How to Use Live Listen on iPhone Without AirPods

How to Use Live Listen on iPhone Without AirPods

Live Listen is an accessibility feature on iPhones that acts like a hearing aid. It uses your iPhone’s microphone to pick up sounds around you and play them directly into your ears through AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones. This allows you to hear conversations more clearly in noisy environments.

While Live Listen was designed for AirPods, you can actually use it with any MFi-certified headphones. You don’t need the latest AirPods model to take advantage of this useful feature.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to use Live Listen on your iPhone, even without AirPods.

Key Takeaways

  • Live Listen turns your iPhone into a directional microphone to help you hear better in noisy settings.
  • You can use Live Listen with AirPods or any headphones that are Made for iPhone (MFi) certified.
  • Enable Live Listen in Settings > Control Center and add it to your Control Center for easy access.
  • Position your iPhone mic near the sound source and adjust volume for optimal listening.
  • Use an external mic for enhanced Live Listen performance in some situations.
  • Fix common issues like audio sync problems or malfunctioning mics.

Introduction to Live Listen

Live Listen essentially transforms your iPhone into a directional microphone. When enabled, sounds from your surroundings get picked up by the iPhone’s mic, amplified, and transmitted directly to your ears through connected headphones or AirPods.

This allows you to focus on the primary sound source and drown out distracting ambient noise. Think of it like a beam of sound aimed right at your ears!

The feature is especially useful for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. It’s not meant to replace hearing aids, but provides helpful amplification in specific settings.

Live Listen can help in conversations with others, particularly in crowded restaurants or gatherings. You can set your iPhone on a table pointed at the person speaking to better pick up their voice.

It’s also great for hearing lectures or talks from farther away without having to be right up front. The iPhone’s mic acts like a parabolic mic to enable better directional hearing.

In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know to effectively use Live Listen, with or without AirPods.

Devices Compatible with Live Listen

Live Listen is available on all models of iPhones running iOS 12 or later. This includes:

  • iPhone XR, XS/XS Max, X
  • iPhone 8/8 Plus
  • iPhone 7/7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s/6s Plus and later

To check if your iPhone supports Live Listen, go to Settings > General > About. Look at the model name and the iOS version. As long as you have iOS 12 or higher, your iPhone should work with Live Listen.

The next question is, what headphones work with this feature? Live Listen is optimized for AirPods, but you can use any Made for iPhone (MFi) certified headphones.

MFi refers to Apple’s licensing program that ensures third-party accessories are designed properly to work with iPhones. Look for the MFi logo on headphone packaging:

Here are some of the most popular MFi-certified headphones and earbuds that support Live Listen:

  • Beats Studio Buds
  • Beats Solo Pro
  • Powerbeats Pro
  • Skullcandy Push Ultra
  • Jaybird Vista 2
  • Shure AONIC 215
  • Bowers & Wilkins PX7

You can also use the wired EarPods that come with iPhones, though wireless headphones are recommended for cordless convenience.

The key requirements are MFi certification and connection via Bluetooth. So any headphones that meet those criteria will work!

Enabling and Accessing Live Listen

Now let’s go through the simple process of setting up Live Listen on your iPhone. We’ll enable it in Settings, add it to Control Center, and walk through using it for the first time.

Add Live Listen in Settings

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Accessibility.
  3. Scroll down and select Audio/Visual.
  4. Under the Hearing section, turn on the switch for Live Listen.

That’s it! Live Listen is now enabled on your device. But for quick access, let’s also add it to Control Center next.

Add Live Listen to Control Center

  1. Go back to the main Settings page and tap Control Center.
  2. Under More Controls, tap the + icon next to Hearing.
  3. This adds Live Listen to your list of Control Center tools.

Now just swipe down from the top right of your iPhone screen to open Control Center. You’ll see the Live Listen icon in the Hearing section.

We’ll use this to quickly turn Live Listen on or off anytime.

Turn On Live Listen for First Use

Okay, Live Listen is ready to go! Follow these steps when you want to use it:

  1. Connect your compatible headphones to your iPhone via Bluetooth.
  2. Open Control Center and tap the Live Listen icon to enable it. The icon will turn blue.
  3. Put your iPhone near the sound source, pointed at whoever is speaking. The built-in mic will pick up the audio.
  4. The audio will stream directly into your ears so you can hear conversations more clearly.
  5. Adjust the volume slider in Control Center to amplify as needed.
  6. Tap the Live Listen icon again to disable it when you no longer need it.

And that’s all you need to start using this useful hearing assistance feature! The key is proper microphone positioning and volume adjustment, which we’ll cover more next.

Tips for Volume Adjustment

  • Set volume for your headphones first before enabling Live Listen.
  • Start with the Live Listen volume around 50%, then slowly increase as needed.
  • Maxing out the volume can reduce clarity and cause distortion.
  • Turn off any headphone EQ presets or spatial audio effects. They can negatively impact Live Listen performance.
  • If the audio sounds echoey or hollow, try reducing the volume.

With the right volume tuning, Live Listen provides customized amplification tailored to your hearing needs!

Using Live Listen with an External Microphone

The built-in microphone on your iPhone works decently for Live Listen in close proximity conversations. But for more challenging environments with background noise, using an external mic can really optimize performance.

Here are some benefits of using a dedicated external microphone with Live Listen on iPhone:

  • Improved signal to noise ratio, reducing distracting ambient sounds
  • Enhanced directionality for focusing on the sound source
  • Ability to position the mic closer to the speaker
  • Higher overall sound quality and clarity
  • Reduced risk of feedback or echo issues

There are a few different route you can take to set this up:

Option 1: MFi-Certified Lavalier Microphone

MFi-certified lavalier mics are designed to work seamlessly with iPhones. They usually plug into the Lightning port or attach via clip.

