Why can’t I increase my media volume?

Many people experience frustration when trying to increase the media volume on their devices, only to find it is already maxed out yet still too quiet. This is a common issue that can affect various devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and more. There are several potential causes of low maximum media volume, ranging from hardware limitations to software settings. In this article we will explore the various reasons you may be unable to increase your media volume further, and provide troubleshooting tips to help resolve the problem.

Hardware Volume Limits

Many devices like smartphones, tablets, computers, and speakers have built-in hardware volume limits to prevent hearing damage from loud audio output (https://www.theverge.com/23729051/ios-android-samsung-phone-volume-limits-how-to). These maximum volume limits are hard-coded into the hardware and cannot be overridden through software settings. Manufacturers set conservative volume limits aligned with health organization guidelines to ensure safe listening volumes.

For example, Apple caps the maximum output volume on iPhones and iPads to comply with European regulations (https://www.soundguys.com/volume-limiter-guide-58264/). Android and Samsung devices also have default volume limits that cannot be exceeded. The volume caps may feel restrictive to some users, but exist to protect hearing, especially during extended listening periods with headphones.

Trying to blast audio beyond the built-in hardware limits will only result in distorted sound, not increased volume. The limits cannot be disabled without modifying the physical hardware components. While frustrating for those wanting higher volumes, hardware volume limits aim to promote long-term hearing health.

Software Volume Limits

The operating system and certain apps can impose software volume limits that restrict how loud your media playback can be. Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android all include built-in volume limiters to prevent dangerously high volume levels.

For example, Windows 10 and 11 have volume limit options under Sound settings to restrict the maximum volume. This prevents the volume from being turned up higher than the set limit (https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/how-to-set-the-volume-limit-in-windows-10/9480011e-0848-482c-bb6c-0f43be905bca). There are also third party Windows programs like Volume Limiter that offer more customizable volume restriction settings (https://sourceforge.net/projects/volumelimiter/).

On iPhone and iPad, there is a Volume Limit setting under Music that caps the maximum headphone volume. This can prevent damage to hearing from excessively loud music playback through headphones (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202190).

Android also allows setting maximum volume limits. Under Sound settings there is a Safe headset volume option to limit the headphone volume to safer levels. Some Android manufacturers like Samsung have additional volume limiting capabilities in their own software.

So if you are finding your device’s software volume controls maxed out but cannot increase loudness further, it is likely hitting a volume limiter set in the OS or app. Checking for volume limit settings in your software’s sound options can determine if a limit is actively restricting loudness.

Correct Volume Control

When experiencing issues with limited volume levels, the first step is to ensure you are adjusting the correct volume slider for your needs. Many devices have separate volume controls for the overall system volume as well as volume within specific apps. For example, on an Android phone the volume buttons typically control the system volume, while within a music app there is a separate slider to control the in-app volume.1

Similarly, the Apple TV remote has separate buttons for system volume vs in-app volume control. If you are trying to increase the volume for a specific app like Netflix or Spotify, make sure you are using the in-app slider rather than just turning up the system volume. The system volume may already be maxed out, so boosting the in-app volume is key.2

If adjusting the in-app volume does not resolve the issue, verify if your device has any system-wide volume limiters enabled, either in the settings or accessibility options. Additionally, check if your headphones or speakers have independent volume controls you need to turn up. Using the proper volume slider for your needs is the first step toward boosting quiet audio.

Volume Boosters

There are various third-party apps and accessories available that can boost the volume output on smartphones and other devices beyond the normal system volume limits. Some popular options include:

Volume Booster GOODEV app for Android and iOS – Allows boosting volume higher than your device’s max volume limit.

Equalizer FX app – Provides an equalizer to boost specific frequency ranges and overall volume.

External headphone amplifiers or volume boosters – These accessories can boost headphone audio signals before output to increase volume.

Some volume booster apps may allow higher volumes but can risk speaker or headphone damage if used carelessly. Always start with low volumes and increase cautiously. Consider your hearing health and avoid excessive long-term exposure to loud volumes.

Hearing Issues

Some individuals may have difficulty increasing the volume due to underlying hearing loss, especially in the low frequencies. Many people are unaware they have hearing loss as it develops gradually over time. One sign of potential hearing issues is needing to keep volumes very low to hear properly [1]. This occurs because the softest audible volumes are elevated for those with hearing loss. The brain cannot process louder volumes, so they turn the volume down. Often this manifests as difficulty hearing low-pitched sounds like voices or bass notes in music.

