Alexa’s not listening to me – is she going deaf?

Amazon Alexa on the top of a kitchen bench

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My Alexa’s not listening very well and I’ve got some ideas on how to fix her.

For anyone that follows my post, you know that my house is fairly well-kitted out with smart home devices, from alarms to switches, sensors, cameras, and anything else you can name.

We have a mix of Google and Alexa devices, but Alexa is the predominant smart speaker assistant in the house. And of those Alexas, most of them are Gen 3 units, either the Dot or the Echo.

There’s very little in the house that I don’t control from my Alexa, including turning the TV on and off, the stereo on and off, the lights on and off, opening and closing the garage, checking video cameras, and even doing drop-ins to communicate around the house, or even from my Alexa Auto in the car when I’m driving and want to speak to everyone at home.

We have reminders for just about anything you can think of, from putting the rubbish bins out on a Tuesday night to reminding the kids of things they need to do at school the next day, like, go to lost property and find that missing jumper they had. Because of this, it’s always very noticeable when Alexa isn’t performing well.

And recently, my frustration has been growing with the feeling that either she just doesn’t want to listen to me anymore, or perhaps she’s going a little deaf.

There are repeated times in the house when I will ask her to complete a command and she fails to do so simply because she doesn’t hear me.

And there are other times when standing in one room, I will ask her to do something, and a unit in another room will be the one that responds. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason in that.

Amazon Alexa top view on kitchen bench
Buttons of the Amazon Alexa

So, my question has been for a while, is Alexa going deaf on me, or is there a software change that has caused this, or is there a hardware thing going on?

The room acoustics haven’t changed, what’s in the room hasn’t changed, the position of Alexa hasn’t changed, and nor has any of the accessories in the house changed around each unit. It just seems that as time goes on, she manages to hear me less and less.

Alexa is just not listening to me.

If it was Alexa taking a personal stand against me, then obviously I should be more concerned as it could be that the robots are about to rise up and become sentient.

As this is incredibly unlikely, another idea that it’s a software issue also seems very unlikely.

One would think as Amazon create software iterations around the units, that they should only become more and more effective at listening and processing sound. My current thinking is simply that it is dust.

Because the Gen 3 have their microphones placed on top of the units, it seems to me that it’s quite likely that, over time, the dust has settled on the top of the units.

And then every time we do the dusting, we clear some of the dust, but it’s likely that some of the dust stays inside the microphone holes.

Of course, over time, this dust compounds and then potentially starts to block Alexa’s ears. Essentially, we are giving her a pair of dust earmuffs on her microphones.

So, if it is the microphones becoming desensitized because of a buildup of micro dust on them, on the top of the units, what is the solution for Alexa not hearing me very well?

Fix #1

My natural tendency is to find the screw holes, tear the thing apart, and see if I can’t clear the dust out from the inside out. It’s a little bit extreme, and I’m likely to break something, despite my confidence in my electronic dismantling capabilities.

But anything’s worth a shot, right?

Fix #2

The second idea is that I could blow fervently over the units in the hope that I might dislodge whatever is in the microphone ports. But I have kind of tried this and I’m not sure it was too effective.

Fix #3

The third idea is to take a toothpick, and to very gently massage around, and try and extract whatever buildup might be in there with the hope that I don’t actually stuff the microphone up completely.

Amazon Alexa Top view
Close up of the buttons and microphones of the Amazon Alexa

Fix #4

And my last idea, which is similar to a one previous is to actually get a can of compressed air from the local hardware store and give each microphone a good blast of compressed air to see if that dislodges or forces the air away from the muddy end of the microphone tip.

At this point, I’m kind of willing to try anything. At the moment, it’s kind of, like, living with my grandparents, as they’re slowly losing their hearing and ability to understand what I’m saying, something that will come to us all, but surely it’s too soon for Alexa to have this issue.

So, my quest began last week as I went to the local hardware store only to find out, thanks to COVID, that there were no compressed gas cans. So, I will go to the top of the list except for dismantling the unit, try each of them and try to let you know how I got on.

If you too have had this issue and are looking for a solution or have found a solution, then, of course, please share with the rest of us in the comments below!

Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.

Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.

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4 thoughts on “Alexa’s not listening to me – is she going deaf?”

  1. Late thought but I think you could also put the Alexa upside down and play loud music through it to dislodge the dust and build up – if that is the cause of her hearing issues.

    1. No. I’ve cleaned the microphones as best I can but suspect that might be part of it. I’ve also bought an Apple Homepod to compare. My Google Mini are still excellent at listening. It’s just Alexa sadly.

  2. I have 2 Alexas, the ball type and Alexa Show. One night right at the stroke of midnight they both started talking saying the same thing, it lasted about 10 seconds. Immediately after that happened and ever since then my Alexa Show has gone deaf. I can be right next to it and yell and nothing. I did a factory reset, checked for updates and everything else I could think of but she is still deaf. I will restart her and she will work for an hour or so but then goes deaf again. What can I do to fix it? My ball type works just fine still.

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