What Is Live Listen in iOS 16, Plus Using AirPods as Hearing Aids

Live Listen is a feature that lets you turn your iPhone into a remote microphone. The catch is that you can only listen to it via your AirPods. Apple meant for this to be an accessibility feature: AirPod hearing aids! However, many worry that this microphone secret will be used nefariously.

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What Is Live Listen?

What does Live Listen do? The AirPods Live Listen feature is meant to let you use your iPhone as a microphone so that you can hear better. This could mean placing your iPhone on your professor's desk to hear the lecture better or holding your phone up to someone who is speaking. It also means that someone can leave their phone near you and hear everything you say, even if they leave the room. The spying capabilities make Live Listening a controversial feature.

How Can You Listen to Conversations with AirPods?

It is easy to turn on the iPhone Live Listen feature to hear conversations between you and your friends or family more clearly. While you should definitely try it out to improve your hearing at a concert, book reading, or another public event, do keep in mind that eavesdropping can be considered a crime. The steps below are intended to teach you how to use it to turn your AirPods into hearing aids, not as a way to spy on others. To turn Live Listen on:

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  1. Make sure that your AirPods are connected to your device via Bluetooth.

    Make sure that your earbuds are connected to your device via Bluetooth.
  2. Open Settings on your iPhone.

    Open Settings on your iPhone - how do u turn live listen on airpods
  3. Tap Control Center.

    Tap Control Center - how to turn on hearing on airpods
  4. Locate Hearing and tap the plus icon.

    Locate Hearing and tap the + icon
  5. Swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen to open the Control Center.

    Swiping down from the top right corner of your screen to open the Control Center.
  6. Tap the Hearing icon you just added.

    Tap the Hearing icon you just added.
  7. Tap Live Listen to turn it on.

    Tap Live Listen
  8. If you don't have a compatible device, you'll see a notification telling you to connect a compatible device.

    Not compatible

Now you can adjust the volume on your device as needed! For more tips like this, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

How to Turn Off Live Listen

To turn off Live Listen after using it:

  1. Tap the Hearing icon in your Control Center.

    Tap Hearing icon
  2. Then tap Live Listen On to turn it off.

    Tap Live Listen On

To disable Live Listen completely, simply remove Hearing from your Control Center. Follow the steps from the above section but select the minus icon in step four to remove it. If you don’t see Hearing in your Control Center, then this feature is disabled.

How to Turn Off Live Listen

If you are worried that someone is using this feature, look at their display and check if there's an orange dot in the top right of their display. An orange light indicates that the microphone is being used, and a green light means the camera is being used. It is also possible to open the Control Center even if their phone is locked, but doing so may be considered illegal, not to mention extremely disrespectful.

Live Listen iPhone & AirPod Requirements

In order to use the Live Listen feature, you need an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS or iPadOS 14.3 or later to use as the microphone. You also need AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Powerbeats Pro, or Beats Fit Pro to listen to the microphone. The earbuds or headphones need to be connected to your 'microphone' device via Bluetooth. 

Live Listen is an incredibly nifty feature that should only be used to hear better. Unfortunately, there are enough phone listening concerns already, so it is natural to feel wary about this feature being used to spy on you. If you have any privacy or security concerns, it is best to reach out to local authorities. Next, read Is Your iPhone Spying on You?

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Author Details

Olena Kagui's picture

Author Details

Olena Kagui

Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life. In the last 10 years, she has been published in dozens of publications internationally and won an excellence award. Since joining iPhone Life in 2020, she has written how-to articles as well as complex guides about Apple products, software, and apps. Olena grew up using Macs and exploring all the latest tech. Her Maui home is the epitome of an Apple ecosystem, full of compatible smart gear to boot. Olena’s favorite device is the Apple Watch Ultra because it can survive all her adventures and travels, and even her furbabies.