There's a Mac audio bug that Apple hasn't fixed in 20 years — "This bug genuinely led me to believe I was going deaf"

MacBook macOS Sonoma widgets on desk
(Image credit: Future)

An audio bug in macOS hasn’t been fixed in 21 years, despite Apple being aware of it, and users posting their frustrations with the bug throughout the years.

According to developer Fabian on X, this bug causes the audio balance on a Mac to shift to the left or right channel of a speaker. There are two temporary fixes — install Balance Lock from the App Store, or manually shift the balance to the center by going to System Settings > Sound > Output > Audio Balance.

It was originally thought that this was a recent bug, but it turns out that this audio issue first appeared in 2003 in Mac OS X 10.2, as confirmed by Apple from one of its (now archived) Support pages.

Other users on X have since commented about how they were worried that their own hearing was to blame. We’ve reached out to Apple for comment to find out if this 21-year-old bug will be fixed in a future update of macOS Sonoma.

Don’t hold your breath on this bug being fixed soon

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There’s hope here for an eventual fix: Apple has been in a similar situation before with bugs being fixed after a long period of time. 

According to TechCrunch, when iOS 17.1 came out in October 2023, this fixed a privacy issue that had been present since iOS 14, released in 2020. The feature prevents wireless routers and access points from learning your iPhone’s ‘MAC address’ by creating a dummy address — this is a unique ID that identifies your device and can be used to track your iPhone if needed. Despite the good intent of this useful feature, it wouldn’t create a dummy address, which would put your iPhone at risk. It was an important bug that had to be fixed, and after three years, Apple did. 

Yet an audio bug is clearly a low priority for the company, as it’s 21 years since this bug was discovered. This does, however, go against another attribute that Apple is proud to be passionate about, as well as privacy — its focus on user experience. Having this audio bug occur at random moments is a big frustration to many users who have experienced it throughout the years, and can hinder their enjoyment of using a Mac as they try to listen to their content.

To note, Apple offers a Bounty program for developers to let the company know about any security or privacy vulnerabilities. If a submitted issue is discovered by Apple to be something that the company needs to fix, a monetary reward is sent to those who found it. Clearly, Apple has different priorities for certain bugs — but as this audio issue is detrimental to how a Mac is used for listening to movies, music, and more, it should be resolved, especially so long after it first being discovered.

Until we hear back from Apple, the two temporary fixes — installing Balance Lock or going to Sound in System Settings on your Mac, will have to do for now.

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Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.