A detailed guide on how to fix AirPods not switching to noise cancellation

The AirPods Pro have active noise cancellation, and that makes them better than AirPods. Obviously, AirPods Pro looks like a better option if you use ANC a lot. While you might just want to study or enjoy music / videos on long flights, we can understand how tedious it is when the Active noise cancellation no longer works. To help you troubleshoot this problem, we’ve put together solutions in this guide.

Before attempting to restore the noise canceling feature, make sure that your AirPods Pro is authentic / original. If you bought it from an Authorized Local Apple Store or the Official Apple Online Store, you don’t have to worry. Your AirPods Pro is definitely authentic. On the other hand, if you bought your device from a third party (not Apple), make sure you got an authentic device.

This is necessary because, according to personal experimentation and online reviews, noise cancellation doesn’t work with fake or counterfeit AirPods Pros. Once you’re sure you have an original device, skip to the following section to troubleshoot glitches that are preventing your AirPods Pro from switching to noise cancellation.

1. Change the active noise cancellation configuration

By default, active noise cancellation works on the AirPods Pro when you place both AirPods in your ears. If you try to turn on Noise Cancellation by pressing the AirPods Pro’s force sensor or through Control Center, you will get an error message asking you to have both AirPods in your ears in order to use the feature. That’s strange, isn’t it?

Interestingly, there is a workaround that allows users to use noise cancellation with just one AirPod. This is especially useful for:

  • People who have misplaced / lost one of their AirPods Pro devices.
  • People with hearing impairment or unilateral deafness (hearing loss in one ear).

Follow the steps below to configure your AirPods to enable noise cancellation with only one (active) AirPod.

Step 1: Launch Settings on your iPhone or iPad and choose Accessibility.

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Step 2: In the Physical & Motor section, select AirPods.

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Step 3: Turn on Noise Cancellation with an AirPod.

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If you now tap and hold the force sensor on your AirPods Pro, you can activate the noise cancellation.

If noise cancellation isn’t working on one or both of your AirPods, even if “Noise Cancellation With One AirPod” is turned on, continue with the solutions below.

2. Activate noise reduction again

If you can still hear background noise even though you have noise cancellation turned on, try turning noise canceling off, wait a few seconds, and then turn it back on. Tap and hold the force sensor on the shaft of one of the two AirPods until you hear a bell sound. Tap and hold the force sensor again until you hear a beep.

Alternatively, follow the steps below.

Re-enable noise cancellation on the iPhone or iPad.

Step 1: Open Control Center and long press the volume icon on the AirPods.

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Step 2: Tap the noise control icon and select Off.

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Step 3: Wait a few seconds and choose Noise Reduction.

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Turn noise reduction back on on the Mac

First, connect the AirPods to your Mac. Second, make sure the volume icon is pinned to your Mac’s menu bar.

Step 1: Launch System Preferences and select Sound.

Fix Airpods that won't toggle noise cancellation

Step 2: Activate the option ‘Show volume in menu bar’.

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Now move on to turning noise cancellation off and on again.

Step 3: Tap on the volume symbol in the menu bar.

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Step 4: Hover over your AirPods and select Off to turn noise cancellation off.

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Step 5: Wait a few seconds and turn noise cancellation back on.

3. Change the force sensor settings

Can you switch to noise cancellation from your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and other devices, but not on the AirPods Pro themselves? You should check the settings of the force sensor.

By default, you should be able to switch to noise cancellation by long-pressing the force sensor on both AirPods.

Change the AirPods force sensor settings on the iPhone and iPad

Step 1: Launch Settings and select Bluetooth.

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Step 2: Next, tap the info icon next to your AirPods name.

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Step 3: In the “Press and Hold AirPods” section, make sure that noise canceling is the option you selected.

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If something else is selected on either or both AirPods, tap it to change the force sensor’s settings.

Step 4: Tap the AirPod that isn’t set to noise canceling and select Noise Canceling.

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Step 5: Finally, make sure that noise reduction is also selected in the noise reduction options.

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Change the AirPods force sensor settings on the Mac

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

Step 1: Open System Preferences and select Bluetooth.

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Step 2: Next to your AirPods, tap the Options button.

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Step 3: Make sure both “Press and Hold Left AirPod” and “Press and Hold Right AirPod” are set to noise canceling. Also make sure that the noise suppression is enabled for the “Noise Control Toggles” option.

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Step 4: Tap Done to save the changes.

4. Clean the AirPods

No, you don’t have to “wash” your AirPods with water or any other liquid. All you need is a clean, dry and lint-free microfiber cloth. And you don’t even have to clean all of your AirPods; only the inward-facing microphones on the AirPods Pro need cleaning. Here’s why.

On the AirPods Pro, the outward-facing microphone works in conjunction with its inward-facing counterpart to counteract both unwanted background noise and internal noise with anti-noise. Apple advises that noise cancellation may not work if dirt, debris, or wax builds up on the inward-facing microphone (pictured below) on the AirPods Pro.

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If there are particles or dirt on the microphone, wipe it with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. And if there are earplugs stuck to them, dampen the cloth lightly with fresh water and clean the wax. Make sure to clean the microphone with a dry cloth afterwards.

5. Update device

This may seem unrelated, but your device’s operating system has some impact on AirPods’ performance. So that you can enjoy active noise cancellation, Apple strongly recommends that the connected devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac or iPod touch) are running the latest version of the respective operating system.

6. Apply for the AirPods Pro service program

According to Apple, some AirPods Pro devices – especially those manufactured before October 2020 – are faulty and you are likely to experience sound-related issues: crackling / static noise, bass loss, ineffective or not working active noise cancellation, etc.

Air Pods Pro microphones

For this purpose, Apple has launched the “AirPods Pro Service Program”, an initiative to service or replace affected AirPods Pro devices free of charge. So, if your AirPods Pro still won’t switch to noise canceling after trying all of the troubleshooting solutions above, then you should try one of these three (3) steps:

If your AirPods Pro is diagnosed and found to be one of the affected devices, the faulty AirPod (left, right, or both) will be repaired or replaced.

No noise zone

We’re confident that at least one of these troubleshooting methods should restore noise cancellation to your AirPods Pro. If the problem persists, most likely you have a counterfeit or damaged device. Let us know if you need further assistance.

Next Up:

If the AirPods are connected to your devices (Android, iOS, Mac, or PC) but there’s no sound or audio coming from the speakers, see the solutions in the guide linked below to fix the problem.

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