AirPods are a fan favorite among Apple’s accessory line. Since their debut in 2016, millions of units have been snapped up.
People are smitten with their sleek design, top-notch audio experience, and user-friendliness. Plus, they integrate flawlessly into Apple’s ecosystem.
I’ve been rocking my AirPods for a good while now. And ever since they hit the market, I’ve been sorting out and fixing any AirPod-related problems that come my way. A recurring issue that I’ve encountered is that pesky left AirPod refusing to work.
If you’re experiencing this issue, don’t fret. It’s actually pretty common, and the good news is, you can typically fix it right from your own home.
In this article, I’ll delve into why your left AirPod isn’t playing ball and provide some tried-and-true solutions to get it back on track.
The Clever Fix
If your left AirPod is not working, reset the Bluetooth connection. Turn Bluetooth off on your device, wait for 30 seconds, then turn it on again. If reconnecting Bluetooth doesn’t work, you may have to reset your AirPods.
Why is my left AirPod not working?
There are usually three main reasons why your left AirPod is not working:
- Connection issues
- Battery issues
- Audio issues
1. Connection issues
Your AirPods link up with your device via Bluetooth. Most of the time, this connection is smooth sailing. But occasionally, this Bluetooth bond can wobble.
The culprits behind this instability could be multiple Wi-Fi networks or even other Bluetooth devices in the vicinity. Believe it or not, even your everyday home appliances like microwave ovens can get in on the action and mess with your connection.
2. Battery issues
Ever forget to juice up your AirPods? Keep using them until you hear their low battery warning signal (indicating they’re down to the last 10%)?
I’m with you, I’m guilty of it too.
When your AirPods hit the lower end of battery life, they may start acting up. You might get mic issues, the AirPods may become quiet, or one AirPod may stop working.
Sometimes, your AirPods’ charging ports could be clogged with grime, preventing them from charging effectively. And let’s not forget — the charging case needs charging too!
3. Audio issues
Your iPhone comes with a handy feature known as Audio/Visual Balance. This nifty function allows you to tweak the volume of either your right or left AirPod.
It’s a lifesaver if you deal with hearing difficulties or if the audio you’re blasting isn’t mixed quite right.
Now, if your left AirPod has taken a silent retreat, you may have unknowingly adjusted this feature’s settings, or perhaps you’ve forgotten you made a change.
What to do if the left AirPod is not working
If it’s a connection issue
1. Reset your Bluetooth connection
The cure for your non-responsive left AirPod might just be a simple Bluetooth reset.
To turn your Bluetooth off and on:
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Switch the Bluetooth toggle off.
- Wait for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Switch the Bluetooth toggle back on.
You can also hit reset on your Bluetooth connection from your iPhone’s Control Center. Just swipe down from the top right corner of your screen, tap on the Bluetooth icon to deactivate it, wait 30 seconds, then tap it again to re-activate.
For a solid 80-90% of folks, this simple solution does the trick. But if you’re in the unlucky 10-20%, don’t sweat it. There are a few more tried-and-true fixes you can try.
2. Reset your AirPods
If your left AirPod is still not working, your next best option is to reset your AirPods:
- Put your AirPods on the charging case and close the lid.
- Open the Settings app > Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” icon next to your AirPods’ name.
- Tap Forget This Device, then tap again to confirm.
- Open the lid of the case.
- Press and hold the setup button at the back of the case for 15 seconds.
- Wait for the light to change from amber to white.
- Place your phone beside the case.
- Tap Connect.
This action is sometimes referred to as a ‘hard reset’ and essentially wipes out any accumulated glitches or bugs hiding in your AirPods.
3. Reset your Network Settings
Typically, iPhones can juggle multiple Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth connections without breaking a sweat. But sometimes, a surfeit of these connections can stir up a little chaos.
If your networks and connections get a bit overcrowded, they could meddle with your AirPods’ Bluetooth connection, which could be why your left AirPod has gone AWOL.
(Note: Resetting Network Settings will revert your Wi-Fi networks and their passwords, as well as reset cellular settings and VPN.)
To give your Network Settings a do-over:
- Go to Settings > General.
- Scroll down to Transfer or Reset iPhone.
- Tap Reset.
- Select Reset Network Settings.
Once you’re done, link up your AirPods again and check if you’ve got sound coming from both.
4. Try moving to a different room
You might find it hard to believe, but your trusty microwave oven can potentially mess with your Bluetooth connections. Yup, they both operate on similar frequencies!
So, if you’re in a room buzzing with Wi-Fi activity or a plethora of open Bluetooth devices, you might experience some connection hiccups with your AirPods. If switching off these other connections isn’t an option, a change of scenery might help.
If both AirPods perform just fine in a different room, then we can safely say that it’s the chaotic connections from your previous location causing the trouble.
5. Restart your device
The old-school, yet still effective solution to most tech troubles? A simple restart!
It might not be your AirPods that are causing the ruckus, but rather, bugs on your phone itself.
To squash those glitches, give your iPhone a restart:
- Press and hold the volume and side buttons.
- Wait for the power-off slider to appear.
- Drag the slider and wait for around 30 seconds for it to turn off.
To turn your iPhone back on, press and hold the side button until you see that beloved Apple logo.
Restarting your device gives your connections, apps, and the operating system a nice refresh. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can force a restart.
Force restarting works like yanking out the battery from your phone. Though you can’t literally do that with an iPhone, there’s a way to mimic the process:
- Press and quickly release the volume up button.
- Press and quickly release the volume down button.
- Press and hold the side button until the Apple logo appears.
6. Switch the Automatic Ear Detection feature off
Many folks, myself included, are big fans of the Automatic Ear Detection feature.
