How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids

Dec 9, 2019 - 14 Comments

How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids

Did you know AirPods can be used as hearing aids of sorts? Thanks to a handy and little-known accessibility feature called “Live Listen”, you can use AirPods as hearing aids to boost the audio volume of sounds around you.

Apple’s AirPods have become the best selling wireless headphones worldwide in no time, they’re wildly popular and you see them frequently throughout daily life (you can grab a pair yourself on Amazon). You could take a walk down the street and you’d probably spot several people wearing them to listen to music, podcasts, talk on the phone, or interact with Siri. Their convenience and integration in the Apple ecosystem is hard to beat, as the seamless connectivity it brings to the table across Apple devices is what makes these pair of earbuds extra special. However, listening to music and audio is not the only thing AirPods can do, and there are some other really interesting tricks up their sleeve, and the Live Listen feature functioning as hearing aids is just one of them.

If you wanted to try this feature out for yourself with your pair of AirPods or AirPods Pro, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll be discussing how to use your AirPods as hearing aids using the Live Listen feature that’s built into your Apple device. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the procedure.

How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids Using Live Listen

The Live Listen feature in iOS is an option that can be turned on and off right from the Control Center. However, this handy option is not immediately available by default, and therefore it needs to be added to the Control Center first. Simply follow the steps below to add this feature to your AirPods synced iPhone or iPad:

  1. Open Settings app, then scroll a little bit down and tap on “Control Center”.
    How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids
  2. Now, tap on “Customize Controls” to go to the dedicate menu that allows you to add and remove controls.How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids
  3. Scroll down a little and you’ll notice an option called “Hearing” with the icon of an ear. Simply tap on the “+” icon right next to it in order to add Live Listen to the Control Center.
    How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids
  4. Go to the Control Center by swiping down from the top-right edge of the screen if you’re using an iPhone X or later. If you’re using anything older, just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access it. Now, you’ll notice the Live Listen icon at the bottom as shown in the screenshot below. Simply tap on the “ear” icon.How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids
  5. Make sure your AirPods are connected to your device and tap on “Live Listen” to turn the functionality on.How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids
  6. Once Live Listen is on, you may feel like the ambient noise is sort of amplified and it might throw you off at first, especially if you’re in a loud environment as it boosts the surrounding volume.
  7. You can turn the Live Listen functionality off at any time by simply tapping on “Live Listen” again through Control Center on the iPhone or iPad.
    How to Use AirPods as Hearing Aids

That’s all there is to it, you can now feel like you have super-hearing capabilities just by wearing AirPods or AirPods Pro.

This is pretty much an accessibility feature that utilizes your devices microphone to listen to the environment and sends the amplified sound to your AirPods. So, if a user has trouble hearing people or certain things, simply place your iPhone next to whatever it is that you may want to hear, in order to listen to the boosted audio via your wireless earbuds from across the room.

With all of this being said, Apple has pointed out that AirPods are in no way trying to replace hearing aids, and they have advised users to consult a doctor if they have a serious difficulty when it comes to hearing. So while this feature may be useful and have many applications, don’t expect it to stand in for dedicated hearing devices.

If you’re using this Live Listen feature on AirPods Pro, you’ll want to be sure you already went through the AirPods Pro fit test to ensure the best physical fit. AirPods Pro have other unique and interesting features that standard AirPods don’t have, including noise cancellation and transparency modes, while most standard AirPods features exist on both the Pro and standard models, like using Siri, adjusting music and audio, or this Live Listen feature.

Technically speaking, this feature has actually been around since 2014, which allowed the iPhone and iPad to act as remote microphones for MFi-compatible hearing aids, but the feature was made available for AirPods much more recently.

What do you think about Apple’s Live Listen accessibility feature? Do you actually see yourself using this feature with a purpose, or did you just want to try and hear what it sounded like? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments section down below, and don’t forget to browse through other AirPods articles too.


