm. This disconnects your AirPods from all the devices you’ve signed in using the same Apple ID.

    Forgetting AirPods on iOS
    Forgetting AirPods on iOS

  5. Locate the setup button at the back of the charging case. Next, press and hold the setup button for 15 seconds. You should see the status light change from blinking amber to white.
    For an AirPods case that charges with wire, you will find the status light inside the case between the AirPods. For AirPods with wireless charging cases, the status light can be located on the front of the case.

    Holding AirPods' setup button
    Holding AirPods’ setup button

  6. Close the lid. Your AirPods are fully reset.
Unable to reset your AirPods using the steps above? Here’s a list of solutions you can try when your AirPods won’t reset.

Update your AirPods’ firmware

Currently, there is no known way to update your AirPods’ firmware manually or without using an iOS device.

However, your AirPods will automatically install the latest firmware update as long as they’re connected to an iPhone with a secure internet connection. To make sure this is done properly, leave the AirPods connected to your iOS device for about 30 minutes without using them.

Clean your AirPods

Cleaning your AirPods is not only hygienic, it also helps clear out dirt or foreign bodies that can clog up and affect sound output.

Before you begin, make sure you have the following cleaning supplies ready:

  • Soft, dry, lint-free cloth
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol solution
  • Toothpick
  • Old soft toothbrush
  • Cotton swabs/q-tips

Then follow these steps to clean your AirPods:

  1. Lightly apply the alcohol solution to a cotton swab/q-tip and the lint-free cloth. Use the cotton swab/q-tip to gently loosen any dirt and debris on the AirPods speaker grill and its sides.
    For AirPods Pro, remove the ear tips first and wipe them clean.

    Cleaning AirPods with Q-tip
    Cleaning AirPods with Q-tip

  2. Use a toothpick and very gently lift and remove debris from the edges of the AirPods.

    Using toothpick to clean AirPods
    Using toothpick to clean AirPods

  3. Use a toothbrush and lightly brush over the speaker mesh and the crevices of the AirPods to loosen the finer debris.

    Brushing AirPods speaker mesh with toothbrush
    Brushing AirPods speaker mesh with toothbrush

  4. Wipe away any remaining dirt or debris with the lint-free cloth.

    The different tools to clean AirPods
    The different tools to clean AirPods

It’s crucial to take care when using sharp objects like toothpicks around the delicate speaker mesh of your AirPods. They may break if excessive force is applied.

If there is stuck earwax: suck it up

Even with deep cleaning, certain foreign elements like stuck earwax build up inside your AirPods and can’t be easily removed.

To combat this issue, some AirPods users have discovered a trick that can effectively dislodge the earwax without needing to take your AirPods apart.

Their ingenious solution? Use your mouth to suck it up.

You can start by placing a clean cloth over your AirPods’ speaker mesh. Then suck through the cloth into your AirPod, periodically pausing to wipe it clean each time.

The idea is to keep sucking until you can feel the airflow through your AirPod. That’s a sign that the insides of the speaker mesh are clear of any earwax obstruction. Finally, check the volume level of both AirPods to confirm whether they sound even.

Although this is an unorthodox remedy, many users have attested to its effectiveness. So it may be worth trying out.

For AirPods Pro: use the Ear Tip Fit Test

For AirPods Pro users, you can use the Ear Tip Fit Test to achieve better sound isolation.

This minimizes sound leakage and any background noise from coming through. As a result, you can get greater audio perception, and it could even help your AirPods sound louder.

Here’s how to do the ear tip fit test:

  1. Wear your AirPods Pro.

    Wearing AirPods Pro
    Wearing AirPods Pro

  2. On your iOS device, go to Settings and then Bluetooth.

    Going to the Bluetooth settings
    Going to the Bluetooth settings

  3. Tap on the information (i) icon next to your AirPods Pro.

    Accessing AirPods settings
    Accessing AirPods settings

  4. Tap on Ear Tip Fit Test.

    Selecting Ear Tip Fit Test
    Selecting Ear Tip Fit Test

  5. Then, tap Continue.

    Pushing through with the Ear Tip Fit Test
    Pushing through with the Ear Tip Fit Test

  6. Click the play icon.

    Starting Ear Tip Fit Test
    Starting Ear Tip Fit Test

Depending on your test results, you may need to adjust your AirPods Pro or try a different ear tip size to get the best fit and acoustic seal.

The ear tip fit test is only supported on iOS devices running iOS 13.2 or later versions.

Adjust the sound balance

Sound balance allows you to control the volume of each AirPod by tweaking the settings to shift sound towards the left or right AirPod. This is an incredibly convenient feature for people who are hard of hearing in one ear.

However, if you’d accidentally changed these settings, it might result in one of your AirPods sounding softer than usual.

In just a few simple steps, you can fix this by adjusting your sound balance. Here’s how:

  1. On your iOS device, go to Settings menu, then tap on Accessibility > Audio/Visual.

    Audio/Visual Accessibility settings
    Audio/Visual Accessibility settings

  2. Adjust the slider to redistribute the sound balance between the left and right AirPod.

    Adjusting sound balance on iOS
    Adjusting sound balance on iOS

As a general rule, set the slider in the middle to equalize the volume between both the left and right AirPods. However, this will still depend on your hearing profile.

Calibrate the AirPods’ volume

Sometimes, your AirPods and device may not be in sync, preventing your AirPods from utilizing the full audio or volume control available.

An easy way to fix this is to calibrate your AirPods’ volume with your iOS device. Doing so can make them sound louder and help improve the overall audio balance.

To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Connect your AirPods to your device and start playing music.