Popular options like the Shure MV88 or Rode smartlav+ provide professional quality audio perfect for Live Listen.

The small and discreet mics can be clipped to a collar or lapel. This puts the mic near the speaker’s mouth for optimal placement.

Option 2:Plug-in Handheld Microphone

Handheld mics designed for iPhones are another convenient option. Models like the Shure MV88+ or Apogee HypeMic plug right into the Lightning port.

You’d need to hold the mic up to the speaker during use. But it provides greater directional control.

Option 3: External Recorder with Mic Input

Finally, you can use an external audio recorder with an input for microphones. Devices like the Zoom iQ7 connect to your iPhone and allow you to attach high-quality mics.

This is the most versatile but bulkiest option. You can use lapel mics, shotgun mics, or other microphone types for the best Live Listen experience.

Tips for Using External Mics

  • Plug the mic directly into the iPhone, no adapters.
  • Make sure the mic is pointed at the sound source.
  • Start close to speaker then move back as needed.
  • Disable other audio input under Settings if multiple mics.
  • Use headphones extension cord so mic can get closer.

With some trial and error, an external microphone provides the best possible audio quality for Live Listen. The right mic placement minimizes surrounding noise for a true directional hearing aid-like experience.

Troubleshooting Common Live Listen Issues

While Live Listen is relatively straightforward to use, you may run into occasional technical issues. Here are some potential problems and tips to get Live Listen working properly again.

Issue: Audio Delay or Lag

If you notice a delay between the speaker’s voice and the audio in your headphones, try these fixes:

  • Disable any audio enhancing features like EQ or spatial audio on your headphones
  • Ensure the headphone firmware is up to date (check manufacturer’s app)
  • Turn off and reconnect Bluetooth on your iPhone
  • Restart your iPhone and headphones
  • Check for interference from other devices connecting via Bluetooth or WiFi

Issue: Echoey/Hollow Sounding Audio

An echo effect or hollow sound usually means the Live Listen volume needs to be reduced. Try lowering the volume in Control Center bit by bit until the echo goes away.

Also ensure that no audio enhancing features are enabled on your headphones. Disable any EQ presets.

Issue: No Sound or Intermittent Audio

If Live Listen is enabled but you get no audio or it cuts in and out:

  • Make sure Bluetooth is connected between iPhone and headphones
  • Move iPhone closer to the sound source
  • Check headphones battery level and charge if low
  • Try adjusting mic sensitivity in Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual
  • Remove case from iPhone or headphones which could interfere

Issue: Feedback or Static Noises

Annoying feedback (screeching noises) usually means the microphone is picking up the audio from your headphones and creating a loop.

To prevent this:

  • Lower Live Listen volume to avoid over-amplifying
  • Point mic away from headphones
  • Use omnidirectional mic setting instead of directional
  • Enable headphone noise cancellation if available
  • Reduce ambient background sounds around you

With a bit of tweaking, you should be able to resolve any Live Listen problems that arise and get back to better hearing assistance!


Thanks for reading our comprehensive guide on utilizing Live Listen for iPhone, with or without AirPods!

The key points to remember are:

  • Live Listen turns any compatible headphones into a directional hearing aid.
  • Position your iPhone microphone strategically to optimize sound clarity.
  • Adjust volume gradually to avoid echo and distortion issues.
  • Use external mics for enhanced performance in noisy environments.
  • Fix problems like lag, static or hollow sounds with the troubleshooting tips provided.

With the right setup and usage practices, Live Listen can be a life-changing hearing enhancement. It makes communicating much easier for those with hearing impairments.

Now you can have clearer, distraction-free conversations in challenging situations. You’ll never miss a lecture, talk or meeting again thanks to Live Listen on your iPhone!

We hope this guide gave you all the tools and information needed to benefit from this cool accessibility feature. Let us know if you have any other questions. And happy listening!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Live Listen?

A: Live Listen is a feature on iPhone that allows you to stream sound from the microphone on your iPhone to your hearing devices or AirPods.

Q: Can you use Live Listen without AirPods?

A: Yes, you can use Live Listen without AirPods. You will need an iPhone or iPad with iOS 12 or later and a compatible hearing device.

Q: How do I enable Live Listen?

A: To enable Live Listen, add it to Control Center, turn it on, and adjust the volume as desired.

Q: How do I use Live Listen with an external microphone?

A: Connect the external microphone to your iPhone and select it as the audio input device in Live Listen.

Q: What devices are compatible with Live Listen?

A: Live Listen works with AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Powerbeats Pro, and some hearing devices.

Q: Why won’t Live Listen work on my phone?

A: If Live Listen is not working, try restarting your iPhone, reconnecting your hearing device or AirPods, or checking for software updates.

Q: Can I use Live Listen with non-Apple headphones?

A: Live Listen is designed to work with Made-for-iPhone (MFi) certified hearing aids and devices, but it may work with some non-Apple headphones.

Q: How do I adjust the volume in Live Listen?

A: You can adjust the volume of Live Listen in Control Center or using the volume buttons on your iPhone.

Q: How do I troubleshoot Live Listen issues?

A: If you are having issues with Live Listen, try restarting your iPhone, checking your hearing device or AirPods, or resetting your network settings.

Q: Is Live Listen only for people with hearing loss?

A: No, Live Listen can be used by anyone who wants to stream sound from their iPhone to their hearing devices or AirPods.

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