Abba’s world shrunk as he approached 90. Every day, while reading or watching TV, he listened with oversized wireless headphones at maximum volume. He still wore hearing aids, but as his hearing worsened, they became even less effective. Simple conversation was now a very difficult endeavor, ultimately ending in quarrels and frustration.
“How about dinner?”
“Are you sleepy?”
“May I have some tea?”
It was impossible to make a call — Abba had to put the phone on the speaker, hold it to his ear and ask the other person to shout as loud as possible. Ultimately, “talking” to Ava on the phone meant taking him on a video call, smiling and waving.
When I visited him in the fall of 2022, I was wearing AirPods.
“Headphones!” I shouted. “I use it to listen to music!”
And I wonder if I can use it for something more important.
In 2018, Apple live listeningis an iOS feature that lets you send audio directly from your iPhone or iPad’s microphone to compatible hearing aids, and works with regular AirPods. I had absolutely no reason to use this feature myself, but now I’m curious. Will Live Listen Help You Converse With Your Grandfather Years Later?
I took the AirPods out of my ears and put them in his ears. I turned on Live Listen on my iPhone and spoke close to my mouth.
“Hello, can you hear me?”
Abba’s face smirked, and he nodded in excitement. “I can hear you! I can hear you!”
AirPods aren’t my favorite Apple product. I think they’re overpriced, and they don’t sound great for what you pay. That’s why they’re the default wireless earbuds for most people, myself included.
They are also a hazard to the environment.Vise called AirPods are “fossils of the future of capitalism,” destined to end up in landfills when the tiny hard plastic-encased battery runs out in a few years. I also resent the fact that Apple has done away with a fully functional headphone jack and forced you to pay for what used to be free.
But with AirPods Live Listen, I was able to reconnect with my grandfather in a way I couldn’t on other devices. I want to get over my anxiety about it.