    Playing music with AirPods
    Playing music with AirPods

  2. Press and hold the Volume Down button and turn the volume all the way down till it’s mute.

    Muting audio on iOS
    Muting audio on iOS

  3. Swipe down from the top-right corner of your iOS screen to view the Control Center. Tap the Bluetooth symbol to disable Bluetooth. This will disconnect your AirPods.

    Disabling Bluetooth
    Disabling Bluetooth

  4. Exit the Control Center by swiping up. Resume playing your music. The audio should play out from your iPhone speakers.

    Closing the Control Center
    Closing the Control Center

  5. Press and hold the Volume Down button once again to turn it down till you entirely mute the playback.

    Muting the audio playback again
    Muting the audio playback again

  6. Open the Control Center again and enable Bluetooth by tapping the icon.

    Enabling Bluetooth in iOS
    Enabling Bluetooth in iOS

  7. Hold down the Bluetooth symbol. It should bring up a list of nearby Bluetooth devices. Tap your AirPods on the device list to reconnect them.

    Reconnecting to AirPods
    Reconnecting to AirPods

  8. Your AirPods and iOS device are now calibrated, and your AirPods should now be able to access the full audio and volume range.

Restart the audio source

Whether your music is playing from a computer or a mobile device, restarting your audio source might help resolve this problem.

Take note that the steps to restart will vary depending on your device.

For instance, for iOS device owners, you can simply press and hold the power and volume down buttons together. Drag the slider to power off the device. Wait for 10 seconds, then turn it back on again.

Reset your device settings

Sometimes, if your iOS device is sluggish, unresponsive, or not functioning correctly, it may be time for a reset.

However, it’s a good practice to have a backup of your device before resetting, just in case you lose any data. Fortunately, all iOS devices already use Apple’s iCloud as the default backup.

To perform an iCloud backup:

  1. On your iOS device, go to Settings and tap on your name.

    Going to Apple Account Settings
    Going to Apple Account Settings

  2. Tap iCloud, then iCloud Backup.

    Selecting iCloud Backup
    Selecting iCloud Backup

  3. Tap Back Up Now. Make sure you’re connected and has enough charge.

    Starting Back Up
    Starting Back Up

Once you’ve performed a backup of your device, you can reset it with the following steps:

  1. Make sure your iOS device is connected to a power source. Then, open Settings.
  2. Tap on General > Reset. Then, tap on Erase All Content and Settings.

    Erasing all content and settings on iOS
    Erasing all content and settings on iOS

  3. Enter your passcode and tap Erase iPhone twice. Your iOS device should start the reset and reboot.

    Entering passcode to enable reset
    Entering passcode to enable reset

Alternatively, here’s another method to reset your iPhone to its default settings without losing any data.

How to Fix Your Airpods When One Side Is Quieter: Alternative Tips

If you still find one of your AirPods sounding low despite trying the suggested solutions above, here are some other alternatives to consider:

Check your hearing

You should first test your hearing to confirm there are no issues before troubleshooting the next possible cause.

To do this, you can either use third-party apps, get help from your friend, or get an official diagnosis from a professional.

Third-party apps such as the Mimi Hearing Test can help you quickly assess your hearing and accordingly recommend audio settings to help improve your listening experience.

Downloading Mimi Hearing Test app
Downloading Mimi Hearing Test app
The Mimi Hearing Test is only an initial step to test your hearing and is not to be taken as a substitute for a visit to a qualified healthcare professional. So, keep this in mind before you use this app.

Alternatively, you can ask a friend to test your AirPods or connect their AirPods with your device. If they don’t hear anything unusual in both instances, you likely do have a hearing problem.

If that’s the case, you may want to consult a hearing specialist such as an ENT professional, who can perform a comprehensive hearing examination to identify any underlying causes.

Depending on the test results, you could opt to correct your hearing difficulties medically with hearing aids or implants. Or, if there’s an obstruction in your ear canal, such as a build-up of earwax, you can remove it safely at home or at the clinic, in severe cases.

Concerned you could have a hearing-related issue from wearing earbuds? Check out our list of common safety concerns on headphone and earbud usage, and learn tips to care for your ears.

Contact Apple Support

When all else fails and you run out of ideas, there’s always Apple online support.

You can contact Apple Support online via their website. Follow these steps:

  1. On the support webpage, click on See all products.

    Apple Supprot's See all products option
    Apple Supprot’s “See all products” option

  2. You should see a list of Apple devices. Select AirPods then select Audio & Sound

    Accessing Audio & Sound options
    Accessing Audio & Sound options

  3. Click Continue to see the support options available. If you don’t see any support articles relating to your issue, you can initiate an online chat or call technical support.

    You can use the Chat option to put your query to an Apple Support agent.
    You can use the Chat option to put your query to an Apple Support agent.

You may have to bring your AirPods to an Apple Authorized Service Provider near you or use their mail-in service to see if you qualify for a replacement.

You can get your AirPods repaired or replaced for free if they’re still covered under Apple’s One Year Limited Warranty or AppleCare+. If not, you’ll need to pay an out-of-warranty service fee.

Worried about why your replacement AirPod or charging case won’t connect? Check out this article on how you can fix this issue!

Conclusion

Whether your AirPods are brand new or have been in usage for some time, having one AirPod sound quieter than the other can be annoying if you don’t know how to detect and rectify the issue.

Fortunately, you now have a range of solutions you can try to fix this problem of unbalanced audio. You may even be able to save your friends from unnecessary hassle, should they ever encounter the same problem.

Which of the above fixes did you find the most useful? Did you discover any other solutions we might have missed in this guide? Do share it with us in the comments below!

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