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Apple intends to deliver its Live Listen accessibility function, currently used to stream live audio from iPhone's microphone to compatible hearing aids, to AirPods wireless headphones with the launch of iOS 12 later this year.
Debuted in 2016 as part of Apple's Made for iPhone program, Live Listen is a Bluetooth-based solution that grants supported hearing aids streaming access to an iPhone's microphone. With Live Listen, users can place their iPhone near a subject or sound source to home in on target audio, boosting fidelity in noisy environments.
With iOS 12, Apple is bringing the assistive hearing technology to its AirPods product.
Enabled in iPhone settings under Accessibility, Live Listen for AirPods functions in much the same way as it does for hearing aids, with iPhone acting as a directional microphone for audio pickup and transmission. An assortment of audio filtering resets allow users to tune their listening experience, from a busy restaurant to the outdoors.
For example, users at a busy restaurant can set their iPhone down on the table, select "Restaurant" from the preset menu and stream relatively noise-free audio directly to their AirPods. Alternatively, an iPhone might be placed in front of a television set across the room, allowing those with hearing difficulties to listen in on their favorite shows at normal volumes.
In yet another example provided by Apple, users can hand their iPhone to another person to better hear what they are saying.
AirPods is not expected to replace dedicated hearing aid equipment, but the ability to enhance audio fidelity while cutting down on ambient noise is a boon for users with hearing impairments.