Right or Left AirPod Not Working? Fix Only One AirPod Working!

Author: James Potts | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Apple’s AirPods have become such a mainstay of popular culture to the point where any white earbud you see is probably an AirPod. Their durability, great sound quality, and bucket-load of features have propelled them to the top of the list of best-selling headphones.

But they’re not without their issues, that much is certain. If you’ve got connection problems, a buzzing noise, or your AirPods keep cutting out, we’ve got you covered. But today we’re going to look at a more frustrating problem – when only one AirPod is working. So, whether your left AirPod isn’t working, or your right AirPod, let’s take a look at why this happens and what you can do to fix it.

Why Your Left or Right AirPod isn’t Working

As you might have guessed, this issue isn’t easily pinned down to one specific cause. The triggers for one AirPod to cease functionality range from simple battery problems to more complex issues stemming from audio and software settings.

It may be a problem with your Bluetooth, or your charging case, or you may actually in fact have a defective pair of AirPods and one has simply failed to work due to a manufacturing error.

Whatever is actually causing one of your AirPods to stop working isn’t as important as getting it working again. Follow the fixes listed in this article, trying each one in turn, and hopefully, one of them will clear out any connectivity problems you may be experiencing.

How to Fix Only One AirPod Working

Now we’ll run through a list of possible fixes for this issue, starting with the most likely to work (and simplest to carry out) and working our way up to the more complex and less likely causes.

Out of Date Firmware

First, we’ll start with the easiest thing to check, and one of the most commonly overlooked jobs that all iPhone owners seem to neglect. Update your iOS!

It’s so important to run these updates as soon as you can to keep your phone up to date with the latest software and firmware developments, which includes the eradication of various bugs and glitches that can cause problems with the normal functioning of your hardware (including your AirPods!).

How to Fix it

Open Settings > General > Software Update on your iPhone. If you have an update ready and waiting, install it.

If not, you should be all up to date, but it’s worth checking anyway. Run these updates as soon as you can to keep your iPhone and AirPods in top working order.

Battery/Charging Issues

AirPods charge by connecting to the magnetic contacts in the charging case, which (when fully charged) delivers power to your earbuds. When this is all working as it should, your AirPods will charge just from sitting in your case. In fact, the case can massively increase your AirPods battery life, holding between 24 – 30 hours of listening time, depending on which generation of AirPods or AirPods Pro you have.

But if one of the magnetic contacts in the case is not working properly, there is a chance either your left or right AirPod is not receiving the full amount of charge – or at least not an equivalent amount of charge compared to your other AirPod. This will make the battery drain faster and you will experience drops in sound quality and perhaps even one AirPod cutting out, disconnecting, or turning off completely.

You can check if this is happening by leaving your AirPods in the charging case to top up their battery life. Then, check your AirPods battery level. If one is draining faster than the other, the battery widget will split into two separate indicators for your left and right AirPod. This only happens when your AirPods have different levels of charge, making it a good indicator to see if you have an issue.

How to Fix it

First of all, check inside your charging case to see if there is any dust or debris that may be blocking the connection between your AirPod(s) and the charging contact point. If the case is dirty or has a buildup of grime inside, this may also hamper your connection.

Take a cotton bud and gently wipe down the entire interior of the case, where your AirPods fit. Make sure to get a good clean on the metallic contact points.

If this doesn’t work, there may be an issue with the internal hardware of the charging case, or possibly one of your AirPods. Unfortunately, the only course of action from this point is to take your AirPods and charging case to a certified Apple Care licensed repair shop.

Dirty AirPods

There is a chance that you’re experiencing poor audio delivery from one of your AirPods due to a buildup of dirt and grime in the actual AirPod itself. The small openings which house the mesh speaker grilles can easily become clogged with earwax and other debris like lint and dust over time.

Although this wouldn’t cause the AirPod to stop functioning altogether, it could impact the sound quality of the AirPod to such an extent that you might think your AirPod has a technical fault.

How to Fix it

Clean your AirPods! This is a relatively simple task, and all you will need is a cotton swab, some isopropyl alcohol, and a toothpick. Take care when doing this, as although AirPods are tough, they’re not indestructible, and an errant jab with a toothpick could easily damage the mesh grilles.

