Using AirPods As Hearing Aids

A new feature in iOS 12 allows you to use your iPhone's Live Listen feature with Apple's AirPods, a much cheaper alternative than actual medical device hearing aids. The audio comes from the iPhone's microphone, so you can place your iPhone in a better position to hear someone and leave it there. You can even use it as a way to listen in to what is going on in another room.

Video Transcript
A new feature in iOS 12 allows you to use your iPhone and Apple's AirPods as hearing aids. The main feature here is something called Live Listen and that's not new. That's been around for a few years and allows your iPhone to connect to certain assisted hearing devices to give you better quality hearing. You basically can use the iPhone's microphone and get that sound into your hearing aids.

But now with iOS 12 you can do it with AirPods which at $169 are pretty expensive wireless earbuds but they're really cheap compared to hearing aids. Of course they're no substitute for an actual medical device. But for a lot of people they can really help especially in a crowded situation where there is a lot of noise. So here's how to get it to work.

The first thing you need to do is you need to enable it in your phone. It's not where you think it is. People think you go into Settings and you go into Accessibility. But it's not actually there. It's under Control Center. Go to Control Center and you can customize controls. One of the items you can add to Control Center is Hearing. It's not even called Live Listen. It's called Hearing here. So you add that and now when I bring up Control Center, I'll do that on my iPhone X by dragging down from the upper right hand corner, I see that little Ear icon there and I can turn it on.

So before I do that I want to put in my AirPods. I put these in and now I can go ahead and turn this on. You can see here it shows Live Listen and it says Off. So I tap it again and now it's On. Now I can hear, well it's just myself but if there is somebody else here in the room it would amplify their voice. It's trying to isolate voices. The type of sounds that are voices and give you those. It works really well. I tried it in a few crowded situations and I could definitely hear the person a little bit better.

You can also use it in some other types of situations because the microphone is actually from your iPhone not from the devices themselves, not from the AirPods. So you can literally place your iPhone closer to somebody so you can hear them. So somebody sitting across from you at a table and you can't hear them because it's a noisy restaurant you can place your iPhone in the middle of the table or even push it closer to them with the microphone end pointed towards them and it will pickup their voice a lot better.

You can even leave your iPhone in a completely different room and use it, kind of, as a listening device to hear what's going on in that room as long as you're comfortable having your phone left in that room even though you're in another room. But it could be used in situations, like for instance if you have trouble hearing the TV you could put your iPhone over by the TV and sit and use these to hear better and then you will continue to hear just as well even if you walk out of the room. So you can go to the kitchen to grab something from the refrigerator and you'll continue to hear as if you were sitting there because you're phone itself hasn't moved. It's still near the television and the range on AirPods are much greater than standard bluetooth devices because they're using Apple's specific technology. So chances are you can continue to hear even when you walk out of the room.

So a really handy thing. If you have AirPods and you have an iPhone give it a try and see if it works for you in different situations.

Comments: 21 Responses to “Using AirPods As Hearing Aids”

    Bob
    10/29/18 @ 10:50 am

    Closely related… tried this using garden variety Bluetooth headphones; it worked great! There is a little latency, maybe 50 or 100mS. Of course, Bluetooth on the phone must be on. Funny, I was just piddling around in my control panel settings last night, and didn’t even notice the new Hearing option. Cool videos, Thanks!

    Steve P
    10/29/18 @ 9:24 pm

    Can this work through equalizers? Either Apple/iTunes or one of the sound shaping apps? Or would this add too much latency? Louder and more isolated is good, but IF you actually need hearing aids you usually need a compensation curve. THAT would make this truly useful – even if it didn’t provide the full level of adjustment of a good (6000/pair!) aids. THANKS!

    Martin B.
    11/1/18 @ 9:37 am

    I really wonder whether it’s legal to leave your iPhone in one room and listen in, from another room, on conversation there via AirPods, as suggested. Gary, your changed voice and look on your face in the video even hint that you too might wonder about at least the ethics of it. I suspect that such use of this hardware would turn it, in the eye of the law in most states, into an illegal bugging device. Just raising this for everyone’s good.

