If you have trouble making out what people say to you in a crowded room and you don’t want to use a hearing aid, live listen for AirPods might just be for you!
Apple officially supports this accessibility feature for hearing devices on its AirPods wireless earbuds i. iOS 12 and above.
AirPods users can even use their iPhones as a microphone and listen via their AirPods headphones, even when away from their iPhones—for example, if you leave your iPhone in one room and walk into another room.
As long as the AirPods are still in-range of the iPhone, you can still hear what’s being said in the other room—almost like spying or eavesdropping!
Here’s everything you need to know.
- 1 What is Live Listen for AirPods?
- 2 How to Set Up, Turn On, and Use Live Listen with AirPods
- 3 Live Listen Not Working For You? Tips to Help
- 4 Use Live Listen On Your Made for iPhone Hearing Devices
- 5 Wrapping It Up!
- How to Check AirPods Battery Status on iPhone, Watch, Mac, and even Android
- Connect Your AirPods and HomePod to a MacBook
- Did Your AirPods Go Through The Washing Machine? What to do about it
- AirPods Not Auto-Paring? Sync Problems? Fix it today
- All About Accessibility: Accessibility Features of iPad, iPhone, and iPod
What is Live Listen for AirPods?
Live Listen is a feature that turns your iOS device into a specialized microphone to use with AirPods or hearing aids.
Previously, Apple reserved the feature for use with Made for iPhone hearing aids.
It works by using the built-in microphone on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod to reinforce and even amplify the sound levels reaching your ears.
With iOS 12+, users can use this Live Listen feature with the AirPod wireless headphones.
By placing their iOS device closer to a sound source, hearing impaired users (and any AirPod users) are better able to listen to a conversation in a noisy room or even in another room.
One misconception is that Live Listen works with your AirPods’ microphone–it does not.
Live Listen amplifies the sound picked up from the microphone on your iPhone or iPad only.
Does Live Listen Only Work With AirPods?
Apple originally designed live listen to work with Made-For-iPhone (MFi) certified hearing aids and devices. So it works with all of these devices AND now it works with AirPods too!
Currently, live listen does not work officially with any other headphones including Apple branded sets. However, some readers report this feature does indeed work with third-party headsets including Jabra and Beats.
How to Set Up, Turn On, and Use Live Listen with AirPods
Setting up Live Listen for AirPods is as simple as pairing the wireless headphones and touching a button in the settings.
Here’s how Live Listen works!
To turn Live Listen on, point your iPhone’s microphone towards the sound source (person) you want to hear, and then put your AirPods in your ears.
And then just listen to what’s going on in the other room via your AirPods by tapping the ear icon in Control Center—that’s it!
Using iOS 12 or higher, it’s possible to add a Hearing shortcut to the control panel, making Live Listen more accessible than ever.
But first, let’s show you how to turn the feature on.
Set Up for Live Listen with AirPods (Recommended, not Required)
- Go to Settings > Accessibility or for older iOS Settings > General > Accessibility
- Scroll down to the Hearing section
- For iOS13+ and iPadOS, tap Hearing Devices
- Toggle on Hearing Aid Compatibility
Turning on Hearing Aid Compatibility automatically turns off Phone Noise Cancellation–they cannot both be on since they perform similar functions.
While this set-up is not required, we could not get Live Listen to work without it, so we recommend turning this setting for Hearing Aid Compatibility ON.
Add Live Listen to your Control Panel
- Launch Settings on the iOS device
- Go to Control Centre > Customize Controls
- Add Hearing to the Control List
Turn On Live Listen
- Place your iPhone or iDevice near the sound source you want to listen to
- Put one or both of your AirPods in your ears
- Live Listen does not work if the AirPods are in the case or not in your ears (at least one AirPod must be in your ear)
- Open Control Center
- Tap the Hearing icon (Ear)
- Tap Live Listen–it sometimes takes a bit of time to start up
- Adjust the volume if needed
How Do I Turn Off Live Listen On My AirPods?
- Open Control Center
- Tap the Hearing icon again
- Tap Live Listen to turn it off
Live Listen Not Working For You? Tips to Help
Sometimes technology doesn’t work how it’s supposed to. That can be especially frustrating if you rely on said technology for better hearing.
Take a look at the helpful tips below if you’re having trouble getting Live Listen to work correctly. They should help you out!
- Make sure that Bluetooth is on and that your AirPods are charged
- Put at least one AirPod in your ear. Live Listen does not work if the AirPods are in the case or not in your ears
- Go to Bluetooth > AirPods and tap to Connect
- Toggle off Low Power Mode on your iPhone
- Restart your paired device and try again
- Go to Settings > Accessibility > Hearing Devices and turn on Hearing Aid Compatibility
- Try playing some music to your AirPods first using Control Center’s Music card and tapping the AirPlay icon
Unpair, Reset and Re-pair Your AirPods To Your iPhone
- Go to Bluetooth > AirPods > Forget This Device
- Restart the iPhone or iPad
- Place your AirPods inside its case
- Hold the AirPods next to your device
- Wait for the setup animation to appear
- If the animation does not appear, open the lid and press and hold the white setup button on the back of the case for 15 seconds, until the light inside the top or side of the case flashes amber and then white
- Tap Connect, then tap Done
If you are unable to pair your AirPods to your iDevice, check out the tips in this article.
Use Live Listen On Your Made for iPhone Hearing Devices
Apple originally designed live listen for hearing aids and devices and only expanded support to AirPods in iOS 12 and above.
And there are some added benefits for hearing aids that AirPods don’t have, like setting volume levels for right and left and environment filters for things like outdoors.
Use Live Listen With a Hearing Aid or Device
- Tap Settings > Accessibility > Hearing Devices or for older iOS, General > Accessibility > MFi Hearing Devices
- Tap your hearing aid
- Tap Start Live Listen
- Place your iPhone or iPad in front of the person you want to hear
You can also use an Accessibility Shortcut for Live Listen by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut. Then just triple-click your Side or Home button to access it!
To Turn Off Live Listen on MFi Hearing Devices
- Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > MFi Hearing Devices
- Choose the name of your hearing aid under Devices
- Tap End Live Listen
Connect Your Hearing Device
Commonly, Bluetooth devices will disconnect from your iPhone at just the time you need them.
If you’re struggling to activate Live Listen, go to your iOS device’s Bluetooth page and check that your hearing aid or AirPods are paired.
If they aren’t, go through the usual Bluetooth pairing method for the specific device to connect them to your iPhone again.
Select Your Hearing Device
We’re surrounded by technology in the modern world, making it easy to send the audio signal to the wrong device accidentally.
To check where Live Listen is going, open Control Panel on your iOS device and look at which accessory is highlighted.
It should be next to the AirDrop button. If you see a different accessory to the one you’re using, just touch the name of it and select your hearing aid or AirPods from the list.
If you’re still having trouble with Live Listen you might need technical support for more help.
Wrapping It Up!
We think that Live Listen for AirPods is an exciting addition to the new iOS 12 features.
But what else could Apple do? Let us know in the comments any other accessibility improvements that would make your life easier!
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.