AirPods Sound Unbalanced? Quick Fixes when One AirPod is Louder

People are often surprised when one of their AirPods is louder than the other. Apple excels at making devices that just work, and AirPods definitely fall into that category. But problems can still creep in, and one side being louder than the other is a relatively common one. So, what can you do when one of your AirPods is louder than the other?

The two main reasons one of your AirPods may be louder than the other are audio balance settings and clogged AirPods. You can check your audio balance settings in the Accessibility settings on your iPhone, and thoroughly cleaning your AirPods can help remove anything that’s clogging them.

Checking and changing the audio balance is easy, but clogged AirPods can be slightly more complicated to fix. There are also other possible causes, but they are less common. So, let’s look at all the different reasons why one of your AirPods might be louder than the other.

Illustrating the issue of one AirPod being louder than the other.

See If Balance Is Affecting Your AirPods’ Loudness

This first cause isn’t necessarily the most common, but it’s by far the easiest one to check, so that’s where we will start.

Your iPhone has a setting called “Balance,” which can make one AirPod louder than the other. Balance reduces the volume on one side and amplifies it on the other, and it doesn’t work only on AirPods but on any headphones or earphones you connect to your iPhone.

The setting is helpful for people who have hearing problems in one ear. They can use the Balance setting to amplify the volume in the ear that has trouble hearing, but without blasting even louder sound into the other ear.

Because it’s intended to help people with hearing problems, you can find this setting under the Accessibility settings on your iPhone. To check and adjust the Balance setting, simply follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down and select Accessibility.
  3. Under the subheading called HEARING, select Audio/Visual.
  4. Towards the bottom of the screen, you should see a heading called BALANCE with a slider.
  5. If the slider isn’t perfectly centered, that’s probably why one of your AirPods is louder than the other. If it’s in the middle and the number indicator says 0.00, your Balance setting isn’t the cause.
  6. If it isn’t centered, simply move the slider back to the middle.
iPhone Audio Balance Setting
iPhone Audio Balance Setting

Your AirPods should have the same volume now.

Clogged AirPods

If the Balance setting didn’t fix your problem, one of your AirPods may be clogged. This happens often and isn’t really avoidable. As we wear our earphones, earwax can build up in the mesh that covers the speakers, muffling the sound. They can pick up dust, oil, lint, and liquids even when we’re not wearing them.

It seems like this should affect both AirPods equally, and it often does, but it’s possible for one AirPod to clog up faster. For example, one of your ears may be expelling more earwax than the other.

That’s why it’s a good idea to clean out your AirPods from time to time, especially if you notice that one is louder than the other. Apple gives a few pointers on how to do that:

  • Never use running water, liquids, or abrasive chemicals to clean your AirPods.
  • Clean the mesh that covers the speaker by rubbing it with a clean, dry cotton swab.
  • If the mesh is clogged by something particularly hard to clean, like if you spilled a sugary substance like soda or fruit juice on it, you could use a slightly moistened, lint-free cloth to rub it clean.
  • If you use a moist cloth, don’t put your AirPods back into the charging case or use them until they are completely dry.
  • Never use hard or sharp objects to scrape them clean.

The Problem with This Method

The unfortunate drawback of cleaning your AirPods’ mesh is that the process could push some of the dirt and gunk deeper into the mesh, causing even more of a problem.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t offer us a solution for this issue. Some users have mentioned in Apple’s support forums that they clear it out by removing the ear tips and sucking on the AirPods to clear it out, and many people claim this method works perfectly for them.

However, before you try this, remember two things:

  1. This is not an Apple-approved method. It was simply discovered by users who tried it and found it worked. There are no guarantees that it will work in your situation, and it could even damage your AirPods.
  2. There is a health risk involved. You are putting a device in your mouth that’s exposed to your inner ears and the bacteria that your ears expel through earwax. To make matters worse, you are sucking that gunk into your mouth. It is not hygienic or healthy in any way.

Device Malfunctions

The third possibility is that your AirPods are malfunctioning. It could be a software or hardware malfunction, and software is usually preferred since it’s often easier to fix.

Some users have tried to reset their AirPods but with limited success. A handful of users mention that resetting the AirPods fixed their issues, but it’s a tiny percentage. However, if you’ve checked the Balance setting and cleaned your AirPods and one is still louder than the other, it’s worth a try.

To reset your AirPods, follow these steps:

  1. Place both AirPods into their charging case, but don’t close the case’s cover.
  2. Press the control button on the back of the case and hold it for around 15 seconds. The LED should start blinking.
  3. Stop pressing the control button and wait for the LED to stop blinking. This will reset your AirPods and all their settings.
  4. You can now go through the process to pair your AirPods with your iPhone again, and hopefully, the volume problem will be resolved.

Unfortunately, hardware failure is also a possibility. Though this doesn’t often happen (at least not without some external cause such as dropping your AirPods or spilling liquid on it), a hardware failure could cause one of your AirPods to have a lower volume than the other.

If this is the case, it’s possible to get a replacement unit from Apple. If your warranty doesn’t cover it, you will have to pay for the replacement. If you’ve tried every other option but still couldn’t get your AirPods’ volume to work correctly, I’m afraid that is the only option you have left.

Conclusion

AirPods usually just work, and they don’t often cause problems. When one of your AirPods is louder than the other, it’s usually not a significant problem. Checking the Balance setting on your iPhone will often resolve it, or you may have to clean your AirPods. When all else fails, a reset could do the trick, but if none of those solutions work, it’s probably time to replace the faulty earbud.

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