Why Is Hulu Sound So Low? Fix it in Seconds


Are you experiencing audio issues while watching Hulu? Perhaps you’ve had one of the following audio problems:

  • No audio
  • Distorted audio
  • Audio/video out of sync
  • Volume too high or too low

Many of these issues can be solved by following a simple set of troubleshooting steps. Read on to find out how to fix your low (or no) sound issues on Hulu by 1) checking the in-screen Hulu volume; 2) verifying the volume level on your computer or device; 3) restarting your computer or device; 4) stabilizing your Internet connection; 5) reconnecting your HDMI cable (if you’re using one to connect to a projection system); 6) adding a set of external speakers; 7) adjusting the audio settings on your computer or device.

Step 1 – Check the volume control that is internal to Hulu’s programs

Start with the simplest solution: is the volume turned up to an appropriate level in the Hulu program window you are watching? In the lower right corner of your viewing screen you will notice a speaker symbol. Clicking on this symbol reveals a vertical volume bar marked by a small blue circle. Click and hold your cursor on this blue dot, and move it upward to raise the volume to the desired level.

A related step to verify that the problem is inherent to Hulu (rather than a larger issue with your computer) is to try playing videos on another streaming service like Amazon or Youtube. If the audio issues also appear in these other services, move on to Step 2 to address the possible problems with your computer audio; if the problems do not present in these other services, continue reading at Step 3 for additional troubleshooting.

Step 2 – Verify the volume level on your computer or device

If you suspect the audio issue may be one that affects your overall computer or device, try the following. For PC users, change the sound settings on your computer by going to the “Start” menu, choosing “Control Panel,” and then clicking the icon for “Audio and Sound Settings.” In this window, you should see four vertical volume bars; make sure all four are raised to maximum capacity. Additionally, check that the “Mute all” box in the lower-left corner is unchecked.

To check the sound settings on a Mac computer, click the speaker icon in the top right corner of your desktop screen (don’t see it? Don’t worry: click on the apple icon on the far left and choose “System Preferences” and then “Sound”). The speaker icon allows you to control the overall computer volume by moving a small blue orb up or down a slider, much as in Step 1. Click and hold to slide the volume up to the desired level. The “Sound” settings dialog box contains a button for “output.” From there you can select the output device, control the output volume, and adjust the balance of sound output from left to right. Try these options to discover if the audio problem you’re experiencing is changed by adjusting the overall computer volume.

On your phone or TV, use the console, audio bar, or remote to adjust the volume on the device. Do you notice a difference in output for the Hulu video and/or for videos from other streaming services? Depending on your answer, read on to Step 3 for a simple restart or Step 5 for advanced audio settings options.

Step 3 – Restart your computer or device

As every good tech-consultant knows, sometimes restarting the device is the best way to fix the problem. This is because device manufacturers and streaming services periodically make updates that may not have taken effect, especially if you tend to leave your device on all the time.

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Whether you call it a “power cycle” or an old-fashioned reboot, give your device a chance to fix the problem on its own. Proceed to Step 5 to do the same with your Internet connection. If the problem persists, read on for more troubleshooting related to advanced audio settings.

Step 4 – Stabilize your Internet connection

Perhaps you’ve been watching a streaming video and noticed the video quality suddenly changed from crisp to pixelated. As you may know, this can happen when the Internet connection changes, and your device and the streaming service adjust by changing the video quality to allow playback to continue (gone are the days of “buffering”…well, mostly). The same can happen with audio: if you notice that your volume has decreased during periods of high Internet traffic, you can try closing other programs and tabs (and kicking the rest of the family off the Internet till your show is over).

Step 5 – Reset your HDMI cable (or audio connector)

If you are using an HDMI cable or another connector to link your computer or device to a TV or projection system, the volume problem may be in the cable connection. Test the effectiveness of the cable in another context to make sure it still works. Then try connecting the cable to a different port on your TV. You can even try reversing the HDMI cable to see if that makes a difference.

Step 6 – Add a pair of external speakers

If you haven’t yet tried adding additional speakers to boost your listening experience, try plugging in a pair. Given the changes in audio format and output (see below), it may be time to invest in some external speakers. Inexpensive and effective sets are available online for less than $20. Even the cheapest set of external speakers may allow your device to convert the audio output from the Hulu show (and the commercials) in a more balanced way.

Step 7 – Adjust the audio settings (again)

In the bygone days, advertisers increased the volume of TV commercials to grab viewers’ attention. To put a stop to this, the Federal Communications Commission created legislation in 2010 called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM…for once a great acronym!). According to the FCC, this prevented TV stations from “boosting the average volume of commercials to levels beyond the programs they accompany.”

What happened? The CALM before the storm

However, some advertisers outwitted the CALM Act by making certain parts of the commercial louder, balancing these parts out with softer moments so the average volume of the ad matched the accompanying TV program. Pretty SMART!!!!

TV streaming services, in turn, have adjusted their overall volume levels to mitigate this problem. The result is sometimes an overall decrease in volume (a little too CALM, perhaps?). While Hulu users raged and the streaming service pledged that “product teams are continuously working to improve volume inconsistencies across the Hulu streaming library” (can’t you just imagine them working tirelessly?), the FCC suggested viewers change the settings on their computers, TVs, and devices to stabilize the overall volume levels.

What happened? A problem with stereo

This fix (see below) also applies to a shift in audio format. Hulu broadcasts shows in Dolby Digital; a sound format sometimes called surround sound or 5.1 sound (this format is meant to accommodate an audio setup of up to five speakers plus a subwoofer). Dolby Digital surround sound allows a show to provide an immersive audio experience, as different sound layers emerge from different speakers. Unfortunately, for those of us without a home theater (or without a finely balanced system) this can result in softer audio during the show.

In contrast, commercials are still broadcast in normal stereo sound. Stereo splits sound into two simple left and right channels that both produce the same level of sound. When volume distributed among 5 + 1 channels is suddenly funneled into just two, the effect can be…deafening (especially if you’ve turned your audio way up in Steps 1 and 2).

What to do? Restore the balance

Open the sound settings on your TV, AR receiver, soundbar, or Roku box and check if it’s possible to switch from Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital + to PCM or to Stereo sound (Dolby Digital or surround sound may not be supported for the TV show you’re watching on Hulu, or for your device in general—if you don’t see the Dolby Digital setting on your device, double-check the sound format and set it to the standard stereo option). Another possibility is to adjust the sound settings for “audio stabilization” or “stabilization across devices”: these options can also stabilize the audio output across your speakers, reducing the potential for a big contrast between the volume level of TV shows and commercials.

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