Why Do AirPods Pick Up Background Noise? (the Answer Is Simple!)

The convenience and sound quality that AirPods give you are worth every penny. You can listen to music and make phone calls with perfect clarity, but you still risk picking up outside sounds. So, why do AirPods pick up background noise?

AirPods pick up background noise if you don’t enable the Noise Cancellation feature or if you have Noise Transparency enabled. People that you call can hear background noise that the microphone on your AirPods picks up. That is because the microphone is high-gain, and it’s even worse if the bottom of your AirPods isn’t pointed towards your mouth.

AirPods Max won’t pick up background noise as much as AirPods Pros do. However, they cost $430 which is over $100 more than a pair of AirPods Pros. Follow along as we explore why AirPods pick up background noise and see what you can do to reduce it.

Why Are my AirPods Picking up Background Noise?

AirPods pick up background noise because the gain setting on the microphone is quite high. This is both a good and bad thing as it is largely responsible for why your AirPods have such great sound quality. The high gain nature of AirPods also makes it so that the microphone picks up on background noise.

Your AirPods also pick up background noise because they aren’t over-ear headphones. They are quite small and do nothing to cover your ears unless you have a pair of AirPods Max. Over-ear headphones are better equipped to block background noise because they encapsulate your ears.

AirPods are more likely to pick up background noise if you have Noise Transparency enabled. The AirPods Max and AirPods Pro lines feature the optional Noise Transparency feature. There is no way to eliminate background noise in a loud area, but you can mitigate it if you enable Noise Cancellation.

How to Stop AirPods From Picking up Background Noise

You can stop AirPods from picking up background noise with your Settings app or Control Center. Unfortunately, it is hard to stop your AirPods from picking up background noise if they are the first generation. First-generation AirPods are impressive, but they are unable to block background noise as well as the AirPods Pro.

Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to stop your AirPods from picking up on background noise.

1. Disable Noise Transparency

Your AirPods will pick up background noise if you have the Noise Transparency feature activated. Noise Transparency exists so that users can hear what is going on around them while listening to music or on a phone call. This feature serves its purpose and is useful in many settings, but it can also be quite annoying. It is especially true if you can only hear phone calls on speaker.

It’s easy to accidentally activate Noise Transparency from the Control Center without realizing it. When you adjust the volume through the Control Center, the option appears for you to enable Noise Transparency. Many users accidentally enable this feature while adjusting the volume.

You can disable Noise Cancellation from the Bluetooth Settings menu and the Control Center. Hold the volume bar on the Control Center and select Noise Cancellation in the bottom left corner of the screen.

2. Enable Noise Cancellation

Apple introduced noise cancellation features with the AirPods Pro back in 2019. You can enable noise cancellation directly through the settings app on your iPhone or iPad. Open the settings app if your iPhone or iPad is paired with your AirPods.

Tap the Bluetooth settings tab and select your AirPods from the list of connected devices. Put your AirPods in your ears and click on Noise Cancellation under the Noise Control tab. Make a call or play a song to see if you can still hear the background noise.

You can also activate noise cancellation through the Control Center on your iPhone. Swipe up or down from the left to open the Control Center. Adjust the volume slider to open a list of options and tap Noise Cancellation to activate the feature.

3. Switch to AirPods Max

The noise cancellation feature for AirPods Pros simply doesn’t block background noise enough for some people. Switching to a different line of AirPods can be expensive, but it is also one of the best ways to block background noise. The AirPods Max is a set of over-ear headphones that won’t pick up background noise unless it’s extremely loud.

Apple AirPods Max cost $430 which is fairly steep compared to AirPod Pros. With that said, the upgrade is worth it if you want to block out as much background noise as possible. You also get superior sound quality compared to the AirPods Pro, so the upgrade comes with more perks than just noise cancellation.

4. Move to a Quiet Area

Even the Noise Cancellation function isn’t strong enough to block the sound of a loud room. AirPods can usually pick up background noise such as passing trains, police sirens, and blaring music even with Noise Cancellation. Your AirPods will continue to pick up background noise if you are in an extremely loud area.

5. Enable Spatial Audio

Apple users that have either AirPods Max or AirPods Pros have access to Spatial Audio. This unique feature makes use of unique heading tracking technology and surround sound. Head tracking effectively adjusts the volume based on your head’s position.

