AirPods noise cancellation not working? 6 ways to fix

Active Noise Cancellation on your AirPods blocks background sounds and background noise. Wireless headphones use both outward and inward microphones to detect and counteract unwanted sounds.

Noise cancellation is easy to activate and use on supported AirPods models. However, there are cases where the feature does not work as expected. We’ll cover why Noise Cancellation works and six ways to restore it to its normal state.

Note: As of the publication of this guide, only Apple AirPods Pro and AirPods Max support Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). AirPods 3 does not support ANC although it bears some similarities to the design of AirPods Pro. Therefore, the troubleshooting fixes below apply to AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

1. Check AirPods Settings

Noise Canceling will not work on AirPods Pro when using only one AirPods. You need both headphones (left and right) in your ears to activate Noise Cancellation. If you want to use Noise Cancellation with an AirPod, turn it on in your iPhone or iPad’s settings menu. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open Setting app on your iPhone/iPad and choose Accessibility.
  2. Option AirPods in the “Physical and Movement” section.
  3. Turn on Noise Canceling with an AirPod.

You’ll now be able to enable Noise Cancellation with an AirPod in one ear. This is a great accessibility feature for AirPods users who have a hearing loss or disability in one ear.

2. Turn noise cancellation back on

If your AirPods don’t block out background noise, switch to a different noise control mode and switch back to Noise Canceling mode. You can switch noise control modes right from your AirPods.

For AirPods Pro, place both AirPods in your ears, press and hold Force sensor on AirPods (left or right). That will enable or enable Transparency Mode. Then press and hold Force sensor again to switch back to Noise Canceling mode.

When wearing AirPods Max, press the . button Noise control button on the headset to switch between Noise Canceling and Transparency modes.

You can also switch AirPods remotely between Noise Canceling and Transparency modes on your Apple devices. Plug both AirPods into your ears and follow the steps below:

Toggle AirPods noise cancellation on iOS devices

Connect AirPods to your iPhone/iPad and follow these steps:

  1. Go Setting > Bluetooth and tap the info icon next to your AirPods.
  2. Touch information icon next to your AirPods.
  3. In the “Noise control” section, select Turn off or transparent to disable AirPods noise cancellation.
  4. Wait a few seconds and select Noise Cancellation to re-enable noise cancellation.

You can also toggle AirPods noise control from your device’s Control Center.

If your iPhone has a notch, swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen. Follow the same steps to open the iPad’s Control Center. For iPhones with a Home button (and iPod touch), swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen.

Then touch and hold volume slidertouch Noise control iconand choose Noise Cancellation.

If noise cancellation does not work, select Turn off to turn off noise control and select it again Noise Cancellation.

Switch AirPods noise cancellation on Mac

Connect your AirPods to your Mac and follow the steps below.

  1. Choose AirPods icon on the menu bar and select Noise Cancellation under your AirPods. Skip to step #2 if the AirPods icon isn’t on your Mac’s menu bar.
  1. Open your Mac’s Control Center and expand Sound menu.
  1. Extend AirPods menu to view noise control modes. Option Turn off to disable active noise cancellation. Reselect Noise Cancellation and check if your AirPods currently block out background noise.

Toggle AirPods noise cancellation on Apple Watch

Here’s how to re-enable AirPods noise cancellation on Apple Watch:

  1. Touch AirPlay icon in the lower right corner of the music player.
  2. Clap Turn off to disable active noise cancellation. Wait a few seconds and press Noise Cancellation to re-enable active noise cancellation.

3. Adjust AirPods Pro to Fit

Your AirPods provide the best sound quality and Noise Cancellation when it fits snugly in your ears. Make sure the AirPods Pro ear tips seal your ear canal securely and comfortably. If your AirPods Pro Noise Canceling isn’t working properly with the built-in medium-sized ear tips, try other ear tips.

You will find two additional ear tips (Small [S] and vast [L]) in your AirPods Pro packaging. Try on both ear tips on your AirPods and use whichever trick works best. Adjust and reinsert the AirPods into your ear several times to see if you can secure the earbuds.

Run “Angry Fit Test” on your iPhone if you’re not sure about the fit. Attach both AirPods to your ears and follow the steps below:

  1. Go Setting > Bluetooth and tap the info icon next to your AirPods.
  2. Option Check the fit of the earring and press Continue proceed with.
  1. Touch Play and hold both AirPods in your ears while the test sound plays. Use ear tips if both the left and right earphones are available Good seal result.
  2. Clap Accomplished to close the “Earring matches” page. Or, tap Play button again to redo the test.

Noise cancellation may not work correctly with the same headset on each AirPods. Depending on the structure of the earlobes, you may need to use different ear tips on both AirPods. Refer to this Apple Support document on choosing AirPods Pro ear tips for more information.

4. Clean AirPods

Cleaning your AirPods will not only make them sound louder, but it can also fix performance issues and prevent long-term damage. However, to fix the Noise Canceling issue, you don’t need to clean the entire AirPods. Just focus on the mesh located at the top of the AirPods Pro. See pictures below.

Beneath the grille is an outward-facing microphone that detects and blocks outside sounds in Noise Canceling mode. Foreign material on the mesh will prevent the microphone from filtering out background noise. That could be why your AirPods Pro Noise Cancellation is not working.

Check the surface of the mesh and wipe away dust, earwax or debris with a dry cotton swab. Next, use a soft-bristled brush to remove stubborn dirt or earwax from the mesh. Do not use sharp objects, abrasive materials, or any liquid solution — not even water to clean the microphone grille. Refer to Apple’s official guide on how to clean AirPods for more tips.

5. Update paired devices

Updating your iPhone, iPad, or Mac software to the latest version may fix AirPods sound problems.

Go Setting > Shared > Software updates and install the latest version of iOS or iPadOS available for your iPhone or iPad.

To update your Mac, go to System Preferences > Update software and select Update now or Upgrade now.

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If AirPods Noise Canceling just fails on your Apple Watch, updating your watch’s operating system may fix the problem. Learn how to update your Apple Watch with or without your iPhone.

6. Sign up for AirPods repair service

According to Apple, a small percentage of AirPods Pro manufactured before October 2020 are defective and may experience audio problems. Faulty devices may produce crackling or static sounds during phone calls or in noisy environments. Inability to active noise cancellation and loss of bass are other notable effects of this error.

Contact Apple Support to verify if your AirPods Pro are eligible for the service program. Better yet, visit any Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple Store.

Noise blocking

Updating your AirPods firmware is another fix worth trying. Firmware updates often come with performance improvements and bug fixes. If that doesn’t solve the problem, reset your AirPods to factory settings and reconnect them to your device.

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