What started out as a hearing aid accessibility setting turned out to be an extremely useful tool for anyone with good Bluetooth headphones. The problem is, most of the iPhone users still don’t know about it. If you are one of them, you have to see what this underrated gem in iOS can offer you.
The function is called Live Listen and has been available for Made for iPhone hearing aids since 2013. While it has been and is very helpful for the hearing impaired, Apple made it a killer feature when it was compatible with AirPods, Beats. and other bluetooth headphones in iOS 12 and above.
The concept is simple: plug in compatible Bluetooth headphones, turn the feature on, and point your iPhone̵
Just a couple of reasons why Live Listening is so great
If you’re in the back of a classroom, tour group, or other location where it’s difficult to hear the person speaking to the group, Live Listening means you don’t have to miss a word.
It’s also useful when you hear a noise or a sound that you cannot make out properly, such as B. an unfamiliar animal or beetle in your garden. Better still, a funky or abnormal sound coming from an object (your car engine, refrigerator, inside a wall, etc.) that is definitely there and can cause problems.
If you are eating out in a restaurant or bar and the surrounding noise is so loud that you cannot hear the other person or people at your table, live listening can help you understand everyone better. With some headphones, e.g. B. AirPods, there just needs to be one so that you don’t look more uncomfortable or rude than when you have to chat with others in person.
You can even use Live Listen on your iPhone as a makeshift stethoscope if you want to see what your or someone else’s heartbeat sounds like.
And there are more sinister apps to play around with. Want to know if your friends are talking about you in the other corner of the room? Live listening. Do you need help talking to someone in a conversation? Let someone listen to your live list feed and they can give you answers.
Partial list of compatible Bluetooth headphones
Bluetooth-enabled headphones for the iPhone (MFI) should be compatible with live lists. Apple’s wireless headphones work the same as some Beats, of course, but some third-party headphones may be shaky depending on which version of iOS you’re using.
Some third party vendors that worked in iOS 12 stopped working in iOS 13 and later, and some that worked in iOS 13 stopped working in iOS 12. The best that you can do is to try it out and see for yourself. For example, I have a five year old set of Soundpeats QY7 earbuds that work with iOS 12 but not iOS 13 or iOS 14.
Here is a tiny list of wireless earbuds, headphones, and headphones that users have reported working over the years. It’s nowhere near a definitive list. So if you have anything else you just have to try it out. And keep in mind that some might work in one version of iOS but not another.
Some users have even stated that portable bluetooth speakers worked for them, but none of the ones we own worked.
Step 1: add a hearing to the Control Center
While Live Listen is built into the system, it cannot be used until you unlock the controller. To do this, open the settings and tap on “Control Center”. If you’re using iOS 14 or later, you should immediately see a list of controls included and not included. On iOS 12 and iOS 13, you’ll need to tap Customize Controls to see the lists.
Under the More controls List, find “Listen” and tap the plus sign (+) to add it to the Controls included list. If you have a lot of active controls, you can drag each one through the three-line icon to move it up or down in the Control Center. You can see the updated position of a control by opening your Control Center and then adjusting accordingly. Tap “Back” to save.
Step 2: connect your bluetooth headphones
Before going any further, make sure your bluetooth headphones are connected to your iPhone. If they have already been paired with your iPhone, you can use the Bluetooth controls in the Control Center to connect to them. Just long press, then press again and select your headphones from the list. If you’re listening to music or other audio on iPhone, you can also use the AirPlay icon in the media controls.
You can also look for and connect to your wireless AirPods or other headphones under Settings -> Bluetooth (you can reach it through the Control Center if you want). You can also pair the headphones here if you haven’t already.
Step 3: Check if your headphones work with Live Listen
Now open your Control Center and tap on the new hearing control.
If you have not connected compatible Bluetooth headphones, “Not available for current route” should be displayed for live lists. However, this is the case if you are using iOS 12 or iOS 13. In the newer iOS 14, you may see a message saying “Connecting a compatible audio device to use Live Listen” which is far more useful.
However, your headphones may be compatible even if they don’t look like them. Turn your bluetooth headphones off and on again so they’ll automatically connect to your iPhone instantly. If this doesn’t work after a few tries, try unpairing the headphones and fixing them. Still a no-go? Restart or forcefully restart your iPhone.
You can see below that I couldn’t get my old QY7 headphones to work on iOS 12 (left) or even a bunch of AirPods on iOS 14 (right). After switching the headphones off and on again or disconnecting and reconnecting them, Live Listen works.
If after following the troubleshooting steps above, if your headphones are still not working, they are likely not compatible with the version of iOS you are running.
Step 4: Enable Live Listen for improved listening
If “Off” is displayed for the live list function after opening the hearing control, your headphones are working! Congratulation. To actually use Live Lists, tap Off. “On” is displayed while working. Next to “On” you will see five dots that light up when the sounds around you get louder or louder. On iOS 14 and above, you also get a decibel (dB) reader so you know exactly how loud the world is around you. It will even tell you if it is too loud for safe hearing.
When you exit the hearing control and return to the main Control Center screen, what you see will depend on the version of iOS you are running. On iOS 12 and iOS 13, the hearing control looks no different than before. On iOS 14, however, the hearing control shows a green check mark when Live Listen is active, as well as a miniature bar showing the current decibel levels.
When you exit Control Center completely, the status bar (for Face ID models) either shows a red pill-shaped background 24/7, or the entire status bar at the top is red (for Touch ID models). This way you know that Live Listen is still active and working.
If you want to see the five-point sound level meter very quickly, you can tap the red pill or status bar to open the live list view. If you tap outside of the Live List window, you will return to your original location while Live Listen is still activated.
To deactivate live lists, you can do this via the hearing control in the Control Center or via the live list link via the red pill or the status bar. Just tap “On” and it will turn “Off”. As simple as that.
It is important to note that Live Listen does not record anything, so it does not record what you heard when the feature was active. The audio is transmitted and that’s it. There are ways to record it, but then what would you use your headphones for to enhance live listening?
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