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With Live Listen, iPhones Can Be a Microphone For Hearing Aids and More

In advance of an expected new iPhone announcement on September 10, Apple filed a trademark request for “Live Listen” last week. The trademark application doesn’t provide details on the usage of Live Listen but instead lists out a myriad of potential device uses explaining one particular usage.

The tipoff comes from a Google Group thread back in January. Wayne Merriett posted about his new haring aid, which is 6a0120a5580826970c019104b6113a970cBluetooth compatible and then went on to discuss Live Listen:

“Live Listen helps the iPhone to act as another microphone to catch sound and send it to your hearing aids. My audiologist said that if it worked as advertised that it could save someone about $250 in expenses for a similar piece of equipment. I have tried triple clicking the home button to bring this option up, but no matter if I turn the hearing aid button on or off on the hearing aid options screen, my VoiceOver toggles on/off.”

I checked the Accessibility settings on my iPhone 4S which is running the version of iOS 6.1.3and sure enough, I see the Live Listen feature 6a0120a5580826970c0192ac7f7798970dmentioned. I tried to connect the iPhone to a Bluetooth enabled hearing aid and even to a Bluetooth enabled hearing device with no luck. So I cannot say for certain Live Listen is even working. Moreover, there is no indication in the Google Groups threads that Merritt was able to get it working either.

Filing a trademark for Live Listen doesn’t mean it will suddenly be enabled with iOS7 and the newest iPhone, but it’s not an unreasonable expectation either. So it is possible that by next month folks with Bluetooth hearing aids will be able to use their handset as a secondary microphone for better sound reception.

As a hearing healthcare provider I do have a questions about how Live Listen would actually work. photo1Hearing aids cannot catch a Bluetooth signal on their own – they all need some sort of “streaming” device. At this time every hearing aid manufacturer (Phonak, Unitron, Oticon, ReSound, Starkey, etc.) has their own way of transferring the signal from the source (your phone) to the hearing aid and none of the manufacturer’s transferring devices are compatible with other manufacturers’ products. So how will Apple be able to “stream” sound from an iPhone to every manufacturer’s hearing aids?

And based on the vague uses for Live Listen I the trademark application, it’s possible that the feature goes beyond hearing aids. Third party hardware or Apple TV could gain a listening feature for voice control, for example. Or, maybe Live Listen will come to Siri and she’ll be waiting for your spoken command, just like the new Touchless Control function on the Motorola Moto X handset.

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About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at

One response »

  1. Now THIS is why you buy Apple!


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