Using AirPods to listen to music can be a game-changer.
All of a sudden, you’re able to pick up on the most delicate sound details. The balance between melody and bass is perfection, and the vocals sound incredibly sharp.
So, when one AirPod starts playing at a lower volume, it’s instantly noticeable and quite frustrating.
But don’t stress out. As a long-time AirPods user and troubleshooter, I can tell you this is a common problem. Plus, there’s a good chance you can fix it yourself, right at home.
In this guide, I’ll break down why your AirPods might have uneven volume and suggest some top solutions you can try right away.
The Clever Fix
If one AirPod is louder than the other, clean it. Use a microfiber cloth or cotton swabs to remove gunk from your AirPods’ speaker meshes. If the issue still persists after cleaning, you may have to reset your AirPods.
Why is one AirPod louder than the other?
Often, the culprit behind one AirPod blaring louder than the other is simple: dirt and grime accumulated in the speaker mesh.
Because of their design, AirPods tend to gather earwax and sweat salt. Over time, they attract dust and dirt.
So, if one AirPod’s speaker mesh is clogged with gunk, its sound will naturally be softer.
However, there could be other factors causing the volume discrepancy. For example, it could be due to:
- The Audio/Visual Balance feature
- Low battery level
- Bugs in your AirPods
- Glitches in your iPhone
- The Automatic Ear Detection feature
- Outdated firmware and software
- Other issues
Narrowing down the one AirPod louder problem
Uncovering the true source of the problem will make sorting out your AirPods a breeze.
It’s crucial to figure out if the problem is with your AirPods themselves, the device they’re connected to, the app you’re streaming from, or hey, it could even be your hearing!
Before you jump into trying to fix anything, take these initial steps:
1. Try connecting your AirPods to other devices
Begin by testing your AirPods on various devices.
If they sound perfectly fine on others, your original device is likely the problem. Conversely, if one AirPod still plays louder across multiple devices, the issue probably lies with your AirPods.
And it’s not just about testing different phones; if possible, give your AirPods a go on a laptop or a tablet as well.
2. Use other streaming apps
While streaming apps generally work without a hitch, they can occasionally glitch and produce errors.
When this happens, it might seem like your AirPods are at fault, but the app might be the actual issue.
For instance, if you’re using Spotify, try switching to Apple Music or YouTube.
If your AirPods perform well with these other apps, you might only need to adjust the equalizer or volume settings on your original app.
3. Check your hearing
When was the last time you had your hearing tested?
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the maximum safe noise exposure level is 85 decibels for up to 8 hours. If you frequently listen to loud music for extended periods, you might be at risk of damaging your hearing.
Consider testing your hearing if one of your AirPods seems louder than the other. Try using different earphones first or use a third-party hearing test app.
If you notice that one ear seems to hear sounds louder, you might have a hearing issue. In this scenario, it’s crucial to seek professional medical attention right away.
How to fix one AirPod louder than the other
If it’s an AirPods issue
1. Clean your AirPods
Did you know your ear wax plays a protective role for your ears? Ear wax acts as a natural barrier, keeping dust, dirt, and bacteria from entering your ears. It also helps prevent your ears from getting overly dry.
However, while ear wax is beneficial for your ears, it can cause problems for your AirPods.
Over time, your AirPods pick up ear wax and sweat from regular use. These can get lodged in the speaker meshes, proximity sensors, and microphones.
This wax still does its filtering job – trapping dust and dirt. But if this buildup of dust and dirt isn’t cleaned regularly, it might result in your AirPods playing at a lower volume.
To address the issue of one AirPod sounding louder than the other, start by giving your AirPods a good clean. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Q-tips or any cotton swab
- A toothpick
- A lint-free or microfiber cloth
Using the Q-tips, gently clean any gunk from your AirPods. Focus on the speaker meshes, proximity sensors, and microphone.
Next, use the lint-free cloth to give them a thorough wipe. You can even gently blow on them to dislodge any stubborn bits of dirt.
Under normal circumstances, I’d suggest using alcohol for cleaning the exterior of your AirPods.
However, since we’re focusing on the speaker meshes here, it’s best to steer clear of any liquid. Any fluid that gets inside your AirPods could damage their sensitive internal components.
2. Charge your AirPods
If you’ve been using your AirPods for a while, you’ve probably noticed they can behave oddly when their battery is running low.
