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Hearing Accessibility in iOS

Hearing is an important part of the way we experience the world and perhaps it is one of those things we leave unchecked when an issue arises. We may put it off as not being too bad or wishing it will go away on its own. Further to that, there may be the stigma of being seen with a hearing aid – being seen as too old or deaf. Not so much of an issue when we choose the latest trendy headphones or earphones and even other devices such as handsfree or gaming sets.

Healthy hearing, and indeed, good hearing can benefit us in many surprising ways – from increasing social engagement, improving communication and even lowering the risk of depression. Furthermore, there are links of hearing loss to a number of disabling conditions. So, it is always a good idea to see what we can do for our hearing health.

Technology can be of great help in this area. For example, in a recent study published in the journal iScience researchers reported the preference of participants (n=21) to wear AirPods Pro with Live Listen tun on versus $10K hearing aids! Live listen is an accessibility feature in Apple’s iOS that enabled the microphones on an iPhone to feed audio to the headphones to help you hear a conversation in a nosy area. In the study the researchers tested other versions of AirPods and they reported their results as meeting established standards as per the ANSI/CTA-2051 criteria for personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) in four of the five tests.

With that in mind, in this post I am exploring some of the accessibility features in iOS to help our hearing. You can see more about that in the pages here and here. The features range from the ability of using iPhone-ready hearing aids (check compatible devices here) to the possibility of using Real-time text (RTT) to send text messages to a recipient during a phone call; or getting visual alerts like an LED flash to get notifications or using headphone customisations to adjust your AirPods, EarPods or Beats headphones to adjust certain frequencies depending on your hearing needs – even using an audiogram! I will concentrate on headphone customisations in this post.

Headphone Customisations

As I mentioned above, headphone customisations let us customise the audio settings for our headphones to amplify sounds and adjust certain frequencies. All you need is your iPhone and compatible headphones including AirPods Pro (1st and 2nd generation), AirPods (2nd and 3rd generation) and a few more.

  1. Go to Settings > Accessibility
  2. Scroll down until you see the Hearing section. First you will see the Hearing Devices option. Here you can control your iPhone-ready hearing aids. You will need to pair them as you would a new pair of headphones (see below on the right-hand side).
  3. To look at the Headphone Accommodations we need to click on the Audio/Visual menu

Inside the Audio/Visual menu:

  1. Click on Headphone Accommodations and turn the toggle on.
  2. We can then apply “Custom Audio Setup” to customise the setting to our needs.
  3. We will be guided through a series of tasks to apply the settings to be used to phone cals, listening to music and movies, apply an audiogram (if we have one) and customise transparency mode. Let us take a look:


The Custom Audio Setup lets us use an audiogram, either form the Health app or we can import information from the camera, a photo or a file. All as easy as clicking a couple of buttons.

If the audiogram is nearly symmetric, the wizard will take the average of the two ears and fit the left and right audio channels with that profile. If the audiogram is asymmetric audiogram, it will fit the left and right audio channels for your better ear.

Manual Adjustment

It is also possible to manage the setting manually and if so we will be asked to listen to a few audio samples to help setting the configuration.

  1. Make sure you are in a quiet environment and spare 5 minutes for the process
  2. You will be asked to answer some questions such as whether you can hear speaking voices or for music whether version 1 or version 2 sounds better to you
  3. That’s it, no step 3!


The final part of the settings looks at adapting transparency mode to make quiet voices more audible and tuning sounds to the environment and our needs. All we need to do is turn it on and adjust accordingly. After that we can select whether we wan to use the Custom Settings created or stay with the standard ones.

Et voilà! Ready to hear the world? I thought so.