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How do AirPods know when they are in your ear?

One of the many features you can find on AirPods and AirPods Pro is their ability to detect when you insert and remove them from your ears.

This useful feature is designed to automatically pause or play the audio you are listening to when you remove the AirPods and put them back in so you don’t miss a moment of your favorite song or podcast.

But what happens when this feature doesn’t work as it is designed to? While this is a frustrating issue to deal with, in most cases, you can easily fix the problem in a few minutes. 

How do AirPods know when they are in your ear?

AirPods and AirPods Pro have these nifty little infrared sensors inside them that detect when they have been inserted or removed from your ears.

If the AirPods are taken out of your ears, the audio you are currently playing is paused. And when you put the AirPods back into your ears, the audio automatically resumes.

Read more: Why won’t my AirPods update?

How do AirPods know when you take them out of your ear?

It’s all thanks to those optical infrared sensors, which are located on each side of the AirPods, that give the headphones the ability to detect when you take them out of your ears. When looking at the AirPods, you will see a little black dot on each earbud.

Those are the sensors, also known as promoxity sensors, and they can be found on AirPods and AirPods Pro. 

Read more: Why won’t my AirPods popup on the screen when opened?

Why doesn’t my music pause when I take AirPods out of my ears? 

There could be several different reasons as to why your AirPods won’t pause the music when you take them out of your ears. And these reasons can vary depending on whether you’re using an Android or iOS device. 

Android Devices

For Android users, AirPods can be used with Android devices, but several of their features, including automatic ear detection, are disabled. What this means is that you can use the AirPods as headphones with Android, but the headphones won’t automatically play or pause the audio when you take them in and out.

There are some apps that can be downloaded to enable the AirPods and AirPods Pro automatic ear detection on Android devices. With that said, however, you should always research any app before downloading to ensure it is safe and won’t cause problems for your device.

iOS Devices

If your automatic ear detection isn’t pausing the audio when you remove the AirPods, the first thing to check is to ensure the feature is enabled on your iOS device.

To do this, simply go to the Settings > Bluetooth, and then tap the “i” icon next to the AirPods. Ensure that the Automatic Ear Detection is enabled. If it is listed as disabled, then this feature won’t work. 

If the automatic ear detection is enabled yet still not working, try cleaning the proximity sensors. These are what alert the headphones that you have removed or inserted the AirPods into your ear.

When these sensors become dirty, it can interfere with their ability to work properly.

The safest way to clean then is to use a clean cotton swab dampened in isopropyl alcohol. Let the isopropyl alcohol air dry before using the AirPods. And don’t forget to clean the AirPods case as well.

Why is my AirPods pro proximity sensor not working?

The most common reason as to why your AirPods Pro proximity sensor isn’t working is a build up of debris blocking the sensors. Ear wax, lint, and various other debris can start to build up on the sensors, interfering with the Automatic Ear Detection feature.

What ends up happening is that, since the sensors are blocked, the AirPods Pro think that they are always in your ears, which means the audio isn’t automatically paused.

While this is an annoying issue, you can easily remedy the problem by cleaning the proximity sensors with a cotton swab dampened with isopropyl alcohol. 

How do AirPods detect taps?

AirPods Pro have force sensors, which let you manually pause or play the audio by tapping on them. To use this feature, simply press the AirPods force sensor, which is located on the stem of the earbud, to pause or play the audio.

The force sensor looks like an indentation on the earbud’s steam, and you can change the action that occurs when you press or tap the sensor.

To change the action of the force sensors, you must first ensure your AirPods are connected to your device. Insert the AirPods into your ears and then navigate to your iOS device’s Settings > Bluetooth, and then click on the “i” next to AirPods. Scroll down to the “Press and Hold AirPods” section. You will see “Left” and “Right.” Click on each one to change the action associated with the force sensor of that particular earbud.