This is about how to use Apple Air Pods as hearing aids using live listen. It includes step by step video instruction and image instruction for enabling live listen, and information on which devices work with live listen as well as which headphones.
I had heard that some people use Apple Air Pods on Live Listen mode instead of using hearing aids. That is, while using the Air Pods, the sound capture from the phone can be turned outward so that it will capture and project sound from outside the phone to the ear and air pod.
It’s basically using the phone as a microphone.
I tried it but it won’t work for me as a solid amplification tool for voices. I can’t distinguish enough between words – it’s just like an amplified version of the adults talking in a Charlie Brown movie.
I wear the air pods for music – I can never hear words in songs anyway, just melodies, which amplify very well with the air pods. I like the background noise cancelling, and the fact that they fit my weird ear canals.
What I like about the air pods as a deaf person:
I like that they are cheap. And before anyone says anything, let me tell you that hearing aids are usually around $1500, EACH. Apple Air Pods can be had for $150, total.
If I want to listen to music while I’m outside gardening, I’ll wear the Air Pods so my sweat or the rain won’t wreck my hearing aids. I hear enough to get the melody of the music; not enough to get the words of an audio book – for that, I need my hearing aids.
So, here we get to point of this post: I joined the roller derby recently. I need to be able to hear my coach, and what’s going on. Obviously, I don’t want to wear my $3,000 hearing aids while practicing a sport that’s notorious for crushing stuff. I thought I’d try the Air Pods instead, and it WORKS.
The combination of the Air Pods and my coach knowing some ASL totally works. Since she’s usually talking louder and it’s in a gym, the sound carries better. I get enough through the Live Listen to know that something is going on and I need to pay attention. My lip reading + ASL + some sound input usually lets me figure it out.
I’m excited about this, because it not only does it let me participate in something I’ve wanted to learn and do forever, but it opens the doors to additional opportunities for stuff I’d like to do but haven’t, for fear of my hearing aids getting wet or wrecked (like canoe paddling).
Live Listen works with AirPods (all variants), AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Beats headphones and Made for iPhone (MFi) hearing aids. I haven’t tried MFi hearing aids, I only know the different between regular Air Pods and Air Pods Pro, and I highly recommend using Air Pods Pro. They fit better and have the noice cancellation, which makes it easier for the sound to come right in.
Step by Step: How to Enable the Live Listen on Apple Air Pods
The photo step by step is below, but this is it in a nutshell:
- Open Settings
- Wear your Air Pods
- Make sure the Air Pods are connected to your phone via Bluetooth
- Open the Control Setting
- Scroll down to the image of the ear. Make sure it’s selected, and visible in “Included Controls” (if it’s not, it will be at the very bottom of the same screen, under “More Controls” and will have a green plus icon to the left of it. Toggle that green icon to shift it to “Included Controls”)
- Swipe down from the top right corner of your iPhone to pull up the included controls. The icon of the ear will be visible. If it’s not, go back to the Control Settings and make sure it’s enabled
- Tap on the icon of the ear
- Tap on the Live Listen button to enable it
- You will immediately see the decibel levels and the green audio flashing when it is enabled.
Here’s the step-by-step instructions with screen share:
Here’s step-by-step using the screenshots
Wear your Air Pods
Make sure the Air Pods are connected to your phone via bluetooth (my air pods are named “vivi zee AirPods, as you can see below!)
Open the Control Setting
Scroll down to the image of the ear. Make sure it’s selected, and visible in “Included Controls” (if it’s not, it will be at the very bottom of the same screen, under “More Controls” and will have a green plus icon to the left of it. Toggle that green icon to shift it to “Included Controls”)
Swipe down from the top right corner of your iPhone to pull up the included controls. The icon of the ear will be visible. If it’s not, go back to the Control Settings and make sure it’s enabled.
Tap on the icon of the ear
Tap on the Live Listen button to enable it
You will immediately see the decibel levels and the green audio flashing when it is enabled.
- Move the phone closer to the source to hear better – if you use this in a restaurant, for example, move the phone close to the person who is talking
- Remember the volume control on the phone will raise/lower the volume
The Live Listen on Air Pods works for iPads as well as iPhones
You can use this with your iPad as well as with your iPhone. With the Ipad, you’ll need an iPadOS 14.3 or later.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.