Issues can range from mic glitches and connection problems to diminished sound volume or quality.
Furthermore, if you’re always letting your AirPods’ battery level drop dangerously low, you might invite bigger problems down the line.
Such usage patterns can cause their small lithium-ion batteries to wear out faster. And that means shorter lifespan for your AirPods.
So, if one AirPod is playing louder than the other, put them on charge.
Ideally, you’d want to keep your AirPods’ battery level between 40% and 80%. But given the current audio issues, try charging them almost full before checking the sound again.
3. Unpair and re-pair your AirPods
If cleaning and charging don’t do the trick, your AirPods might be dealing with connection problems. The simplest way to fix this is to un-pair and then re-pair your AirPods.
To unpair your AirPods:
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Find your AirPods’ name in the list.
- Tap the “i” button beside it.
- Tap Forget This Device.
Restart your device first before re-pairing your AirPods.
- Put your AirPods inside their case.
- Open the lid of the case.
- Place the case beside your device.
- Tap Connect on your device’s screen and follow the instructions.
4. Reset your AirPods
If one AirPod is still louder than the other, it may be time to hit the reset button.
Doing a hard reset will revert your AirPods back to their factory settings. Here’s how to get this done:
- Place your AirPods in the charging case.
- Close the lid of the case and wait for 30 seconds.
- Open the lid of the case.
- On your device, go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” icon near your AirPods’ name.
- Tap Forget This Device and confirm.
- Keep the lid of the case open.
- Press and hold the setup button at the back of the case for 15 seconds.
- Wait for the light to flash amber and then white.
After you’ve reset, you can reconnect your AirPods to your device.
Keeping the case lid open, place your charging case close to your device. Then tap Connect on your device’s screen and follow the subsequent steps.
5. Update your AirPods’ firmware
Think of firmware as the software for your AirPods. Apple periodically releases firmware updates for AirPods to enhance performance and fix bugs.
Generally, these updates occur automatically. However, sometimes they may not, and if your AirPods are running outdated firmware, some unresolved bugs could be causing the volume discrepancy.
Fortunately, you can trigger an update manually. But first, check Apple’s page to find out the latest firmware version, then compare it with the version your AirPods are running.
- Connect your AirPods to your phone.
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” icon next to your AirPods’ name.
- Scroll down to Version.
If your AirPods aren’t up-to-date, you can force an update by following these trusted steps (this has proven to work for me for years):
- Put your AirPods inside the case.
- Close the lid for 30 seconds.
- Take your AirPods out and put them in your ears for 15 seconds.
- Remove your AirPods, place them back in the case, and close the lid.
- Charge your AirPods case using a cable or a MagSafe charger.
- Keep your device near the case for 10 minutes.
- Open the lid of your AirPods case after 10 minutes.
- Check again if you now have the latest firmware version.
If it’s a device issue
6. Adjust the Audio/Visual Balance
Audio/Visual Balance is a handy Accessibility feature on iPhones, allowing you to adjust the volume balance between your left and right AirPods.
While this feature is primarily designed for folks with hearing impairments, it can also be useful when you’re dealing with poorly mixed audio.
If you’ve tinkered with this feature before and forgotten about your adjustments, or perhaps adjusted the balance unintentionally, it might be the reason one AirPod is playing louder than the other.
Here’s how to adjust your phone’s Audio/Visual Balance:
- Go to Settings > Accessibility.
- Scroll down to Audio/Visual.
- Make sure Mono Audio’s toggle is off.
- Under Balance, ensure that the slider is in the middle (0.00).
7. Turn off Automatic Ear Detection
Automatic Ear Detection is a nifty feature unique to AirPods, allowing them to detect whether or not they’re in your ears.
When you’re wearing your AirPods, they automatically start playing audio. If you take one AirPod out, the audio pauses, and if you remove both, it stops altogether.
However, this feature can sometimes cause issues. It may fail to detect that you’re wearing your AirPods, leading to a connection that’s not quite right.
If this could be the reason one AirPod is louder than the other, try turning the feature off.
- Go to Settings.
- Tap Bluetooth.
- Find your AirPods in the list and tap the “i” button.
- Turn Automatic Ear Detection off.
