How to Tweak Your Apple Headphones

Dr. Mac teaches us how to tweak our Apple headphones

Did you know you can customize your headphones to amplify soft sounds and adjust certain frequencies for your hearing needs? You can if you’re running iOS 14 or iPadOS 14 with supported Apple headphones. These include AirPods (2nd and 3rd generation, Max, and Pro) and EarPods (3.5mm or Lightning connector). From Apple’s Beats lineup, Powerbeats, Powerbeats Pro, Beats Solo Pro, or Beats Fit Pro will also work.

If you have a supported device and headphones, you’re going to love the new Headphone Accommodations features. It’s baked right into iOS and iPadOS 14 and newer. To check it out, tap Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual, and enable Headphone Accommodations. From there, tap Custom Audio Setup, and follow the onscreen instructions to fine-tune your headphones for your ears.

Set Up a Custom Audio Setup

You’ll listen to audio samples and choose which (if any) sounds better to your ears. From that information, iOS can adjust your settings to help you hear words and music more clearly.

Another way to customize your settings is by choosing one of three tuning options: Balanced Tone, Vocal Range, or Brightness. There are also three soft sound settings: Slight, Moderate, or Strong.

After customizing your settings, you can apply those settings to Phone (phone calls, FaceTime calls, and third-party video calls), Media (music, movies, podcasts, audiobooks, Siri, voicemail, and Live Listen), or both.

Or Create and Use an Audiogram to Tweak Your Apple Headphones

For even more feedback and precision, you can use an audiogram from the Health app instead. This will allow you to customize your audio more precisely. I tried a free app called Mimi Hearing Test, which I discovered by looking in the Hearing section of the Health app’s Browse tab.

My audiogram (created by the Mimi app).
My audiogram (created by the Mimi Hearing Test app).

Considering the abuse my ears have taken over the past 60+ years, I was not surprised that my audiogram (made by Mimi Hearing Test) revealed that I have a slight (16 to 25 dB) hearing loss in both ears. The app explained this might cause me to have difficulty understanding people who are far away or speak quietly, and it may take more effort for me to hear faint sounds.

Custom Transparency Modes (AirPods Pro only)

If you use AirPods Pro, enable Custom Transparency Mode if you’d like to adjust the amplification, balance, and tone of outside sound with Transparency Mode enabled. There’s also a slider to adjust the amount of environmental (background) noise you hear when Transparency is enabled.

There is one more Custom Transparency adjustment, and it has become my favorite. Enable Conversation Boost to “focus your AirPods Pro on the person talking in front of you, making it easier to hear in a face-to-face conversation.” It seems to work when I remember to switch to Transparency mode instead of pulling the AirPods Pro out of my ears.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that none of the above is a replacement for proper medical care and treatment. If you’re concerned about hearing loss, you need to see a real doctor. (Feel free to tell ‘em Dr. Mac sent you.)

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