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Home / Tips and Tricks / Alexa can listen to sounds and then respond however you want. Here’s the why and how of it

Alexa can listen to sounds and then respond however you want. Here’s the why and how of it

10-amazon-echo studio

Alexa devices like the Echo Studio are known for playing sounds, but now Alexa can listen to them too.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Now that devices with Alexa can moonlight as security cameras, they can be your eyes when you’re gone – but with a recent update, Alexa can also pick up the slack for your ears when you’re gone. A new routine trigger called Sound Detection can listen to sounds in your home and initiate a series of commands to better deal with them.

Currently, the feature supports barking dogs, crying babies, snoring, and coughing, but it’s up to you to create the response Alexa would like to those sounds. If you’re scratching your head wondering what the heck you would like Alexa to do in response to any of those things, keep reading for some great ideas.

(And a quick idea for Amazon: a few sound-based examples below the pre-made Alexa routines in the Featured tab could be handy!)

Here’s how to use Alexa’s sound detection to trigger a routine, plus examples for each type of sound your Amazon Echo can currently detect (in case you’re wondering how Alexa can help with a coughing fit).


Alexa can listen to dog barks and respond with commands you choose.

Knows German/CNET

Building Alexa routines can be a bit of a ‘keef’

Background: I have a 70lb boxer I call Mooch because he’s just like that additional (that is, he’s just too “much” — aka “too Mooch”). One of the things he does too much of is barking, so I created a routine that sounds a loud alarm when Alexa hears him bark.

Now, I’m not Pavlov, but guess what? It worked. At least a little bit. He seems to bark less now that his eating clock brain expects an air raid siren every time he waves at a delivery man.

Routines can be daunting, but this routine and the next are particularly easy. To run this or any routine in the . to create Alexa app, first tap the More menu in the lower right corner, then tap routine near the top of the next screen. The next, tap the + (plus sign) in the upper right corner.

1. Crane Enter routine name and come up with something fun, like “Sonic Barkinator” (you have to capitalize the letters manually), then tap the back arrow in the top right corner.

2. Crane When this happensand then tap Sound Detection in the lower left corner. Crane Barking dog on the top.

3. The next screen will ask which device you want to listen to if a dog is barking. Unfortunately, it seems like each device needs a separate routine, so pick the one most likely to catch your dog in the act. After tapping the desired device, tap The next.

4. By default, Alexa listens for barks from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on weekdays and waits 15 minutes for the routine to run back-to-back. You can tap Change if you want to change any of those parameters (then tap The next to go back to the previous screen).


You can try setting your Echo Show 5 or other Alexa device to play a loud sound and hope it trains your dog to stop barking.


5. Crane Add action — this is the fun part, where you create the sequence of commands you want Alexa to execute when your dog barks.

6. I tapped first Device settings, than Volume, then I turned the slider all the way to 100%. Use your own discretion — 100% is noisy. Then tap The next twice (the app confirms your choice).

7. In the middle of the screen, tap Add action, scroll down and tap Sounds. The app doesn’t play samples, so you’ll have to pick one based on trust. I choose Bells and buzzers, then chosen Buzzer, but there are options below crowds in front of public applause and Audience cheers that are less disturbing than an alarm, but still draw attention – one of these could work just as well.

8. This is the most important step if you want to save your hearing: Tap Add action again and then tap Device settings, than Volume and turn your Alexa speaker back to its normal, comfortable volume. Otherwise it will stay at 10, so the next time you ask for the time or weather, you will be aurally attacked.

9. In the top right corner, tap Saveand then choose which speaker you want Alexa to respond from (presumably the same speaker that hears the barking). The message Routine successfully created flashes across the top of the screen.

That is it. Now it’s a waiting game. The irony for me was actually hoping my dog ​​would bark so I could see this routine in action.

I’ve simplified the steps in the remaining examples now that you’re more familiar with the process.

AI Baby Monitor Cube

A dedicated baby monitor is more reliable than a smart speaker, but Alexa can serve as a backup alert if your baby is crying.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Alexa ends babysitting duty with howling warnings

My daughter has now started school so my personal routine for detecting crying looks a little different than for a baby (she hasn’t activated it yet, but Alexa will tell a joke to cheer her up when she does ). Since that’s a small niche, I created what I think Amazon intended when it implemented this feature.

Note that you really don’t want to trust only on Alexa to listen to your baby crying. Bona fide baby monitors are packed with security, privacy and reliability features that can give you peace of mind that you will be notified when your child needs your attention. Digital voice assistants are still a relatively young technology and smart speakers, including Amazon Echoes, are notoriously unreliable.

I would use this more as a backup. If you wander out of earshot of your baby monitor walkie-talkie, Alexa will alert you on your phone that your baby is crying. This is how you set it up:

1. Navigate to the routine screen, tap the + (plus sign) and give your routine a name.

2. In front of When this happens, crane Sound Detection, than crying baby and choose which speaker to listen to.

3. Default is to suppress double alerts for 5 minutes, which is as low as possible. Crane Change to make it longer.

4. Crane Add action, crane Messages than Notification. Type a message for yourself, such as “Your baby is crying.”

5. Optionally, you can add other actions. Below the Messages tab, tap Send announcement to have Alexa alert you from one or more of your Amazon Echoes. You could have Alexa play a sound, like in the previous dog barking routine (just probably not as loud). If your baby responds well to music, you can have the Echo speaker play lullabies in their room as you make their way to them by dialing Music and podcasts in the Add action menu.


An Echo Show 5 or other Alexa device in the bedroom can turn up the sleep sounds when it detects snoring.


Alexa has the cure for snoring

A sleeping companion who snores is pure kryptonite for light sleepers, but there’s a chance Alexa can fix the problem before you wake up to wood saws. I’m not a light sleeper, nor do I share a bed with a snorer, but I do use Alexa as a sound machine to both fall asleep and stay asleep, so this is familiar territory for me.

If you’re a light sleeper, you probably have a go-to sound that you enjoy playing to help you fall or stay asleep. To me, that’s brown noise (most people only know white noise, but there’s actually a whole palette of color coded sounds, each with different EQ levels across the sound spectrum). For this routine, use whatever works for you.

Start building the routine just like the previous two, except you choose snoring of the Sound Detection menu.

below Add action, if your favorite sound is from a third-party app like White Noise or Sleep Sounds, tap Skills, than Your skillsand then find the app you are using in that list. If you are listening to a music file hosted on your favorite streaming service (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.), choose Music and podcasts and send Alexa to that number.


Even older Alexa speakers like the third-generation Echo Dot can listen for sounds like snoring and crying babies.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you are totally baffled about where your favorite sound is coming from, you can always choose the first option under the Add action menu, called Customization. Tap it, then literally type the command you speak to Alexa to get the desired sound on the next screen, then tap The next. The only problem with Customization is that the app won’t let you add actions after the custom command, so you can’t do this next part.

If you don’t want the sound to play all night, you can add another action and choose Wait, at the very bottom of the menu, then set how long you want the sound to play. Then add one more action — tap Device settings, than Stop audio. Now choose your bedside device and tap The next.

Um, Alexa? Why do you listen to cough?

Okay, so I lied. I have no idea why you would want Alexa to listen for coughing. Maybe to catch it early if your kids are coughing their heads off when you’re not around? Then Alexa can message you like the baby crying routine to let you know?

But I’d love to hear your ideas. Email them to me by following the link in my name at the top of this article, then tap or click the envelope icon next to a little about me.

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