AirPods with Spatial Audio make it easy to block background noise when you move away from it. It won’t necessarily cancel the noise around you, but it creates a more immersive sound. This adds up to a sometimes overwhelming audio experience that helps make background noise disappear.

Open the Settings app on your iPhone’s home screen and tap the Bluetooth icon below Wi-Fi. Scroll through the list of devices, select your AirPods, and click more. This will bring up a list of control options including Noise Cancellation and Spatial Audio. Enable the Spatial Audio feature and enjoy the superior sound with less background noise.

AirPods Background Noise on Call

Noise Cancellation works for phone calls just as well as it does with listening to music in most cases. Your AirPods will pick up on background noise without Noise Cancellation enabled, however. AirPods are high gain when you compare them to other earbuds and headphones.

This means that your AirPods will pick up on background noise more than traditional over-the-ear headphones. The first line of AirPods in particular notoriously picked up on background noise while listening to music and making phone calls. Luckily, you can simply enable the Noise Cancellation feature if you have a pair of AirPods Pro or AirPods Max.

Do AirPods mic Block out Background Noise?

The mic on your AirPods doesn’t directly black out background noise. However, the shape and position of AirPods make it easy for you to block background noise while you’re on the phone. Ideally, you should position your AirPods so that the microphone is pointed towards your mouth.

This will ensure that the person on the other end of the line can hear you. Microphones are directional and only pick up sounds in their direct path. Adjust your AirPods if someone cannot hear you on the other end of the line.

Your AirPod’s microphone should point down towards your mouth if you put them in your ears as intended. Even still, your AirPod’s mic can pick up on background noise if you are in a loud area.

AirPods Static Noise

Some users report that their AirPods produce static noise. This can happen due to signal interference, outdated firmware, and a poor Internet connection. Your AirPods should automatically update if they are in the charger case and your phone is open.

Open the Bluetooth tab in the Settings app and tap on your AirPods. Scroll down and tap the More icon to check which version of the firmware you have. Update your firmware if it is out of date to reduce static noise and improve performance.

First Tip: Reconnect to Bluetooth

You may need to disconnect your AirPods from your iPhone and reconnect them to get rid of the static noise. Find your AirPods under the Bluetooth tab, tap the Information symbol, and select Forget This Device. Now, place your AirPods back in the charger case and open your phone.

Put your AirPods in your ears and hold the pairing button on the back of your charger case. Wait for your AirPods to appear under the Bluetooth tab and tap them so they are synced. Play audio through your AirPods to see if you still hear static.

Second Tip: Get Closer to Your Device

The audio quality gets worse and worse the further that you get from your AirPods. Try to keep your phone on you when you are connected to it with your AirPods (Not so easy to do when your AirPods keep pausing). The Bluetooth range for AirPods is only 40 feet, but it can deteriorate before then.

It’s common to walk away from the device that you are connected to because AirPods are wireless. Your AirPods will still work if you stay within 40 feet of the device, but it’s ideal to stay as close as possible. This applies to phones, tablets, computers, and Apple TVs.

Third Tip: Charge Your AirPods

AirPods start to work poorly when they are close to dying. You can listen to music and videos with your AirPods for up to 5-6 hours before you need to charge them. However, they die much faster when you talk on the phone frequently and often die within 4 hours or sooner in some cases.

Luckily, 5 minutes of charging your AirPods should unlock at least 1 hour of listening time. It only takes between 30 and 60 minutes to fully charge your AirPods. Simply place your AirPods in their charger case and set a timer if necessary to improve the performance.

A green light will appear on the charger case once your AirPods are fully charged.

So, What’s the Best Solution?

The best solution is to turn on the Noise Cancellation feature if you have AirPods Pros. Sadly, you cannot access the Noise Cancellation feature if you have the first generation of AirPods. Make sure that Noise Transparency is turned off or your AirPods will pick up background noise even more.

Open the Control Center, adjust the volume slider, and watch for the button in the left corner. Tap the icon in the corner to either activate Noise Cancellation or Noise Transparency. You can also enable Noise Cancellation in the Settings app under the Bluetooth tab.

Point the bottom of your AirPods towards your mouth so that people that you call won’t hear background noise. Your AirPods will still pick up some background noise, but it won’t be too bad unless you’re in a loud area. Never enable Noise Transparency unless you want to hear what’s going on around you. Otherwise, the background noise will make it hard to use your AirPods.