I’ve had my AirPods since the first shipment, December 2016 and have noticed that the volume seems quite a bit lower. I clean them fairly regularly. At half volume I can barely detect the audio. In other words, half volume seems to be low. High volume is what I would think of as half volume. I’ve compared output between iPad, iPhone, Watch and Mac and all seem to be about the same. If there is a difference it would be that the iPhone and Mac are slightly lower. Watch and iPad seem slightly higher but at half volume the audio was barely detectable.
I did yet another search to see if I could turn-up any tricks for resetting the volume of AirPods. I again tried the usual suggestions of turning off bluetooth, disconnecting, unpairing, repairing, etc. Nothing worked. I came to the conclusion that it had to be a build up of wax under the grill. Perhaps in cleaning it from the surface some of it get’s pushed through rather than scraped off. That seems the likely culprit.
I took an extreme measure. I’m not suggesting anyone do this because it might ruin your AirPods. Nowhere on their website does Apple suggest this. But for myself, I figured that as low as the volume was, it couldn’t get much worse. My AirPods were nearly unusable so I put 1 drop of ear wax removal liquid onto the mesh of each AirPod. I was very careful to just do ONE drop. I let it sit for a minute or two. I tapped them a few times to assist in getting the fluid through. I assumed that because the fluid did not just go right through that there must indeed be wax under/inside the grill. I waited. I tapped again a few times. Some of it very slowly disappeared through the mesh. I turned them over to drain. I used a small bit of tissue to wipe the mesh. I gently blew into the three other holes of the air pod tapped the airpods against a table mesh side down. I can’t really say that I saw anything come back out, liquid or wax.
At that point in the process I was hoping that while the wax might not make its way back out through the mesh it would at least be dislodged enough that it might clear the way for more sound to get through. The result: slight improvement. I tried it all again with another drop to each AirPod. I let it sit then wiped and blew. Then I did a third drop. The whole process took maybe an hour of just letting them sit then wiping then blowing and testing between each drop. When I decided to stop I’d noticed about a 30% improvement. Still not as loud as I remember them being new or as loud as the wired EarPods are (they never get used), but now much more useable. At full volume now they are almost too loud again. I might actually need to bump the volume down a wee bit.
So, for me, this has helped. It might ruin your AirPods as it is a deliberate attempt to get a drop of liquid inside. I’ve read accounts of people running them through the wash and still working after so I took the chance. I’ll likely do it again when I notice another degradation. But this is not something that Apple recommends.
Update: A few weeks later and the sound is still improved. Actually, it seemed to me that after a few days the sound had actually improved further. As though whatever was inside had further dissolved or had moved further out of the way. I’d say at this point that they sound at about 50% improved and while not as loud as new they are much more usable. I’m not struggling to hear them and have actually turned the volume down from the highest setting. When I notice the volume decreasing again I will definitely repeat the above process.