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What Listening Devices Look Like (& How To Detect Them)

Read on to learn what a bugging device looks like, where they are commonly found in a home, and how to block out listening devices.

What Does a Listening Bug Look Like?

Listening bugs are always very small because they’re designed to be hidden. Every listening device will appear slightly different, but they’ll usually look like the following: 

  • Very small and round, usually no more than 0.5 inches (1cm)
  • Black or silver plated, with a hole in the center
  • Similar to a small microchip
  • Like a small round coin

Most listening devices are connected to a power supply and hidden within electrical devices, but some inexpensive bugs are battery-operated or rechargeable, so they won’t always have wires.

These might be used in holiday rentals where they can be recharged between guests.

How Does a Listening Bug Work?

A listening bug works by recording sound, usually within a 300-900 foot range, and transmitting it to a computer in another location. As the name suggests, they are small microphones that pick up sounds with clarity.

Two types of listening devices are used.

Wireless/Battery-Operated BugWired Bug
· Inexpensive
· Usually lasts a week, but may last up to several months
· Expensive and custom-made
· Works indefinitely, assuming the power supply isn’t disrupted

Is it illegal to put a listening device in someone’s home?

It is illegal to put a listening device in someone’s home without their knowledge because it breaches their right to privacy. To record someone in their home without their consent is akin to wiretapping, and has serious consequences.

Reasonable exceptions to this rule may exist if the listening device is placed by law enforcement or the government. 

If you discover a listening device placed in your home without your knowledge or consent, contact the police immediately.

Where are Listening Devices Usually Placed?

While listening devices can be placed in many different locations, common places to find listening devices are:

  • In phone chargers and mobile devices.
  • Inside USB chargers.
  • Behind walls. 
  • Inside smoke alarms, especially those in the center of a room. 
  • Underneath ceiling lights or table lamps.
  • In sockets and extension leads.
  • Inside cable boxes.
  • Beneath light switch plates.
  • In clocks.
  • Inside Wi-Fi routers.

How Can You Tell if There is a Listening Device in Your Home?

You can tell a listening device is in the home if you notice a buzzing or ringing sound, unusual placement of moveable objects, or damage done to electrical devices and sockets. Wires might also be visible.

But if a listening device is hidden in your home effectively, you might not notice any of these signs. Here are the three best ways to detect a listening bug, including using a listening device detector.

1. Look in Common Places

Listening bugs need a power source to operate long-term, so they’ll be hidden in sockets, light switches or inside an electrical product (like lamps, phones, and extension leads).

Do an in-depth scan of your home with emphasis on electrical items. Seek help from a qualified electrician if needed.

To temporarily disable the suspected bug, turn off your mains electrics. Remember, the device may have a battery that operates for a period after losing power.

After searching, it’s best to check again using a radiofrequency scanner or a listening device detector app.

2. Use a Radiofrequency Scanner

If you’ve found something that looks like a bug or you want to search for a listening device covertly, purchase a radiofrequency scanner. Radiofrequency scanners detect anything broadcasting a radio signal, including bugging devices.

Anything transmitting a signal should be checked to ensure there isn’t a hidden listening device inside.Be wary that some bugs are so advanced they are designed to evade even the most complex scanners. So, you should still check visually for bugs as well.

Credit: Spy Geeks

3. Use a Listening Device Detector App

If you want to conduct a quick check, a listening device detector for your phone is the fastest solution for finding hidden listening bugs.

Listening device detector apps scan the area using an infrared scanner or the phone’s magnetic sensor. To scan, walk around the property pointing your phone in all suspect areas as directed.

Naturally, listening device detector apps are not as reliable as a dedicated radiofrequency detector. If you have serious concerns, consider purchasing a dedicated device. 

How to Block Out Listening Devices

If leaving the premises isn’t possible, there are a few ways to successfully block out a listening device without putting yourself in danger:

  • Distort the sound that reaches the device by talking quietly or speaking only when there is loud ambient noise.
  • Use another sound to mask your voice, like white noise, blaring music, or a vacuum cleaner. 
  • Block the sound completely using an audio jammer.

An audio jammer is the best way to block out listening devices. Turn on the audio jammer when conversing or keep it running continuously.

They are also useful for preventing a vehicle outside the home from listening to conversations inside or on the property.

What to do if you find a listening device in your home

Should a listening device be discovered, don’t touch or disable it. Alerting the listener could endanger you, while touching it could prevent fingerprints being collected during an investigation. 

Instead, leave the premises immediately and find a safe location. Notify the police as soon as possible.


The most important things to remember when looking for hidden listening bugs are:

  • Listening devices can be very small.
  • Bugs can be wired or wireless.
  • Bugs are usually found in electrical products and casings.
  • Even a very small device can hear sounds throughout the house.
  • Caution is key to avoiding detection when searching for listening bugs.
  • Use an audio jammer to block a listening device.
  • Preserve fingerprints and prevent alerting the spy by not touching the listening bug.