This hidden AirPods feature helps you hear better

Key Points
  • Apple's AirPods aren't just for listening to music. They can also help you hear better.
  • An accessibility feature called "Live Listen" lets you turn them into a hearing aid.
  • CNBC's Todd Haselton shows you how to use the AirPods feature.
Woman holding her hand to her ear.
Khosrork | iStock | Getty Images

Apple's AirPods may be one of the hottest iPhone accessories you can buy right now, but they aren't just made for listening to music. You can activate a feature called "Live Listen," which lets you use AirPods to amplify sound, allowing them to double as basic hearing aids.

Apple has long prided itself on the accessibility features it builds into its devices, helping people who are hard of hearing or have sight limitations more easily use the products. in some cases, Apple's gadgets can be used to improve consumers' lives. They're just not talked about a lot because they're not really primary functions.

The AirPods Live Listen feature uses the microphone on your iPhone and then pipes the audio right into your AirPods. So, if you're hard of hearing, instead of asking someone to speak up or sitting out of a conversation entirely, you can put your iPhone on a table — or even hold it close to someone's mouth — and the AirPods will amplify what's being said.

It works well and can even be used as a sort of spy gag. Since your iPhone continues to send audio to your AirPods, you can leave your iPhone on a table and listen in on the conversation even as you walk away, as long as the AirPods maintain the Bluetooth connection to your phone.

Here's how to activate and use the AirPods Live Listen feature:

How to use AirPods to hear better

  • Open Settings on your iPhone.
  • Choose Control Center.
  • Select Customize Controls.
  • Tap the green + button next to Hearing to add it to your control center list.

Now, when you want to use it, turn on Live Listen by opening control center. To do this:

Turn on Live Listen in the Control Center menu.
Todd Haselton | CNBC
  • Put your AirPods in your ears.
  • From the home screen, swipe down from the top-right of your screen on an iPhone X or newer. Swipe up from the bottom on an iPhone 8 or older.
  • Tap the ear icon.
  • Tap the "Live Listen" option.
  • Put your iPhone on a table or hold it up to someone's mouth. You'll hear them speaking right into your AirPods, as if you were on a phone call.
  • Want to secretly listen in? Walk out of the room while people are having a conversation at the table.

That's all there is to it. The Live Listen feature will remain in Control Center so you can turn it on whenever you want. Just don't forget to turn it off when you're not using it or your music will sound super distorted.

Want to know what else AirPods can do? Check out my AirPods tips and tricks guide.

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