Hidden AirPods feature can be misused for eavesdropping

Apple’s AirPods have a lot of hidden features. One of them is suitable as a potential spying tool. atechbook has tried it out.

Did you know that you can use Apple headphones as a listening aid? With the “live listening” feature, AirPods can help to better understand a conversation partner in a noisy environment.

Live listening enables listening from a distance.

The feature was introduced back in 2014 to use the iPhone as an external microphone for MFI-compatible (“Made for iPhone”) listening aids. Since iOS 12, you can set the AirPods as a hearing aid, so live listening also works with the Apple headphones. This is significantly cheaper than actual hearing aids. These can easily be beyond the thousand euro mark.

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It is therefore actually an operating aid for the hard of hearing to be able to better understand interlocutors. Users on Reddit, however, have of course quickly recognized the abuse potential of it. After all, an external microphone that can be located several meters away – even in another room – is an excellent spying tool.

Whether this really works, atechbook has tried out. You can see the result in the video above.

How to activate live listening on the iPhone

An iPhone running at least iOS 14 is required for the operating aid. Live listening works with AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Powerbeats Pro and Beats Fit Pro. Other Bluetooth headphones do not support the feature.

To turn it on, you must first add the control panel to the Control Center. To do that, go to the Control Center item in the Settings. Now press the green plus next to the Listen option, if it is not already among the included controls. Now open the Control Center and an icon with an ear symbol will appear. Select it and then click on Live Listen to enable the feature.

Please, only use the operating help if you really need it. Refrain from abusing Live Listen for eavesdropping purposes.


  • Apple support