Hearing loss typically begins in the high frequencies but over time progresses to involve lower pitches. Loss of hearing in the low frequencies makes sounds seem “tinny” or hollow. Many find they cannot increase volume to desired levels without distortion or discomfort. Individuals who struggle to increase volume, especially those over 50, should get a hearing evaluation by an audiologist. Proper diagnosis is key, as treatments like hearing aids can restore ability to enjoy music and media at satisfying volumes. It is important to address hearing issues early before they begin impacting daily communication and quality of life.

Headphone Impedance

Headphone impedance refers to the measure of AC resistance in the headphones’ voice coils. Impedance is measured in ohms and headphones typically have impedance ranging from 8 to 600 ohms [1]. Lower impedance headphones, such as 16-32 ohms, do not require amplification to reach adequate volume. Higher impedance headphones, typically 150 ohms and above, require more power and amplification to drive them to higher listening volumes [2].

High impedance headphones have coils with more windings and increased resistance. This means they require more voltage (from an external amplifier) to overcome the resistance and produce volume. Without additional amplification, high impedance headphones will sound noticeably softer at the same volume settings compared to low impedance headphones. Using a headphone amplifier provides the extra power needed to drive high impedance headphones properly.


One common reason you may be experiencing low volume is due to dirt or debris blocking the speakers or headphone port. Over time, lint and dust can accumulate and muffle the sound from your device. Regular cleaning can help prevent this issue.

Use a can of compressed air to blow out any dust or particles that may be lodged in the speakers or headphone jack. Hold the can a few inches away and spray in short bursts. Compressed air dislodges debris without damaging the hardware.

You can also use a soft brush such as a toothbrush to gently brush away any visible debris around openings. Make sure not to use anything abrasive that could scratch the surface.

For deeper cleaning, use a crevice tool or needle to carefully extract compacted dirt stuck further in the ports. Don’t insert anything too far to avoid harming internal components.

When finished, play some audio at full volume to test if the output level has improved and remove any residual debris shaken loose in the process.

Regular cleaning helps maximize your device’s sound performance and volume capabilities.

Troubleshooting Steps

If you are experiencing issues with low media volume, there are some troubleshooting steps you can try before seeking professional help:

Check your volume settings. Make sure the volume on your device (phone, computer, TV, etc) is turned up. Try adjusting the volume using different controls like the buttons on the device itself or in the OS/app settings.

Try using different audio sources and outputs. Switch between built-in speakers, bluetooth, headphones, HDMI, etc. to isolate the issue. [1]

Inspect cables and connections. Make sure audio cables are fully plugged in on both ends. Try replacing cables or using different ports if possible.

Check for obstructions and dust. Look for any physical obstructions blocking speakers or headphone ports. Use compressed air to clear out any dust buildup.

Update drivers and firmware. Make sure you have the latest audio drivers and OS updates installed. Check manufacturer websites for firmware updates.

Run audio troubleshooters. Many operating systems have built-in troubleshooters that can diagnose common audio issues and make automatic fixes.

Reset audio settings. Try reverting any customized audio settings back to default.

Test with different devices. See if the issue persists on different devices like phones, computers, headphones etc.

When to Get Help

If you have tried the troubleshooting steps listed in this guide and are still unable to increase your media volume, it may be time to seek professional help. Here are some signs that indicate you should get technical support:

  • Volume is stuck at zero or minimal levels and cannot be increased through any software controls
  • Volume buttons and keyboard commands have no effect
  • Headphones are not detected by the device
  • Audio sounds heavily distorted even at low volumes
  • Balance is skewed with audio only coming through one side
  • You have hearing loss or other medical conditions that require additional assistance

In these cases, it’s best to contact technical support provided by the device manufacturer or software developer. They can help troubleshoot unique hardware and driver issues that may be preventing you from controlling volume properly. For medical conditions, you should consult an audiologist or medical professional to explore assistive technologies like hearing aids.

Don’t continue troubleshooting on your own if volume is completely inaudible. Seeking professional technical help will resolve the issue much quicker than trial and error.

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