iPhone Calls Sound Weird? Try Turning Off Phone Noise Cancelation in iOS

May 15, 2014 - 9 Comments

Phone Noise Cancelation on the iPhone

A feature called “Phone Noise Cancellation” was introduced to the iPhone with iOS 7 which aims to reduce background ambient noise when on a phone call, but for some users it can sound strange and make their phone calls sound weird, or worse. This may be due to the ambient audio stream created by the feature. Apple describes the option as follows, “Noise cancelation reduces ambient noise on phone calls when you are holding the receiver to your ear.” In other words, because the feature only works the iPhone is held up to your head, you won’t notice it all if you tend to make iPhone calls through Bluetooth in a car, headset, speakerphone, or earbuds.

If you think your iPhone calls sound off but you can’t quite pinpoint why, or you feel a little weird when holding the phone to your head while on a call, try turning off the ambient noise reduction feature and see if that helps.

How to Disable Ambient Phone Noise Cancelation on the iPhone

  1. Open the “Settings” app and head to “General” and then to “Accessibility”
  2. Scroll down to the “HEARING” section and toggle the switch next to “Phone Noise Cancellation” to the OFF position

iPhone Phone Noise Cancelation feature in iOS

It’s impossible to say whether or not you’ll benefit (let alone notice) from keeping the noise reduction feature on or off, so you really should just try it out yourself by making a few phone calls with the feature turned on, and again with the feature turned off. For best results, make the same phone call to something like an automated message so everything sounds the same during the tests.

For what it’s worth, many users can’t tell the difference at all, but some with particularly sensitive hearing may instantly notice a difference in perception of calls and of call quality. There are even some mixed reports that the ambient noise reduction feature can cause discomfort, a weird pressure, or even nausea with certain individuals while on phone calls using the phones receiver up to their ear, so it’s certainly worth considering. Perhaps this even deserves a spot along with some other general iOS 7 usability tips, even though it’s not a visual difference, so thanks to CultOfMac for the tip.

If you’ve ever questioned the call quality or your sanity when making a phone call since updating an iPhone to the newest versions of iOS, try this out and see if it makes a difference. Let us know in the comments if you think it offers a meaningful change, one way or the other.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks

9 Comments

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  1. Eric says:

    Do not turn this off. It’s an incredible feature. It’s not about hearing. It’s about talking. You can be in a crowded bar and speak normally and the person you’re talking to you can hear you perfectly. Turn it off and you’ll be yelling for them to hear and they’ll hear all the ambient noise. Wow. Talk about not understanding your iPhone.

    • Martijn says:

      Indeed, I’m pretty sure this feature cancels out background noise around you with the help of the extra microphone on the back of the iPhone. In order to differentiate your voice from the noise, your mouth needs to be close to the microphone at the bottom. That’s why this feature only works while your ear is on the speaker. This feature doesn’t change the incoming signal in any way, so no surprise it’s described as being a subtle change. It’s as subtle as placebo can take you.

  2. Will says:

    I do not see this option under hearing.

  3. BiggyJohnson says:

    For those of us who don’t drink our lives away in crowded bars, turning this off vastly improves the overall Apple experience for myself and my wife Leafsley.

  4. guy1967 says:

    iPhone 5 and 5S have active noise cancellating earpiece feature, but not iPhone 5C

  5. Howard says:

    Don’t turn this off – Do a hard reset. This has happened to me, along with a number of other minor software glitches and a hard reset is what fixes them in my experience.

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