There are few things as frustrating as when I can’t hear unless my iPhone is on speaker. Taking work calls either at home or in a public setting on speakerphone is uncomfortable and disruptive. As it turns out, this is a fairly common audio issue with a number of proven fixes.
iPhone Can’t Hear Caller Unless On Speaker
If your iPhone can’t hear caller unless on speaker, restart/reset iPhone, turn off Bluetooth, and download iOS update. If the issue persists, plug in and unplug headphones, set ‘Call Audio Routing’ to automatic, disable ‘Phone Noise Cancelation’, and enable ‘Hearing Aid Compatibility’. Lastly, ‘Reset All Settings’ and DFU restore iPhone.
Performing each of these steps will solve the problem for most users.
Let’s review each of these fixes in detail from start to finish. I highly recommend you follow these steps in the exact order outlined below.
Importantly, these steps will work for all iPhone models (iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone XR, etc).
Step 1: Restart iPhone And Turn Off Bluetooth
Ok – let’s get the quick and obvious troubleshooting steps out of the way first.
The very first troubleshooting step to take is to quickly restart your iPhone.
To restart your iPhone, first press and hold down the volume down button (left side) and the side button (right side) simultaneously. Then, slide the power button at the top of the screen from left to right to power off your phone.
After waiting about 30 seconds, turn your iPhone back on by pressing and holding the side button (right side ) until you see the Apple logo.
When your iPhone turns back on, take the following additional two steps:
- Navigate to Settings and toggle Airplane Mode on and back off again.
- Navigate to Settings, and then Bluetooth and toggle Bluetooth off.
Oftentimes, your iPhone is automatically connecting via Bluetooth to a nearby device, causing you not to be able to hear the incoming call.
So again, be sure to turn Bluetooth OFF.
Finally, have a friend call you and test out the call audio again. If the issue persists, continue to step 2.
Step 2: Force Reset iPhone
Another common and easy fix to try if restarting your iPhone is unsuccessful, is attempting a force reset.
How To Force Reset Your iPhone
- First, press and then quickly release the volume up button.
- Then, press and quickly release the volume down button.
- Lastly, press and hold the side button. Once the Apple logo appears, release the side button.
It is important to note that it can take up to 10 seconds for the Apple logo to appear. Be sure to continue to hold the side button until it does.
Once your iPhone has fully restarted, once again determine if the issue has resolved.
Step 3: Download The Latest iOS Software Update
A broader software bug could also be the culprit.
It is therefore important to ensure you are operating on the latest iOS software version that is available.
To download the latest iOS software update available:
- First, navigate to the Settings application.
- Then, select General.
- Next, select Software Update.
- Here you will see if there are any recent software updates available. If there is one, select Download and Install.
Once the update is complete and your iPhone has fully restarted, attempt to field an incoming call again.
Step 4: Plug In And Unplug Headphones
In some instances, your iPhone thinks you have headphones connected when really you do not.
To test this, swipe down from the top of the screen to view the Control Center. Make note of the volume indicator. This should be displaying a standard sound symbol as show below.
If a pair of headphones is showing here instead, that means your iPhone mistakenly thinks your headphones are plugged in!
To fix this, locate your headphones and with the Control Center open, plug them into the headphone jack and then unplug them.
The headphones symbol should be replaced by the standard volume symbol, indicating the fix was successful. It is important to note that this may not work on the first try. Therefore, it is a good idea to try repeatedly plugging your headphones in and then unplugging them until you are successful.
In the event that your iPhone remains stuck on headphone audio, there is likely dirt and debris inside your iPhone headphone port. This debris could be obstructing the headphone jack and triggering the headphone protocol.
Any openings on the outside of your iPhone, even the small slits around the side buttons, can accumulate this kind of debris leading to frustrating hardware issues, such as your volume buttons not working. The best way to avoid build-up related issues is to clean your iPhone side buttons and headphone port regularly.
Go ahead and power down the iPhone. Clean out the headphone port with something like a toothpick or a Q-tip with one of the ends removed.
If you are having any difficulty getting the dirt and dust out, try taking a piece of scotch tape and wrapping it tightly around the toothpick. Make sure the adhesive side is facing out!
