Ever since their debut in 2016, AirPods have skyrocketed in popularity, becoming one of Apple’s must-have Bluetooth accessories. Their superior sound quality, ease of use, and seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem make them a top-notch choice that’s hard to beat.
I’m a big AirPods fan myself, owning the 1st and 2nd generation AirPods, the AirPods Pro, and the latest redesigned 3rd generation AirPods. Wherever I go, my AirPods are always with me.
But even with all their awesomeness, you’ve noticed that they’ve become quieter over time, not delivering the robust volume they used to. I understand how frustrating this can be. But fear not, you’re not alone.
This is a common issue among AirPod users. In this guide, I’ll walk you through potential reasons for this problem and the best solutions I’ve found to resolve it.
The Clever Fix
To boost the sound coming from your AirPods, make it a habit to clean them often, ensuring that earwax, dirt, and moisture don’t accumulate on the speaker meshes.
Why are my AirPods so quiet?
Typically, AirPods start to sound quieter as sweat, earwax, and dirt begin to build up on the speaker grills of the headphones. However, some other factors might be at play as well, such as equalizer settings, the volume limit feature, and connectivity issues.
How To Make AirPods Louder: 12 Potential Causes of Low Volume and Easy Fixes to Try
1. Build up of Ear Wax, Dirt, and Moisture
Believe it or not, earwax plays an essential role in keeping our ears healthy.
As yucky as it might sound, our body produces this substance as a natural lubricant and a protective barrier against dirt, bacteria, and more.
Over time, this wax can accumulate on your AirPods speaker grills. If you often use your AirPods during workouts or in hot weather, sweat and salt can exacerbate the problem by contributing to this buildup.
To make things worse, after using the earbuds, any residual moisture can attract more dirt, making them a literal dust magnet, gathering lint and more.
If you’ve ever kept your AirPods in your pockets or bag instead of their case between uses (I’m guilty of this myself!), this can lead to them picking up quite a bit of grime, as shown in the picture below.
Ew! When these things accumulate, your AirPods’ volume can dip noticeably.
Even a thin layer of muck can bring about a significant change in sound quality. This is the primary reason why your earbuds just aren’t as loud as they once were.
This is common across all AirPod generations, although it’s seemingly worse with the AirPods Pro, given their silicone-tip design that snugs up close to your ear canal.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed that the 3rd Gen AirPods seem to be least affected, perhaps due to their new design and larger speaker grills.
How To Fix It
Make it a habit to inspect the speaker grills of your AirPods. Clean them up once you start to see the gunk building up. If it’s been a while (or never) since you’ve given them a clean, doing so can make a big difference right away.
The process of cleaning your AirPods is fairly straightforward, but you want to be careful so as not to damage them. Also, clean your ears frequently to minimize future buildup.
Here’s what you’ll need to clean them. You might also want to refer to Apple’s official cleaning advice.
- Isopropyl Alcohol 70%
- Q-tip and a wooden toothpick or similar
- A clean, soft-bristled dry toothbrush or similar
Use the toothpick to lightly remove any buildup on the edges of the speaker meshes. Be careful not to push it into the meshes as this could damage them.
Soak a Q-tip in Isopropyl alcohol and lightly rub it over the microphone and speaker meshes. This will help to loosen up the wax and sweat. Use the toothbrush to gently brush the speaker meshes, but be careful not to apply too much pressure.
Here’s a video I found helpful if you need a visual guide:
2. iOS Volume Limit / Reduce Loud Sounds Feature
iOS 15 introduced a built-in headphone safety volume limit that adjusts loud sounds to prevent any potential damage to your hearing.
Most of the time, this feature works great, but occasionally it may cause issues.
If the audio you’re listening to is poorly mixed, or if your AirPods are quieter due to battery aging or other factors (we’ll discuss this later), this feature may unintentionally lower your maximum volume level.
How To Fix It
- Open Settings
- Tap on Sounds & Haptics
- Go into Headphone Safety
- You have the option to either disable the feature or raise the decibel threshold at which it activates
It’s best for your long-term hearing if you keep this feature on and set a lower decibel threshold.
But if you’re confident you aren’t playing media too loud, you can turn this off. Just be sure to monitor your volume levels.
And if you often find yourself in loud environments, requiring you to increase the volume, consider investing in AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, both of which have noise cancellation.
3. Low Power Mode
Your iPhone comes with a low-power mode that’s perfect for maximizing battery life when you’re running low.
You can manually switch to low-power mode from the control center, or it automatically turns on as your battery depletes.
