If one of your AirPods has gained an unpleasant humming distortion, there are steps you can take to fix it before you call Apple.
It may start with phone call audio sounding a little echoey, or just in some way not quite right. Over time, it can extend to meaning one of your AirPods, or AirPods Pro, is actually unpleasant to wear.
Depending on the music you're listening to through it, you may be able to forget that there is an issue. But at other times, and when you put the AirPod in before you've started music, it can sound like a rumbling hum. It's as if noise canceling, in the AirPods Pro, is somehow going wrong.
Whatever it is, there are two steps you can take before you have contact Apple. While neither is guaranteed, they have worked for AppleInsider — and, fortunately, they're also quick to try.
First step in fixing AirPods distortion
Clean the affected AirPod. Be extremely careful as AirPods and AirPods Pro are easy to damage. Read AppleInsider's full AirPods cleaning guide for details.
Broadly, though, the job is to keep all liquids away from AirPods and instead wipe with a soft, dry and lint-free cloth. Remember that AirPods Pro come with earpieces that you can swap out, so take those off before wiping both them and the AirPod itself.
If you're fortunate, this is all you need to do. It's a good idea to clean them regularly anyway, but it may be enough to solve the distortion problem.
When it isn't enough, you need to try resetting the AirPods.
Second step in fixing AirPods distortion
- Put the AirPods in their case and close the lid
- Wait 30 seconds
- Open the lid, but leave the AirPods in the case
- On your iPhone, go to Settings, Bluetooth
- Find your AirPods or AirPods Pro in the list of devices and tap on the i for information icon to the right
- Choose Forget This Device
- Confirm that's what you want to do
- Close the AirPods case and wait 30 seconds
- Open the lid, again leaving the AirPods inside
- Press and hold the reset button on the back of the charging case
- Keep holding until the front status light flashes amber
- Hold the AirPods and their case near your iPhone
- Follow the onscreen instructions to connect them
What you're really doing is just forcing the AirPods and your iPhone to start all over again with a new Bluetooth connection. It isn't at all clear why a Bluetooth problem could build up over time, but then occasionally it feels as if Bluetooth is less technology, more alchemy.
If resetting like this doesn't fix the distortion problem, then unfortunately you have just one option left. You have to contact Apple support.
Allegedly, Apple has developed a tool for diagnosing certain AirPods problems. Whether that's correct or not, it's likely that Apple will first talk you through potential fixes you can do yourself — and you can now tell them that you've tried them.