For most users this will do the trick and the call audio should start working correctly again.
Step 5: Set Call Audio Routing To Automatic
Ok, so you are still experiencing issues. No need to worry just yet! In many cases, making a few simple iPhone audio settings adjustments will solve the problem.
Let’s start by checking your Call Audio Routing settings.
The Call Audio Routing settings on your iPhone allows you to automatically direct the audio of incoming calls to the iPhone speaker, a Bluetooth headset, or even hearing devices.
While this can be a great setting for some folks, improper Call Audio Routing settings may be the reason why your normal iPhone audio is not working.
Navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Call Audio Routing and be sure to select Automatic.
Step 6: Disable Phone Noise Cancelation And Enable Hearing Aid Compatibility
Countless iPhone users have also reported that there are two additional audio settings adjustments, that when used together, fixed their incoming call audio.
The audio settings combination that has solved this issue for many users is to first disable Phone Noise Cancelation and then enable Hearing Aid Compatibility.
It is important to turn Phone Noise Cancellation off first, before attempting to turn Hearing Aid Compatibility on.
This is because Hearing Aid Compatibility and Phone Noise Cancellation cannot BOTH be enabled at the same time. Enabling one disables the other.
First, start by navigating to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual. Here you will want to adjust the Phone Noise Cancellation toggle to the off position to disable it.
Next, navigate back to Settings > Accessibility and this time select Hearing Devices. Here you will want to adjust the Hearing Aid Compatibility toggle to the on position to enable it.
You know the drill by now! With these two audio settings now updated, field another test call and see if you audio issue has resolved.
Step 7: Reset All Settings
Ok, so at this point you have completed all of the steps above, and yet still your audio is not functioning properly.
There is a likely a deeper iPhone software issue going on, and I therefore recommend you ‘Reset All Settings’.
Keep in mind is that when you reset all settings, everything in the settings application will return to factory default. You will need to re-enter your WiFi passwords, reconnect your bluetooth devices, etc.
I will say however, that this step is a magic bullet for all sorts of iPhone audio issues and is absolutely worth the effort.
How To Reset All Settings
- First, select the Settings application.
- Then, navigate to General.
- Next, scroll all the way to the bottom and tap Transfer or Reset iPhone.
- Finally, select Reset at the bottom of the screen.
Your iPhone will now shutdown and reset. Once you are back up and running, your iPhone call audio should function normally.
Step 8: DFU Restore iPhone
If absolutely nothing else is working, a final nuclear option is to Device Firmware Update (DFU) restore your iPhone.
I say nuclear option, because a DFU restore erases everything on your iPhone. Make sure to fully back up your iPhone before you begin!
Notably, many people are under the impression that if they are having difficulties with their iPhone, they can bring it into the local Apple store and they will get a replacement.
In the vast majority of cases, the Apple technician will first try to reset all settings and then they will perform a DFU restore as a final measure.
So if nothing else is working, and you simply cannot get your iPhone call audio to function properly, you might as well try this yourself first.
To perform a DFU restore, follow each of the steps in the video below carefully.
Encountering the iPhone can’t hear caller unless on speaker issue can be so frustrating. Follow these 8 troubleshooting steps to get your audio functioning properly again:
- Restart iPhone and turn Bluetooth off
- Force reset iPhone
- Download iOS software update
- Plug in and unplug headphones
- Set Call Audio Routing to automatic
- Disable Phone Noise Cancellation and enable Hearing Aid Compatibility
- Reset All Settings
- DFU restore iPhone
If you’ve tried all of these fixes without any luck, you can try contacting Apple customer service online or at 1-800-275-2273.
You can also use your iPhone’s serial number to review your Apple warranty status and eligibility to purchase additional AppleCare coverage.
If one of these steps helped you fix this issue, or if you solved the problem some other way, let me know in the comments section below!
Chelsea Ashbrook is a Senior Manager of Corporate Digital Experience at Genentech. Chelsea received her B.A. from the University of Connecticut and has spent the last 10 years working in the technology field.
Her professional experience spans information technology services, web content management, and platform development.
For the past decade, long before the work from home revolution truly began, Chelsea has been working in the technology field remotely.
This blog is her outlet to share her findings with you.