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AirPods microphone not working? Here's how to fix it

AirPods can be affected by software issues as much as physical damage.
By
February 27, 2024

We’re not going to mince words — if you’re reading this, there’s a reasonable chance that one or more of the microphones on your AirPods are broken. But before you jump to that conclusion, there are a number of troubleshooting steps you can try that might be simpler fixes than spending money at an Apple Store.

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Assuming your AirPods are charged and connected, you can try tactics like rebooting your devices, flipping Bluetooth and/or Automatic Ear Detection off and on, and making sure all available software and firmware updates are installed. You should also clean your AirPods and check their microphone settings. If you're still unsuccessful, you can try resetting your AirPods, but after that you'll need to talk to Apple support.

How to fix AirPods microphone that’s not working

With the exception of the final two options, which are a little more drastic, the steps below can be tried in any order you feel like. Also, while some of them might seem obvious, it’s useful to simple fixes out before resorting to Apple support or buying an entirely new set of headphones.

Charge your AirPods

AirPods Pro battery levels
SoundGuys

Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us — thinking our headphones are good to go, but suddenly realizing that we skipped charging for one too many workdays or workouts. Remember, lithium batteries continue to drain even when they’re not being used, if usually very slowly.

You can check AirPods’ battery life by bringing them close to an Apple mobile device and opening the case. If they’re already on your ears, check your device’s Batteries widget. Of course if your headphones are fully depleted, you won’t see any on-device info.

Put your AirPods back in their case

This is unlikely to do much, but putting your AirPods back in their case for 30 seconds or so could force a state change that “wakes up” their microphones.

Toggle Bluetooth off and on again

The audio pathways in iOS and iPadOS can be…eccentric. That means that if you force a Bluetooth audio device to reconnect, it might resume working properly. Go to Settings > Bluetooth and flip the toggle off and on. You can also try the same on a Mac by going to Apple menu > System Settings > Bluetooth.

Toggle Automatic Ear Detection off and on again

In general, ear detection is a great feature of AirPods and many other modern headphones, saving the trouble of pausing and restarting playback when you need to talk to someone. But it could be that your AirPods aren’t kicking back into gear when they’re supposed to, in which case you might try going to Settings > [your AirPods’ name here] and toggling Automatic Ear Detection off and on again. Your AirPods need to be on and connected for these menu items to appear.

Check microphone settings

A relatively unknown feature of AirPods is that with earbud models (not the Max, in other words), you can force them to prefer the left or right bud for mic input. The default is automatic switching.

To make sure you’ve got the configuration you need, go to Settings > [your AirPods’ name here] > Microphone and choose between Automatically Switch AirPods, Always Left AirPod, or Always Right AirPod.

Update software and firmware

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case is open and contains the earbuds next to an iPhone 12 mini, which prompts the user to update to iOS 16.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

It could be that a firmware glitch is causing havoc. Probably not, but there are ways to check your firmware version and force an AirPods update if one is available. To do the latter, insert your AirPods into their case, then close the lid and wait a few seconds. Open the lid, let the AirPods connect to an iOS device or Mac, then leave them alone for a while.

It’s also worth updating iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and/or macOS. In spite of Apple’s old “it just works” mantra, the company is regularly squashing bugs and tweaking compatibility. To be fair, some bugs are going to be impossible to predict in an increasingly complex tech landscape.

Clean your AirPods

If your AirPods are truly filthy, it’s possible that one or more mic inputs are blocked. Note that there’s a specific way of safely cleaning AirPods, and it’s important to follow this to avoid damaging the microphones or creating blockage where there wasn’t any before. Avoid soap, but do use things like lint-free cloths, paper towels, adhesive putty, soft-bristled toothbrushes, and/or cotton swabs dipped in 70-90% pure isopropyl alcohol.

Restart connected devices

Sometimes, restarting an iPhone, iPad, or Mac may reset things behind the scenes in a way that resolves audio problems. Ever notice that your iPhone runs slightly smoother after a reboot? Similar concept.

Reset your AirPods

This is the first of our “drastic” options, but resetting AirPods really doesn’t hurt much. It’s extremely easy to re-pair, and all you need to do after that is make sure settings like volume and noise cancellation are back the way you prefer. Once your AirPods are associated with your Apple ID, you’ll also be able to switch audio between Apple devices with zero effort.

Contact Apple support

If you’ve tried all of the previous steps without any success, that suggests a hardware or software issue that only Apple or an authorized repair outlet can resolve. Visit Apple’s support website, or book an appointment at an Apple Store or third-party service shop.

If you’re not covered under AppleCare, be prepared to pay for repairs, assuming they’re possible. AirPods aren’t really engineered to be fixed, so it’s more likely you’ll be given a replacement or (if you’re out of warranty) have to pay for a replacement yourself. Short of the very costly AirPods Max, it may make more sense to upgrade to the latest AirPods, or find another highly-rated earbud brand.