For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, the iPhone can be a powerful tool for communicating with others. It works with many hearing aids and Bluetooth headphones, Live Listening makes it easier to hear people and sounds nearby, and the Messaging app makes it easy to chat with anyone. But iOS 14 takes it to a new level, which even users with perfect hearing can benefit from.
Some of the new accessibility features that iOS 14 has for the iPhone include FaceTime being able to detect people who use sign language to make them stand out like everyone else who speaks, and AirPods customization to fine-tune the headphones to hear spoken words and certain frequencies better. Of the nearly 20 new accessibility features, Sound Recognition is one of the coolest.
With what Apple calls “device intelligence,”; audio recognition lets your iPhone detect certain sounds in the background and then notify you when it detects them. The feature is not only convenient for the deaf and hard of hearing, but it is useful for anyone who wears headphones often to listen to music, podcasts, movies and other audio.
When it’s on, you know when important environmental noises around your home happen, such as fire and smoke alarms, a dog barking, a doorbell, an alarm, a baby crying and more. And you can disable or enable any sound you want, so if you just want to know when a device beeps, you can do so and not get alerts for things like water running.
Step 1: Activate the Audio Recognition feature
Open Settings, tap “Accessibility”, then scroll down and tap “Audio recognition” under Hearing heading near the bottom. By default, the feature is off, but just toggle the “Sound Recognition” switch to turn it on. Below you will see how much storage the function uses, as well as a brief description of what it does.
An important warning that is mentioned is that the function should not be used in circumstances where you are in an emergency or where you may be injured. I’m sure Apple does not want to be responsible for anything it cannot detect or for which you do not notice a warning, but it also acknowledges that its function is not perfect.
Step 2: Select audio for your iPhone to listen to
Now that the sound recognition function is on, you can switch between the sounds you want your device to listen to and notify you of. Click on “Audio” to see the full list. The 11 sounds you can choose from include:
- Fire (alarm)
- Siren (alarm)
- Smoke (alarm)
- Cat (animal)
- Dog (animal)
- Household appliances
- Car horn (household)
- Doorbell (household)
- Door knocker (household)
- Water flows (household)
- Baby Crying (people)
Before the stable release of iOS 14, its beta also had “Shouting” for the category of people but removed it for some reason when iOS 14 came out for everyone.
When you turn on your first sound, you get a message that Hey Siri will not be available when sound recognition is activated because both require passive listening from the microphone and they can not happen at the same time. If this sounds like a dealbreaker to you, remember that you can also activate Siri from your home or side button. If you want a hands-free option, Hey Siri on AirPods will still work in combination with audio recognition.
Step 3: Get notified whenever a sound is detected
Once you have completed the Settings app, you can continue using your iPhone as usual. Audio recognition works in the background, barely uses any battery, listens for your selected sounds.
Each time a sound you have activated is recognized, you will receive a banner message at the top of your iPhone that says “A sound has been recognized that can be a [sound type]. “Even if it recognizes the same sound within seconds of each other, you will receive individual warnings each time a sound is detected. You can view all sound recognition warnings in the Message Center.
Step 4: Turn off audio recognition (when needed)
If you do not like the sound recognition warnings or can not use Hey Siri without AirPods, you can disable the feature just as you turned it on. Go back to Settings -> Accessibility -> Audio recognition and then turn it off. But if you just want to reduce the number of alerts you get to only the most useful ones, hold it down and go back to the “Sound” menu to turn off everything you don’t need.
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