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Only one of your AirPods working? Here's how to fix it

If you can't get audio out of one of your AirPods, there are a few things you can do before calling Apple for help.
January 2, 2024

If you’re only hearing audio through one of your AirPods, you might have to work through some troubleshooting to fix them. A lot of things can cause this issue, including charging problems, Bluetooth issues, software bugs, and incorrect settings. Here are some possible solutions.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on January 2, 2024, to clarify instructions and address the issue of the Right AirPod not working.

Ensure that your AirPods are charged

The Apple AirPods Pro Gen 2 and the Apple Airpods Gen 3 sitting on a wooden surface with their cases behind them.
Different AirPods models are designed differently, but the fixes for them are both fairly similar across all models.

The most obvious cause is also one of the easiest to fix. Make sure that both the charging case and the AirPods themselves are charged.

  1. Charge both AirPods inside the case using a Lightning power connector.
  2. Wait 30 seconds or more after placing the malfunctioning AirPod in the case.
  3. Check the charging status on your iPhone or iPad. If they’re charging, try using them again.

If this has worked, you can place the AirPods in your ears and start playing audio to ensure they work.

Turn your device off and on again

An iPhone and Apple HomePod mini sitting on a windowsill.
Newer iPhone models require you to hold the volume down button and the power button at the same time to turn them off.

This is the classic calling card of anyone who’s worked at an IT help desk. “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

  1. Turn off your device. For newer models, hold the volume down and power buttons simultaneously; older models may only require the power button.
  2. Turn it back on and try pairing your AirPods again.

Once this is done, attempt to pair your AirPods again and see if they work.

Reset your AirPods

A hand holds the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case with the pairing button in full view.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The AirPods case has a button on the backside that you’ll need to press and hold to reset them.

If your AirPods still aren’t working then next consider doing a full reset.

  1. Place your AirPods in the charging case and keep the lid open.
  2. Press and hold the setup button on the back for 15 seconds.
  3. Pair your AirPods again once the case’s light flashes amber and white.

Once completed, the AirPods should be ready to pair again; open the case lid, place it near your iPhone or iPad, and follow the onscreen instructions.

Check the stereo balance in accessibility

An iPhone 12 mini displays the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) spatial audio modes with the case and a smart watch next to it.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The iPhone Settings app has a section that allows you to set the stereo balance for connected audio devices for accessibility reasons.
  1. Go to the Settings app and navigate to Accessibility > Audio/Visual.
  2. Adjust the Balance slider to ensure it’s in the middle. If it’s too far to the right or left, audio will play predominantly out of that AirPod instead of out of both sides evenly.

Once this is done, place your AirPods back in your ears and check to see if the problem has been fixed. You should ensure that you’re listening to audio you know to be stereo to ensure that you’re not solely listening to audio with only left or right content.

Clean your AirPods

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) open case holds the earbuds and sits on a wood surface.
The new case diverges from previous generations’ cases, more closely mirroring that of the AirPods Pro.

The speaker mesh on the Apple AirPods can quickly become dirty. Cleaning it is easy to ensure sound quality and fit when using your AirPods.

  1. Inspect the microphone and speaker mesh. Is there any visible dirt or debris?
  2. Gently clean with a soft cloth and dry cotton swabs. Avoid water and sharp objects.

Contact Apple

If none of these steps work, contact Apple Support for further assistance — or find support in person at one of their stores’ Genius Bars.

Addressing the Right AirPod Issue

A hand holds the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) bud showing the ear tips.

It’s been noted that the right AirPod often has more issues. This could be due to more frequent use, as many people might choose to use just one AirPod for calls and default to the right one. Additionally, slight design differences or how we store them might impact the right AirPod more. Pay extra attention when cleaning and storing your right AirPod, and consider alternating which AirPod you use solo, if applicable.

Following these steps, you should be able to troubleshoot common issues with your AirPods, particularly the right one. If problems persist, remember that Apple’s technical support is there to help.