When activated, it can affect some non-critical features of your device, which could result in your audio playing at a lower volume than usual.
How To Fix It
You’ll know that Low Power mode is on when your battery icon turns yellow.
Try switching it off to see if the volume improves in the standard power mode.
To turn it off, open the Control Center, and tap the battery icon. If you don’t see the low-power mode toggle, you can add it by going to: Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls, then select Low Power Mode to add it to Control Center.
Alternatively, go to Settings > Battery and toggle it off from there.
4. Low Battery
If your battery level gets critically low (between 5-20%, depending on the health of your battery), the voltage within the small built-in lithium-ion batteries can drop, leading to unexpected behavior.
A low volume, problems with connection, audio cutting out on one or both sides, and out-of-sync audio can all result from critically low battery levels.
How To Fix
Take a break and charge up your AirPods! The good news is they can recharge very rapidly. For instance, 3rd Generation AirPods can provide an additional hour of playback/talk time with just 5 minutes of charging.
5. Cold Weather
AirPods use small Lithium-Ion batteries, ranging from 93 mWh for the AirPods 2 to 160 mWh for the AirPods Pro. While these are efficient, they are incredibly tiny.
For comparison, an iPhone 13 Pro Max’s battery has a capacity of 16.750 mWh. This means a single AirPod’s battery is only about 0.5% of an iPhone’s.
Living in the northern hemisphere, I’ve observed how cold weather can dramatically shorten your battery’s life.
Cold temperatures affect the chemistry of your AirPods’ lithium-ion batteries, making them less efficient.
The smaller the battery, the more noticeable this effect is. Both the operating voltage and capacity decrease, which can lead to reduced volume and battery life.
This is also why electric cars have shorter ranges during the winter months.
How To Fix
If your AirPods get quieter because of cold weather, the good thing is that this is temporary.
Your AirPods will return to normal volume and capacity as soon as you get back indoors or the weather warms up.
If you frequently use your AirPods in cold weather, consider wearing a hat, headband, or hoodie to keep your ears warm. This should also improve the performance of your AirPods. It’s a win-win!
6. Volume Balance Adjustment – Check if Your AirPods are Set At The Same Level
iPhones have a built-in accessibility feature that allows you to adjust mono audio and the volume balance between each AirPod.
This can come in handy if the audio you’re listening to is poorly mixed, with different audio channels at different volumes, or if your hearing varies between ears.
Sometimes, it may seem like your AirPods aren’t as loud if the individual volume levels have been set differently.
If you’re unaware of this feature, you may assume there’s something wrong with your AirPods.
Even if you don’t recall activating this option, it’s worth checking. You might have turned it on by accident or simply forgotten about it.
How To Fix
- Open your iPhone Settings app
- Tap on Accessibility > Audio/Visual
- Find the Left-Right Balance slider, and drag this to the middle so that the volume is equal on both sides
7. Connection or Bluetooth Issues
Sometimes, issues with your Bluetooth or connection can cause glitches that lead your AirPods to malfunction.
Problems with Bluetooth connection could result from:
- Wireless interference caused by other Bluetooth devices
- Outdated software
- Bugs with iOS or AirPods firmware
These issues could cause your audio to cut out or make your AirPods sound quieter than they should.
How To Fix
- Take both AirPods and place them back in the case, close it, and wait a few seconds. This will effectively reboot them, clearing up any potential issues specific to the AirPods.
- If there are any nearby Bluetooth transmitters or other wireless devices, try temporarily turning them off to see if this makes a difference.
- Re-pair your AirPods with the following steps:
- Open Settings
- Tap on Bluetooth settings
- Thap the small round “i” icon beside your AirPods’ name
- Tap Forget this Device
- Go back, turn off bluetooth and wait a few seconds before turning it back on
- Open your AirPods case and wait for them to appear in the Available Devices section or for the connection prompt. Tap on them to connect.
This should reset your AirPods and address any potential connection problems. Conduct a sound check to see if this made a difference.
If you’re still having issues, you might want to repeat these steps, but this time, turn your iPhone off and back on before re-pairing your AirPods.
8. Equalizer Settings
Many music and audio apps offer built-in equalizers (EQ) to help you adjust the audio to your liking or optimize for certain types of music features.
This can include things like:
- Bass or treble boosting or reduction
- Increasing/decreasing overall volume
- Optimizing for vocals or specific instruments
- Reduce loud sounds
Many EQ settings can make the sound played through your AirPods seem quieter or muffled. Even ones with “Booster” in their name.
