Bluetooth audio not working on a Mac

About once a year, this Mac I’m supposed to use for work develops issues with its Bluetooth not working. Since I sometimes spend six hours in Zoom meetings in a given day, that’s a problem. Since this isn’t well documented anywhere, here’s how I fix Bluetooth audio not working on a Mac.

The most reliable fix for Bluetoooth audio issues on a Mac for me, by far, has been deleting the Bluetooth devices and then pairing them again.

My symptoms

Bluetooth audio not working on a Mac
To fix Bluetooth audio not working on your Mac, hover over your device and click the faint x, like the one you see to the right of my Jabra Talk 15.

My symptoms when this happens are my audio defaulting to the built-in speaker and microphone, and my Bluetooth devices not even showing up as options in my apps or in the audio preferences. Rebooting doesn’t usually help. Resetting the Bluetooth stack usually doesn’t help. I’ve lost track of the other things I found in Mac Bluetooth troubleshooting guides and tried. It’s a lot.

It doesn’t help that this problem usually crops up just as a meeting is about to start, unlike the start of the day like the external monitor issue I sometimes have.

Deleting and pairing the devices again is easy enough, you just have to remember how to do it. That’s why I wrote this up, so 12 months from now when it breaks again, I’ll find this blog post and be able to fix it. I hope it helps you too.

How to delete your Bluetooth audio devices

To fix it, pick Preferences from the Apple menu and open Bluetooth. Hover your mouse over your Bluetooth device that isn’t working. You’ll see a very faint x over the name, toward the right. Click the x to delete the device. If the Mac asks if you’re sure, confirm it. It’s easy, just not necessarily intuitive because of the faintness of that x.

Repeat for every device that isn’t working.

Adding your Bluetooth audio devices back

To add your Bluetooth audio device back, have the device in range and click Connect from the Bluetooth preferences. You’ll probably also have to press a button on your device. On my headsets, it takes about a 3-second press, but yours will vary. When the device shows as connected in your Bluetooth preferences, close Bluetooth preferences and open the audio preferences (Apple menu > Preferences > Audio) and confirm the device shows there as well. As long as it shows up there, it’ll work in your apps too.

Then go back and repeat the process for any other Bluetooth devices you might have. This trick works for speakers, headsets, microphones, earbuds, and any other Bluetooth audio gear you might have and use.

Admittedly this whole process can take a minute or two per device so it’s not super convenient, especially if you discover it right before a meeting. But at least it works.

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