8. Reset your Bluetooth connection
It’s also worth considering that your AirPods might be experiencing some Bluetooth connectivity issues. In that case, a simple Bluetooth reset could be all you need.
To reset your Bluetooth connection:
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Switch the toggle off.
- Wait for around 30 seconds to a minute.
- Switch the toggle on.
You can also perform this reset from your iPhone’s Control Center. Simply swipe down from the top right corner of your iPhone and tap the Bluetooth icon to switch it off.
9. Restart your iPhone
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book! When facing any tech trouble, a simple restart can often solve the problem. And it works most of the time, right?
The process refreshes your apps, connections, and operating system, often ironing out any kinks.
To restart your iPhone:
- Press and hold both the side button and one volume button.
- Wait for the power-off slider to appear.
- Drag the slider to turn it off (it usually takes about 30 seconds).
- Power it back on by holding the side button until the Apple logo appears.
If a regular restart doesn’t solve the issue, you might want to try a force restart.
This method can often resolve issues with unresponsive iPhones, and it essentially simulates a battery pull.
To force restart your iPhone:
- Press and release the volume up button.
- Press and release the volume down button.
- Press and hold the side button.
- Wait for an Apple logo to appear.
- Release the side button.
10. Update your iPhone’s software
Just like outdated firmware, outdated software on your iPhone can cause trouble.
If your iPhone isn’t running the latest iOS version, you might still be dealing with persistent bugs that can disrupt Bluetooth functionality, potentially causing one AirPod to play louder than the other.
Try to keep your iPhone updated with the latest iOS version whenever possible. Doing so can help eliminate bugs, offer new features, and improve your phone’s overall performance.
To ensure you’re running the latest version of iOS:
- Go to Settings > General.
- Select Software Update.
- Check if there’s a new version.
- If there is one, tap Download and Install.
Bear in mind that new iOS versions can sometimes introduce fresh bugs and glitches. So, updating immediately upon release might not always be the best course of action.
Personally, I prefer to wait a few days before installing any new updates. This allows time to see if any significant bugs or glitches get reported. If everything seems clear, only then do I proceed with updating to the newest version of iOS.
If it’s a connection issue
11. Turn off other devices
You might encounter interference if there are other Bluetooth devices active near you, which could lead to one AirPod sounding louder than the other.
To rule this out, switch off your other Bluetooth devices. These could be external speakers, keyboards, or additional earphones.
You can test if these are causing the problem by either completely switching them off or just disabling their Bluetooth connection. You could also remove these devices from your phone’s Bluetooth list.
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth.
- Tap the “i” button beside the name of the other devices.
- Tap Forget This Device.
If none of the other fixes work
12. Contact Apple Support
If none of the remedial steps I’ve outlined here have worked, it’s time to contact Apple Support.
The issue of one AirPod playing louder than the other could be due to battery degradation. While it’s not a common problem, the battery in one of your AirPods may have worn out more quickly than the other.
Alternatively, there could be other hardware issues at play.
Unfortunately, AirPods are nearly impossible to repair, so if it’s a battery or hardware issue, getting a new pair might be your only solution.
However, before you rush out to buy replacements, check with Apple Support about your warranty status.
If your AirPods still carry a manufacturer’s defect warranty, you could potentially get a replacement pair free of charge. Or, if you have AppleCare+, your repair or replacement might only cost you $29.
Don’t panic if one AirPod is playing louder than the other—it’s a relatively common issue, and in most cases, you can fix it yourself.
Usually, the cause of one AirPod sounding louder is a buildup of earwax and dirt in the speaker mesh.
However, there could be other factors involved, such as the Audio/Visual Balance feature, low battery level, Automatic Ear Detection feature, device glitches, bugs in your AirPods, interference from other Bluetooth devices, and more.
Cleaning your AirPods will likely resolve your problem. If not, you have several other tried-and-true fixes to try:
- Charge your AirPods
- Re-pair your AirPods
- Reset your AirPods
- Update your AirPods’ firmware
- Adjust the Audio/Visual Balance
- Turn off Automatic Ear Detection
- Reconnect the Bluetooth connection
- Restart your device
- Update your device’s software
- Turn off other connected devices
If none of these fixes solve the problem, it’s time to get in touch with Apple Support. You may end up needing to buy a replacement pair of AirPods, but it’s worth contacting Apple first to explore all your options.