iPhone with hearing aid apps

I’ve just submitted the following feedback to Apple:

“I want to use the iPhone mic as input to a ‘hearing aid’ app that outputs to a bone conduction headset. At the moment it’s impossible because the headset’s own mic always takes precedence and there’s no way to select the iPhone mic instead. It’s VERY frustrating because this would be so very useful to me and a great many others.”

Brief background: at present I’m completely deaf with damage to the inner ear, waiting to see a specialist, but with a bone conduction headset I can hear again. The snag is that the headset’s built-in mic feeds back my own voice louder than anyone else’s, and with a very noticeable delay.

The best solution would be a bone conduction headset without a microphone, but I haven’t managed to find one.


If this is a wired headset, you might be able to use a headphone extension cord with fewer conductors (just the standard 3 for stereo audio) to eliminate the microphone’s connection to your phone. The extension cord will just connect that pin directly to ground.

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Interesting idea! A wire would be more of a nuisance for everyday use, though… And at present I’m optimistic that the need is only temporary in my case. I flagged this only because it seemed such a useful facility an iPhone could offer, so easily.

Have you contacted the developer of the ‘hearing aid’ app to request the option of choosing which mic to use? It sounds like it’s something the app would control, not iOS. Just to be clear, are you trying to use the ‘Live Listen’ function that the iPhone has that uses the mic on the phone to send sound to the hearing aid app? I know I can enable that function in Control Center on iOS 15. With Live Listen enabled I place the iPhone on the table in front of the person across from me who is speaking and I hear them in my ReSound hearing aids.

It seems there is no way either I or the app can choose to use the iPhone’s mic if the headset also has one. Live Listen does exactly what I want but Apple says it works only with Apple headsets or buds, and it doesn’t work with the Aftershokz Aeropex conduction headset someone lent me to try. Interesting that you can use it with your hearing aids!

Live Listen works well with many different brands of hearing aids, but they need to comply with Apple’s ‘Made for iPhone’ requirements. I think the problem is that the Aftershokz are designed to be a headset with a mic you talk into when you’re on the phone, similar to many other phone headsets except they use bone conduction instead of ‘ear speakers’. Hearing aids are not designed to speak into. Their mics are designed to pick up ambient noise – essentially the opposite use of a headset mic that should ignore ambient noise. I understand why you are using them on a temporary basis, but they weren’t designed to use a remote mic such as Live Listen on iPhone. If you had true hearing aids that use bone conduction (which certainly exist) they would almost certainly work with Live Listen.

Yes, I understand what you’re saying. With luck my immediate problem will only be temporary, but it still seems strange that something so obviously useful can’t be made to work. As I said in my first post, I’ve submitted a feature request to Apple, but I suppose there would be a fairly small number of potential users. Thanks for your input!

To round this off: I’ve now found at least one bone conduction headset that does NOT include a microphone. It’s wired but the manufacturer also offers a Bluetooth receiver that effectively makes it wireless. I can’t vouch for it, haven’t bought one yet, but the sales person was unusually helpful and attentive by email.

Model: ihb201, with Bluetooth receiver ihb319

There are a lot of little things that Apple could do in iOS to make things more useful for users of hearing aids, but they simply don’t. I understand their push for people to use “Made for iPhone” hearing aids, but that’s not always a realistic option, and I’ve not found any evidence that even “Made for iPhone” hearing aids are capable of some of the things that would be useful, such as directing the audio output of games to the iPhone speaker instead of the hearing aids when the game’s volume is set to zero. (I’ve asked about that one here before.)

I get the feeling that there isn’t anyone on Apple’s Accessibility team who actually uses hearing aids.

Absolutely. And perhaps hearing aids sit uncomfortably with Apple’s very pronounced emphasis on the youthful, sporty, healthy image we’d all love to project…!

I can only speak from my own experience, but I’ve been pretty impressed with how well my iPhone supports my own hearing aids (Signia).

The iOS Accessibility Settings, under Hearing Devices, lets me link to the hearing aids; from there, phone calls and music can be streamed from the iPhone through my Signias. There is also a Signia 3rd party iOS app for controlling the hearing aids; but a surprisingly large percentage of its functionality is duplicated under the iOS Hearing Devices settings.

I’ve had hearing aids for about 8 years now; I’d say the biggest incremental feature I’ve gotten from them is being able to hear phone calls through the hearing aids. I have great hearing what people are saying from a phone speaker – constantly having to ask people to repeat what they said; and the clarity of the audio I get through the hearing aids for iPhone phone calls has been a godsend – a real game changer for me.

However, YMMV; I’ve had very little experience with other brands of hearing aids. Maybe Signia is the exception.

I agree with you totally - connecting hearing aids directly to the iPhone makes all the difference for phone calls. I use Phonak hearing aids which connect through a small device called the ComPilot which also functions as a remote control to change volume or program. It will also connect to the iMac for listening to speech or music.

My original post was about what happened when I became completely deaf because of an infection in my one good ear (the hearing aid for the defunct ear is just a microphone, transmitting to the other ear). I found I could still hear through a bone conduction headset, and it’s only at that point the iPhone let me down! I won’t repeat the details here, it’s all in earlier posts.

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