How To Fix
Different music and audio apps can have individual EQ settings in various places.
If you’re using the Apple Music app, go to Settings > Music > EQ and turn it off.
If you’re using Spotify:
- Go to Home > Tap the Gear Icon in the upper right > Playback
- Consider trying the “Loud” volume level option as it could increase the overall volume
- Tap on Equalizer, and turn off any equalizer settings
Other music, podcast, or video apps may have their own EQ settings. Check the settings for each and look for EQ and loudness settings.
9. Volume Out of Sync
In rare cases, the volume on your devices and AirPods might get out of sync. Your device and AirPods could have different perceptions of the volume level they’re set at.
I’ve experienced this several times when playing music through my cellular Apple Watch and adjusting the volume using “Hey Siri”. The digital crown’s volume wouldn’t sync up with the volume I had set through Siri.
How To Fix
- When playing music through your AirPods, turn the volume all the way down
- Go to the Bluetooth settings page on your iPhone and disable Bluetooth
- Play music through your iPhone speaker, and once again, turn it all the way down
- Place the AirPods in their charging case, close it after a few seconds, and this should reboot them
- Turn Bluetooth back on and reconnect the AirPods
10. Your Devices’ Software Needs to Be Updated
Your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch might be running on outdated software.
This could be causing issues with your AirPods, causing them to behave erratically. This is especially likely if you often switch between a new device and an older one.
Outdated software could be responsible for reduced volume, connection issues, or intermittent playback.
How To Fix
To update to the latest iOS version on an iPhone:
- Open Settings
- Tap on General, then Software Update
- Install any available software update
There are times when Apple releases new firmware updates for AirPods. These are usually installed automatically but ensuring you’re on the latest version can be done as follows:
- Place your AirPods in their case, leaving it open
- Connect your AirPods to a lightning charging cable
- Make sure the iPhone or iPad they’re paired with is nearby and connected to the internet. This should update them automatically.
- You can check your AirPods’ firmware version by going to: Settings > General > About > AirPods, and checking the number next to Firmware Version. You can search “latest AirPods firmware” online to verify if you’re on the newest version.
11. Battery Aging
The lithium-ion batteries that power your AirPods, like all rechargeable batteries, have a finite lifespan.
Over time and with repeated charge cycles, they’ll lose capacity. They can also operate at a lower voltage than usual, which could result in quieter sound or connection problems.
Eventually, with enough use, they’ll barely hold any charge and will ultimately fail.
According to a paper by Tektronix, a typical lithium-ion battery can last between 300 to 500 complete charge cycles.
This aligns with my own experiences and user reports, suggesting that AirPods can last anywhere from 1-2 years before their battery capacity significantly decreases. My 1st generation AirPods, kept for sentimental reasons, can now barely play for 20 minutes at low volume before they switch off.
How To Fix
If your battery no longer lasts as long as it did when you first got your AirPods, this is likely causing the diminished volume.
Unfortunately, the AirPods’ batteries are permanently fixed in place and can’t be replaced. So, if this is causing your volume issues, your only solution is to get a new pair.
12. Hardware Issues
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but if your AirPods have any hardware issues, they usually can’t be fixed as there are no parts that can be replaced by the user.
iFixit, a device repair and teardown company, gave them a reparability score of 0/10, since there are no user-replaceable parts.
If your AirPods have been exposed to heat or water damage or physical stress, they might sound quieter than before.
This issue might sound familiar if your dog has chewed them, or they’ve been through the wash, or took a dip in the pool.
How To Fix
As you might have guessed, unfortunately, the only solution here is to get a new pair. If you have Apple Care or insurance, though, you might be lucky. Many such programs offer a free replacement for accidental damage. It’s certainly worth checking before you shell out your hard-earned money for a new pair.
In conclusion, if you’ve been wondering why your AirPods are so quiet and how you can make them louder, you’re not alone.
The primary reason is the buildup of earwax on the speaker meshes. However, other factors, including EQ and device settings, outdated software, bugs, weather conditions, battery aging, and more, can also contribute.
Keeping your AirPods clean and trying the troubleshooting steps outlined above can often help.
Ultimately, if none of the tips above worked for you, you might need to purchase a new pair of AirPods. Before you do, though, check if they may still be under warranty or covered by insurance.
Contact Apple’s customer support or the retailer you purchased them from if you’re unsure.
Have your AirPods become less loud? Were you able to crank up the volume again? Drop a comment below and let me know what worked for you!