Over the last few months I’d become concerned age was starting to take its (inevitable) toll on my hearing. That wouldn’t surprise me, particularly since for the first year I rode my motorcycle without any earplugs (there’s a lot of air noise at 65 MPH, even behind a windscreen).
The problem mostly manifested itself with my iPhone. I was having problems hearing people, even with the phone pressed tight against my ear. Yet at the same time Barbara would complain about how loud its sound effects were when I wasn’t using it to make calls (I’d turned the volume all the way up so I could hear people speaking in phone calls).
I finally did what I should’ve done sooner and “tested” my hearing using Barbara’s iPhone. Boy was it loud, even with the volume cranked down!
So I took my phone in to Apple for repair.
Turns out this is a known maintenance issue (well, known to Apple but not to me). Dirt, dust, crud, etc., builds up in the speaker/microphone port and progressively mutes it.
The fix is simple: clean the port regularly (according to the Apple tech who cleaned my phone if you don’t do this regularly things can get so bad the speaker will get permanently degraded, necessitating an expensive repair).