  • Use the cotton swab to remove large chunks of earwax and dirt from the AirPods. Focus on the mesh grilles, as this is where a buildup will have the biggest impact on the sound.
  • Lightly dampen a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol and gently wipe the mesh grilles to remove any residue or remaining dirt.
  • For AirPods Pro, remove the silicone ear tips and thoroughly wipe them with isopropyl alcohol.
  • Using the toothpick, carefully scrape out any stubborn grime from edges, corners, and grilles.
  • Allow your AirPods to dry completely before using them again or placing them in the case.

Poor Bluetooth Connection

It could be that one AirPod is suffering from a weak Bluetooth connection to your mobile device which is affecting the sound quality, or possibly cutting it off altogether. Bluetooth connections can be tenuous, especially when you’re in an area with lots of activity on the 2.4GHz spectrum, like a gym, office, school – anywhere with lots of WiFi and wireless devices.

There are a few different things you can try to recalibrate your phone’s Bluetooth connection with your AirPods, including a simple off-and-on of your Bluetooth, and a full reset of your AirPods

How to Fix it

The first thing you should try is to simply turn your Bluetooth off and on, similar to a power cycle, but just for your Bluetooth, not your whole device.

Open Settings > Bluetooth, and simply toggle your Bluetooth to Off. Wait for around 30 seconds, then turn it back on.

When turning your Bluetooth back on, it will automatically connect to your AirPods, since you haven’t unpaired them.

If this doesn’t work, it’s time to try a full reset of your AirPods along with a power cycle of your device.

  • Place your AirPods in the case and close the lid
  • Wait for 30 seconds
  • Take you AirPods out of the case and place them in your ears
  • Head to Settings on your device
  • Select Bluetooth
  • If your AirPods are already connected, tap the Information (i) next to their name

(If they’re not, skip the next step)

  • Tap Forget This Device > Confirm
  • Use this opportunity now your AirPods are fully disconnected to Power Cycle your device. Simply turn your device off, wait for 30 – 60 seconds, then turn it back on.
  • Place the AirPods back in their case and leave the lid open
  • Press and hold the Setup button on the back of the case for 15 seconds
  • The light on the case should flash orange, then white
  • Reconnect your AirPods:
    • Keep your AirPods in the case
    • Keep the lid open
    • Keep the AirPods near to your device
    • Pair your AirPods with your device

I would recommend not skipping the power cycle step in the middle of the above directions. It’s not strictly necessary to power cycle your device to reset your AirPods, but in this case, it can’t hurt to clear out any runtime errors on your device.

We turn our phones off so infrequently these days that these glitches and errors can easily build up and cause our devices to run slowly, lagging and crashing.

Imbalanced Stereo Settings

If nothing has worked so far, it’s time to do a deep dive into your iPhone’s accessibility settings to tweak the stereo balance.

This is a little-known setting that allows users with hearing problems to adjust the iPhone’s output of audio to play more prominently out of one ear. Unless you have this setting disabled, it may have been adjusted accidentally or through a user error. But don’t worry, it’s easily fixed.

How to Fix it

First, open Settings > Accessibility. Swipe down to the Hearing section and select Audio/Visual.

Towards the bottom of the Audio/Visual page, you should see a stereo balance slider which controls the output between the left and right channels. If the slider is anywhere but in the exact middle, reading 0.00, you will hear an audio imbalance through your AirPods.

Final Thoughts

Most of these hardware issues can be boiled down to a couple of things – out-of-date firmware/software, a poor Bluetooth connection, or physical dirt buildup.

If you’re unfortunate to experience this (very annoying) problem, then hopefully one of the fixes listed in the article has helped you fix it.

If you’re still having trouble, and only one AirPod is working, even after a reset, and following all the guidance above, then I’m sorry to say that either your AirPods have reached the end of their life, or there is a manufacturing defect in at least one of them.

The best thing to do in this instance is to take them to a registered Apple Care provider and have them looked at. It may be that they are faulty and you’re entitled to a new pair!

Good luck!

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About James Potts

James is an amateur guitarist and home-recording enthusiast. He loves all things music related - writing songs, playing in a band, and finding the best ways to listen to it. It all interests him, from the history of acoustic guitars, to the latest Bluetooth headphones, to his (ever-growing) collection of vinyl records.

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