This function uses the proximity sensors in your AirPods, those little black dots or ovals you see on each AirPod. But if those sensors get grubby, this feature might get a bit off-kilter, leading to errors.
To check if the Automatic Ear Detection is the source of your left AirPod’s strike:
- Go to Settings.
- Open Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” symbol beside your AirPods’ name.
- Scroll down to Automatic Ear Detection.
- Switch the toggle off.
7. Update the software or firmware
Old software or firmware could be the culprits behind your connection glitches.
Just as your iPhone runs on software (iOS), AirPods operate on firmware. Apple rolls out updates for these from time to time.
When was the last you checked if your iPhone’s software or AirPods’ firmware was up-to-date?
To update your iPhone’s software:
- Plug your device.
- Go to Settings > General.
- Tap Software Update.
- If there’s a new iOS version, tap Download and Install.
Sadly, there’s no direct way to update your AirPods’ firmware on your iPhone. But there’s a workaround to force an update.
First, hop online and check the latest firmware version for your AirPods. Then, verify your AirPods’ current firmware version:
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” icon near your AirPods’ name.
- Scroll down to Version.
If you’re not running the latest firmware version, you can try forcing an update with these steps (they’ve been reliable for me over the years):
- Place your AirPods in the case.
- Shut the case and wait for about 30 seconds.
- Take the AirPods out and pop them back in your ears.
- Wait for 15 seconds.
- Remove your AirPods, put them in the case, and close the lid.
- Charge your AirPods case.
- Put your iPhone beside the case for about 15-20 minutes.
- Open the lid of the case after 15-20 minutes.
- Check the firmware version on your iPhone again.
If it’s a battery issue
8. Clean your AirPods, including the case
If your left AirPod has gone silent, it might be due to a battery problem. Start by making sure they’re charging correctly.
Regular use of your AirPods calls for consistent cleaning – and that includes the charging case, too.
Unwashed ear wax and sweat are like magnets for dirt and dust. Over time this grime builds up on your AirPods and if left unchecked, can cause problems.
You’ll probably spot the buildup on the speaker meshes, proximity sensors, and microphone. If there’s gunk on the bottom of your AirPods or in the charging ports of the case, they might not charge properly.
The metal ring in the stem of your AirPods and the tiny metal plates in the charging port need to make a solid connection for successful charging.
To clean your AirPods and their case, you can use the following:
- Q-tip cotton swabs
- A toothpick
- A dry, clean toothbrush
- A lint-free cloth
Use a Q-tip or toothpick to gently scrape off any gunk from your AirPods. Then, give the bottom of your AirPods a good wipe down with a lint-free cloth or a dry toothbrush. Ensure your AirPods are completely dry before using them next.
The charging case can also be cleaned with a Q-tip or toothpick. After you’ve dislodged all the dirt, flip the charging case upside down with the lid open and let it chill for a couple of minutes before using.
Once the cleanup is complete, verify if your AirPods are charging as they should.
9. Charge your AirPods
If your left AirPod is on strike, the quickest and easiest remedy could be simply charging them up.
Apple suggests stashing your AirPods in the case and charging them for at least 30 seconds. Then, confirm on your iPhone that your AirPods are in fact charging.
To do this, place your AirPods in the charging case, put them near your iPhone and open the lid. On your iPhone’s screen, see if a lightning icon pops up next to the AirPods’ battery icon.
If your AirPods’ batteries are running on fumes, you may want to let them charge up a bit longer.
If it’s an audio issue
10. Check your Audio/Visual Balance
The Audio/Visual Balance (or Stereo Balance) is an accessibility feature Apple provides. It lets you use a slider to set the volume of your left or right AirPod.
If you’ve fiddled with these settings in the past, it might explain why you’re only getting audio out of your right AirPod.
To adjust the Audio/Visual Balance:
- Go to Settings.
- Scroll down to Accessibility.
- Tap Audio/Visual.
- Check if the Mono Audio toggle is off.
- Adjust the bottom slider under Balance and make sure that it is centered (0.00).
With your Audio/Visual Balance slider centered, test to see if your left AirPod is now operational.
If all else fails
11. Buy new AirPods
Unfortunately, if none of the above solutions do the trick, you might have to bite the bullet and buy a new pair of AirPods.
But remember, these earbuds don’t come cheap. So, before dipping into your savings, reach out to Apple Support. Inquire about your warranty coverage or AppleCare+ if you’re unsure or don’t recall if you had purchased it.
If your AirPods are still within the Limited Warranty period, and the malfunction is due to a manufacturing defect, you might even score a free replacement.
And even if you have AppleCare+, you’re covered for two instances of accidental damage. If you can demonstrate that your AirPod stopped working due to an accident, you might only have to pay $29 for repairs or a replacement.
If your left AirPod decides to stop working, don’t stress. It’s a relatively common issue, and in most cases, you can fix it fairly quickly.
If you find your left AirPod taking a nap, first give your Bluetooth connection a reset. Turn Bluetooth off, take a breather for about 30 seconds, then turn it back on.
This simple Bluetooth reset works 80-90% of the time. But if you’re still met with a silent left AirPod, you’ve got a whole list of other fixes you can try:
- Reset your AirPods
- Reset your Network Settings
- Moving to a different room
- Restart your device
- Turning Automatic Ear Detection off
- Updating your device’s software and AirPods’ firmware
- Clean your AirPods
- Charge your AirPods
- Adjust the Audio/Visual Balance
If you still can’t coax your left AirPod back to life after trying all these, it might be time to consider replacing it. Before that, though, touch base with Apple Support to check out all your options.