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Only One AirPod Works at a Time (Why and How to Fix)

Nothing prepares you for the day when only one AirPod works and the other doesn’t! You could be on the go, taking a phone call while ordering coffee and the single AirPod you have in your ear isn’t working, just to find only the other one is producing sound.

Well, this issue seems to happen to many AirPod users, and for different reasons, too. It’s usually a software problem of some sort but it does require some troubleshooting before you arrive at the root cause.

So let’s get into why only one AirPod works at a time, as well as how to fix this problem when it arises.

Why Does Only One AirPod Work at a Time?

This is a pretty frustrating problem to have. No one wants to be unsure which one of their AirPods will work if they took them out of their case. Yet, it’s important to distinguish what exactly is happening when you say the AirPod isn’t working.

The AirPod could either fail to pair or pair but not produce sound. Let’s find out why:

Audio Balance is Off

Audio balance is how much output is directed at one of the two ears. It’s extremely helpful for people with hearing impairment, as it can make the output of one ear higher to equalize the volume arriving at both ears.

That said, if the balance is skewed to one ear, the other AirPod will be completely silent, leading you to think there’s something wrong with the AirPod. 

Failure to Pair

A common complaint from AirPod users is the first AirPod that comes out of the case gets detected first by the paired device and only one AirPod shows on their “Bluetooth devices” list. This is due to the second AirPod’s failure to connect to the paired device in time.

Some even say they find their AirPods get paired separately, and so are listed as two devices on the list, which makes playing music a hassle. Well, this is all due to a sensor that went rogue, prompting the AirPods to behave as if they were separate.

These malfunctions can be annoying, but the good news is that both issues are fixable!

How to Fix One AirPod Working at a Time

You’ve probably read generic advice like forgetting the AirPods and reconnecting them, or cleaning their sensors to eliminate interference. However, most of the time these fixes just don’t work.

Here are the solutions guaranteed to solve the issue from its root:

Adjust Audio Balance

Read more: Why are my AirPods flashing green?

As we mentioned earlier, audio balance can cause the sound output to be skewed to one side even when there’s nothing physically wrong with the silent AirPod. 

To fix this issue on iPhone and iPad:

  • Go to Settings 
  • Scroll to Accessibility
  • Choose Audio/Visual
  • Adjust the Balance slider so it’s in the middle.

To fix the issue on a Mac device

  • Go to System Preferences
  • Click on Sound Output
  • Adjust the Balance slider so it’s in the middle

Keep in mind that some users noticed the slider was originally in the middle, so they moved it to the right or left, then put it back in the middle. Only then the sound was restored to both AirPods. This is a random thing to occur, but it seems to have happened more than once, so it’s likely to happen again.

Hard Reset Your AirPods

You’ve probably already reset your AirPods at least once. Apple even suggests this as a solution for a bunch of problems, like unclear sound, static noise, as well as failure to pair.

The reason why resetting works is that sometimes, certain bugs and software glitches take over and refuse to allow the execution of software commands. Resetting allows the device to get back to square one and execute the command without the glitch getting in the way.

That said, you’re almost always advised to reset the AirPods by putting them back inside their case, opening the lid, and pressing the setup button for 15 seconds. You’re then supposed to see the light flash amber and then white. 

Well, this is all fine and great, but you’re actually supposed to let this happen at least three consecutive times for the AirPods to be fully reset to their factory status. That’s what most users who had this problem happen to them advise you to do.

This will change the AirPods’ name on your device from the custom name you gave them to “AirPods” or “AirPods Pro.” You can then pair them with your iPhone, iPad, or Mac as you normally would.

Read more: One AirPod loses charge faster

Conclusion

When only one AirPod works at a time, you know there must be something up. Well, thankfully, most of the time it’s just the AirPods’ audio balance being skewed to one side. Sometimes, though, it’s a pairing problem that happens when one AirPod pairs before the other.

Either way, the problem can be easily fixed, and if not, you should probably stop by the nearest Genius Bar at your local Apple Store to get the AirPods checked.