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Posted by: Hamlin Rozario in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Ray Stubbs says:

    Sorry, could you repeat that?

  2. Kathy says:

    Is that with the apple I pods?

  3. Ghana says:

    I can’t afford hearing aids so the Apple AirPod live listen has been a lifesaver for me. I can hear people with their mask on which is amazing for me. I’m very happy. Keep up the good work apple

  4. Ronald Anter says:

    Very much interested in airpods for severe hearing loss!

  5. Pat Smith says:

    I use my Air Pods with my iPhone. When I try this and I click on the Live Listen on the Control Center it says:
    “Unavailable for current route”. So what does that mean? Thank you!

    • Sam says:

      Means your airpods are being used for something else or another device is connected to them. If you are listening to music, you need to stop, close the music ap and try again.

  6. Boomer says:

    I agree with Rick Alexander. Currently we have to stick with the medical hearing aids. However, there is not that much ground to cover until a device such as air pods can overtake that industry. My hearing aids sucks, the noise is enhanced with the required frequencies which often leads to me not hearing the information anyways because of the noise level, and that stupid in ear plug annoys my ear wall making it uncomfortable to wear after just an hour or two. My ideal hearing aid would be something like the Bose quiet comfort in-ear plugs, where I can adjust which frequencies I want to enhance/decrease, which frequencies I want to cut of completely, and combine it with an active noise cancellation that removes the annoying recurring noises, like alarm tones, car/airplane humming etc. If I can get stereo effect too, that would be awesome, but it would not be required 🙂
    I think a company like Apple would be more likely to produce such a device compared to the current hearing aid providers, as they are all hooked up with the doctors that sell the devices, and thus less inclined to provide us with a device we can manually adjust to our needs.

  7. Édouard Trépanier says:

    The hearing aid industry is a multiple billion dollar industry. The Babyboomer are aging and live longer. The current hearing aid prosthesis on the market are stupid (no control) amplifier with omnidirectional microphones. Why don’t Apple add directional microphones to the iPod with multiple control on Apple devices: volume, limiter, compressor, equilizer etc.?

  8. RM says:

    Wow, thank you. I did not know this!

  9. Tim B says:

    Make sure you try this with noise cancellation both off and on, it makes a big difference. I could really hear the TV in live listen mode until I turned off the noise cancellation (see the link in the article to learn how to use noise cancellation)

  10. Rick Alexander says:

    As a 30-year hearing aid user, with “profound” high pitch loss in both ears, I think Apple is correct to remind us that AirPods are not hearing aids. Also, that we need to stick with hearing aid pros now.
    However, AirPods are close enough that basic hearing aid functions cannot be far away. That might make audiologists cringe!
    Apple technology people might already have the ability to put hearing aid capability in the AirPods and be medically correct. It’s amazing, already, how far the AirPods have come.
    I hate to get caught up in the dollar side but a new pair of hearing aids can cost well into the thousands. Even if the cost of true hearing aid capabilities can work in AirPods at double or triple (dare I say quadruple?) the present AirPod cost, they are much, much less expensive. Patients, audiologists, health insurance companies et al take notice.
    And, for the most part, I trust Apple to do the right thing, especially if they must meet hearing aid/medical standards.

    • Christina says:

      I too have severe hearing loss, both high pitch and low tones (in left ear). The Airpods do NOT work well for me in terms of discriminating what is being said. I can hear the sound of speech, but cannot discern what is being said.

      I am wondering if IOS 14 will help with this????

      I also thought there was an app that was supposed to help, but I cannot find it.

  11. James Smith says:

    I’ve been using LiveListen for a couple of years. I gave up on AirPods after losing a few, and now use Power Beats Pro which is also compatible with LiveListen.
    I wish Apple would take on the Hearing Aid monopoly which gouges the public for a device that is simpler that an iPhone. With a few tweaks, Apple could rule the hearing market.

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