Why Do My AirPods Sound Muffled?

AirPods have risen to the top of the go-to earbuds list for music lovers thanks to their beautiful design and unique and original features. If you’ve ever owned a pair of earbuds, you’ll know they can sometimes sound muffled, especially if you’ve owned them for a few years. Unfortunately, AirPods are the same.

Why do my AirPods sound muffled? Your AirPods likely sound muffled due to a build-up of dirt and earwax inside the earbud that connects to your ear. If you don’t clean your earbuds regularly, earwax and grease will attach to your earbud and get inside of them each time you put them in your ears. Your AirPods can also sound muffled due to a weak or compromised Bluetooth connection. 

Now you know why your AirPods sound muffled, read on as we explain how to stop your AirPods sounding muffled.

How To Clean Your AirPods

As mentioned, the leading cause of muffled AirPods is a buildup of dirt and ear wax. Follow the steps below to carefully clean your AirPods. You will need a variety of things.

Here’s what you’ll need;

  • 70 or 90% pure isopropyl alcohol.
  • Cotton buds.
  • Paper towels or a dry cloth.
  • A soft toothbrush used only for cleaning.
  • Adhesive putty-like Blu-tack.
  • Liquid dish soap and warm water.

The first step is to remove the silicone tips from your AirPods and drop them in your warm soapy water so they can soak.

Brush Your Airpods

The second step is to take your clean toothbrush and start brushing the AirPods. You shouldn’t look to brush inside the earbud or brush too harshly, just focus on the exterior of the AirPods. Brushing your AirPods with care will knock off any dirt and grease.

Dab With Alcohol

The next step here is to take a clean cotton bud and dab it in your alcohol solution. You don’t want to get too much alcohol on your cotton bud so make sure you wipe any excess off. Then you need to start dabbing the microphone mesh on your Airpods and nozzle. Make sure you don’t wipe these sensitive areas because you don’t want any bits of cotton getting caught or any alcohol getting inside the mesh. All we’re doing here is sanitizing the AirPods.

Dab With Blu-tack

To clean the mesh microphone on your AirPods, you need to take your Blu-tack and gently dab the mesh. This will lift off any residue and dirt that is hard to get to. Make sure you don’t press the Blu-tack too hard because it can get lodged in the mesh – the exact opposite of what we want!

The final step is to remove the silicone tips from the warm water and set them out to dry for a couple of minutes. Once they’re dry, you can put your AirPods back together and you’re done! However, it’s not just the AirPods themselves you should clean. You also need to make sure that your AirPods charging case is clean too.

How To Clean AirPods Charging Case

It’s important to not just clean your AirPods but also your charging case. Every time you put your AirPods in their case you can transfer dirt and ear wax over so it’s important to clean it at the same time. In fact, it’s important to clean your AirPods and their charging case every 72 hours (or more frequently) to avoid the build-up of dirt and ear wax.

To clean your charging case, take your toothbrush and gently brush where your AirPods connect with the case. When you’re finished, use a cotton bud dipped in alcohol to dab around the connectors to make sure the sensitive areas are sanitised. You can then use a microfibre cloth to go over the whole case inside and out.

Suck On Your AirPods

Whilst this may sound like a gross way to clean your AirPods, people have been doing this for years with a good success rate. Just make sure your AirPods are clean before doing this!

Make Sure Your Bluetooth Connection Is Stable

Another reason why your AirPods sound muffled can be down to an unstable Bluetooth connection. If your Bluetooth connection is poor, the sound from your AirPods can sound muffled or crackled. One thing you can do is make sure there are no other Bluetooth devices nearby. Sometimes other Bluetooth devices can interfere with your AirPods and your iPhone. This includes things like your keyboard, your Magic Mouse etc.

Reset Your Bluetooth

Reseting your Bluetooth can sometimes fix the connection issues. Here’s how to do it;

  • Open the Control Center of your iPhone or the Menu Bar on your PC.
  • Turn Bluetooth Off entirely.
  • Turn Bluetooth On.

