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Summary:

A new Apple trademark filing shows Live Listen, but what is it? Check the Accessibility settings in iOS and you’ll see Live Listen mentioned: It allows the iPhone to be a second mic for a Bluetooth hearing aid. Maybe that’s not all though.

Live Listen

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. However, if you dig around in iOS, you can already see a mention of Live Listen explaining one particular usage.

The tipoff comes from a Google Group thread back in January. Wayne Merritt posted about his new hearing aid, which is Bluetooth 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 expense 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 in my wife’s iPhone 4S running the most recent version of iOS 6, as well as my iPhone 5 running the iOS 7 beta and sure enough, I see the Live Listen feature mentioned. I can’t say for sure if the feature is active as I don’t have a Bluetooth enabled hearing aid to test it with. There is no indication in the Google Groups thread, however, that Merritt was ever able to get it working.

Filing a trademark for Live Listen doesn’t mean it will suddenly be enabled with iOS 7 and the newest iPhone, but it’s not an unreasonable expectation. So it’s 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.

And based on the vague uses for Live Listen in the trademark application, it’s possible that the feature goes far 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.

Moto X touchless control

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  1. Onno ter Wisscha Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Although I would love to see my iPhone becoming an extra optional microphone for my hearing aids, my guess would be that Live Listen is exactly the same as the ‘always-on’ listening mode on the Moto X.
    Bluetooth hearing aids (or separate ‘streamers’ for that matter) are basically functioning the same as Bluetooth headsets.
    When I pair my Phonak MyPilot (a ‘streamer’ for my Phonak hearing aids), I can activate Siri by long-pressing the talk button on the MyPilot.

  2. Onno I also use Siri through my phonak com pilot. Would be nice to chat with you about this. @meltintothesea

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