    11/1/18 @ 9:45 am

    Martin: In was actually thinking more along the lines of innocent mischief, not something so serious as you suggest. Like kids listening in on siblings and their friends. Also, it could be handy as a makeshift baby monitor. Maybe dad needs to look for something in the car while their child is asleep in a motel room.

    hy mayerson
    11/1/18 @ 10:46 am

    Gary.
    Of course.
    Sometimes we get so afraid of breaking some law, that we hamstring ourselves. We know when we have good intentions.
    Little else is necessary.
    I speak from trying cases x country for 50 years.
    Hy

    Neil
    11/1/18 @ 10:57 am

    Regretfully, this does not work with iphone X using latest IOS 12.01. Could really do with being able to use my Airpods to help with listening

    11/1/18 @ 11:07 am

    Neil: It doesn’t? That’s exactly what I was using for this tutorial. Which part, exactly, isn’t working for you?

    Neil
    11/1/18 @ 11:08 am

    Correction – it does work very well. You need to ensure that the Airpods are connected to iPhone via Bluetooth prior to using the hearing assistant in control panel.
    Another great tip from Gary

    John Vossos
    11/1/18 @ 12:49 pm

    Are the Airpods you speak of wireless?

    11/1/18 @ 1:14 pm

    John: Yes, Apple’s AirPods are wireless. https://www.apple.com/airpods/

    chuck eisen
    11/1/18 @ 2:34 pm

    I tried this with my powerbeats 3 but it did not work.I’m curious if this works with any bluetooth headset/ear buds?

    Steve Kruse
    11/2/18 @ 8:34 am

    Nice article – I didnt Know you could do this. Before I runout and buy the AirPods This is a great solution for my wife who refuses to get hearing aids. In your experience, how much delay is there between the TV talking and hearing the voice? If the mouth on tv is 2 or 3 words ahead of what you are hearing it would drive most people nuts. Thanks in advance!

    11/2/18 @ 8:49 am

    Steve: I don’t know why there would be a delay. I just tried it with my iPhone X, AirPods and the TV and I didn’t notice any delay. Is a delay something common with hearing aid devices?

    cw wats
    11/2/18 @ 1:19 pm

    Gary,
    Great information, glad Apple is realizing not all users are 25, seniors love the products too. Thank you thank you.

    Richard Barnsley
    11/4/18 @ 8:05 pm

    Tried this with my Costco hearing aids and it works but sounds a bit tinny.

    jasper
    11/6/18 @ 8:43 am

    I think that the answer’s ‘no’, but there’s no way to use this feature to ‘talk to’ devices other than AirPods?

    It would be useful to be able to use an iPhone mike to record your voice onto a MacBook Keynote presentation, for example.

    11/6/18 @ 9:47 am

    Jasper: No, Keynote doesn’t have that. But if your MacBook is there with you, then why do you need to do the recording with the iPhone?

    Jasper Robinson
    11/6/18 @ 4:37 pm

    Oh, I can hold the iPhone close to my mouth to get a clear recording during teaching. I need to be quite a distance from the MacBook so audio recording picks up background noise, which reduces the quality

    11/6/18 @ 5:49 pm

    Jasper: Oh, I see. You are recording live with an audience. Most people use that function when just alone with their Mac. You could always get an external microphone. There are even some wireless ones if you are that far away — but then you need to be close enough to advance the slides too.

    chuck eisen
    11/22/18 @ 12:53 pm

    Gary
    I’m curious why i get an ” unavailable for current route message ” when i follow your video instructions . I’m using power beats in ear head phones .
    any suggestions?
    thanks

    11/22/18 @ 12:55 pm

    chuck: Perhaps this feature doesn’t work with those headphones? Impossible for me to guess since I don’t have those to try out.

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