Reset Your AirPods

The last thing you can do is reset your AirPods. If your AirPods sound muffled due to your Bluetooth connection, resetting them might fix the problem. Here’s how to do it;

  • Reset Using the Setup Button: First, you need to press and hold the setup button. This button can be found on the back of the AirPods. Do this for approximately 15 seconds.
  • Watch for a flashing white LED: The indicator light on your case will first turn white. Then, it will flash amber several times. Finally, it will settle on flashing white again.
  • Pair your AirPods with your device: Once you see the flashing white light, you can now pair your AirPods with your iPhone, iPad, or Mac again.
  • Test your sound once your AirPods are complete.

Update Your Software

It’s important to make sure you’re using the latest operating system. If you’re using an older version of iOS, you can run into all kinds of compatibility issues. Every year, Apple rolls out a new update to their operating systems which means some settings on your apps may no longer work properly unless you update them. Using an out of date iOS has been shown to cause issues with your Bluetooth connection and your AirPods.

Here’s how to make sure you’re using the latest operating system on your iPhone;

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Go to Settings > General > About.
  • The version number is to the right of the Version entry on the About page.
  • If an update is available, click Update.

AirPods Microphone Muffled? Try This

So you’ve been using your new AirPods for a couple of weeks and the microphone has never worked properly. You might hear fine but people on the other end say that you sound muffled, there is always a loud background noise, or they can barely hear what you are saying. If this sounds like your situation then don’t worry because I have some quick fixes to help fix AirPod mic not working problems!

You’re not alone

Looking at what people have to say about using AirPods, you’ll find a lot of gripes regarding the sound quality and volume of the AirPods and airpods pro. There are several remarks on how muffled the speakers sound. The microfone has fallen short of expectations too.

When the AirPods are used regularly, earwax builds up on both the speakers and the microphone as a result of regular usage.

This might be the most common reason for the microphone’s sound to be muffled.

What are your options for resolving the problem?

1 – Clean the AirPods’ microphone mesh with Blu-Tak and a wooden toothpick

Take a tiny piece of Blu-Tak and stretch and knead it to warm it up, then press it against the speaker a few times to clean out the wax and dirt.

The wooden toothpick can then be used to carefully remove the stubborn debris that hasn’t come off with the Blu-Tak. The pointed end of a wooden toothpick is ideal for removing tiny particles of filthy, waxy dirt and is far safer than a sharp metal implement like an unfolded staple that might scratch the wired microphone mesh.

2 – Change microphone settings

Do you have your AirPods currently set to utilize the microphone automatically or do you have it manually configured for either the left or right side? Go to Settings > Bluetooth > Select your AirPods and click the information button next to them.

On the menu you’ll find the microphone settings towards the end.

Test “Always left AirPod”, “Always right AirPod” and “Automatically switch AirPods” and record a voice memo with each one of these settings and play it back to yourself.

3 – Turn off Noise Cancellation

I tried this out for myself, but it didn’t make much of a difference. I believe that the reason why my AirPods Pro’s microphone sounded muffled was the amount of dirt built up on it from regular use. However, I also believe you should give this a shot and see if it helps you.

Turning off noise cancellation in the “Accessibility” menu:

Settings – Accessibility – Audio visual – Phone noise cancellation – Off

(on older iOS:) Settings – General – Accessibility – Phone noise cancellation – Off

Conclusion

If none of the above methods work to fix your muffled AirPods, you can always contact Apple support for more help. However, other than using out fixes on this list, there’s really not much else you can do. So, make sure you clean your AirPods on a regular basis, ideally every 72 hours to prevent dirt and earwax from building up in the first place.

References:

https://www.cnet.com/tech/mobile/you-should-really-clean-your-airpods-that-earwax-gunk-is-gross/

Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash

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About S. Santos

I am a tech columnist and blogger by trade, but I'm also an avid tennis player. In my spare time, I enjoy reviewing gadgets and gizmos from the world of tech. A lot has changed in the field since I started out as a writer back in 2009, so it's always exciting to keep up with all that's new. To me, there's nothing quite like getting my hands on a brand-new gadget or piece of software for the first time -- it's like Christmas morning every day!

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