Your AirPods just got way more useful with Live Listen

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AirPods can help you hear in a crowd thanks to Live Listen, coming in iOS 12.
Photo: Ste Smith/ Cult of Mac

WWDC 2018 bug Cult of MacYou’re in a noisy bar or restaurant and can’t hear the person across the table from you. Good news: With a feature added in iOS 12, you can use your AirPods and iPhone as a low-cost hearing aid.

This feature is called Live Listen, and it’s been available for certain hearing aids for some time. But soon, anyone with a pair of Apple’s wireless headphones will be able to use it.

This is clearly intended to deal with “hidden hearing loss,” the term coined for difficulties understanding conversations in noisy environments. It’s described as “hidden” because most hearing tests don’t pick it up. Possibly as much as a quarter of the population suffers from it.

Live Listen to the rescue

In a situation where you can’t hear the person you’re conversing with, just activate Live Listen on an iPhone running iOS 12, then slide the device across the table. The microphone in the handset will pick up what the other person is saying and send the audio directly to your AirPods.

The real advantage of adding Live Listen to AirPods is it means that people who are getting just a little hard of hearing don’t need to invest in a hearing aid. Or admit that they need such a thing.

This feature didn’t get a mention when iOS 12 was unveiled at this week’s WWDC. But that’s also true of a number of other additions, like better password handling.