Everyone’s had the experience of being in a noisy restaurant and not being able to hear the person sitting across from you.
Well, if you have AirPods and an iPhone, with iOS 12 these two devices might be able to help you hear better.
Live Listen has been a feature in iOS since 2014, and it allows your iPhone to act as a microphone when it’s connected to a very select group of hearing aids and earphones. If the beta software for iOS 12 is any indication, Apple will extend that capability to AirPods, a capability first spotted by TechCrunch.
This means that when an AirPods user needs to, they could put their iPhone closer to the person they want to hear, and have the iPhone’s microphone feed its audio to the AirPods. This would be handy to many, not just the hard of hearing: A student in a lecture hall, for instance, could leave their iPhone on the podium to hear the lecturer better.
iOS also has presets for hearing aids, like choosing an environment ranging from a party to being outside. These presets will likely carry over to AirPods, along with detailed volume controls.
Users of the iOS 12 beta first discovered the feature on Reddit. The giveaway: a new “Hearing” button in Control Center, which when engaged shows controls for Live Listen on AirPods.
Unlike traditional MFi (Made For iPhone, Apple’s official certification for iPhone accessories) hearing aids, which generally show battery life in days or hours, AirPods show a battery percentage.
The new hearing-aid ability for AirPods emphasizes Apple’s continued focus on accessibility. This new feature may even portend a next generation of AirPods that has hearing-enhancement capabilities, similar to models like the IQbuds Boost, although that’s speculation.
In any case, once Live Listen comes to AirPods, expect to see people wearing them even more often, and in a bunch of different situations. Oh joy.