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An iOS 12 update will allow Apple’s AirPods to be used as hearing aids

Apple touted a massive number of updates at its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote this week, but one AirPod-centered feature was left out of the presentation.

The company’s industry-leading fully wireless headphones will be getting a small but interesting software update, one that allows them to act like a low-budget set of hearing aids, when the new iOS 12 mobile platform rolls out across Apple devices.

The new feature, called Live Listen, was previously reserved for hearing aids that were certified through the company’s Made for iPhone hearing aid program, and allows the microphone on a smartphone to be used as a directional microphone. If one is in a noisy environment like a restaurant, bar, or party, they can simply place their iPhone close to the person who is speaking, and use their AirPods as hearing aids.

The feature will be accessible via the settings menu on the iPhone, and may come in handy for those with minor hearing issues — we imagine that those with more serious hearing impairment will still probably want more robust, medical-grade solutions to their hearing issues.

The addition of any new accessibility options for hearing impaired iPhone owners is a welcome one, and the company should be applauded for adding the tech to iOS 12, even if it does have a rather specific use case. It also gives people with limited hearing one more reason to consider the AirPods over other competitors.

Numerous fully wireless headphone manufacturers have seen accessibility for hearing-impaired listeners as an important part of the market, with products like the Nuheara IQbuds being made almost specifically with that type of buyer in mind. As augmented reality products continue to become more mainstream in the coming years, it’s likely that more fully wireless earbuds will include this technology standard, and, frankly, we hope to see more moves like Apple’s in the future.

The new version of iOS is currently available to app developers, but will be rolled out to the public in the form of a free update this fall. Live Listen is currently not available in beta versions of iOS 12, but may be added in a coming beta.

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Parker Hall
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Parker Hall is a writer and musician from Portland, OR. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin…
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