Amazon Fire TVs can stream directly to hearing implants

A select number of Amazon Fire TV devices now support audio streaming to hearing implants, thanks to a partnership between Amazon and Cochlear, the world’s largest provider of hearing implants. It lets hearing implant users hear a variety of audio content. Depending on the Fire TV device, that includes streaming movies and shows from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, podcasts, audiobooks, Alexa voice feedback, system sounds, and audio from local TV networks.

A man with a cochlear hearing implant listens to TV audio.
Amazon

The new feature uses a Bluetooth protocol known as Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA), along with special modifications for the specific needs of those who use implants. At the moment, hearing implant streaming is available on Fire TV Omni QLED Series, Fire TV Omni Series, Fire TV 4-Series, Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen), and Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) devices. It will work with Cochlear Nucleus 8, Nucleus 7, Nucleus Kanso 2, and Baha 6 Max sound processors.

There are over 750,000 people worldwide who have had hearing implants installed since the devices were initially introduced in the 1980s, according to the Ear Science Institute Australia. Despite this large base of users, the devices remain controversial within the deaf community, a topic that was explored in the critically acclaimed 2019 film, Sound Of Metal.

For those with implants, the Fire TV support lets them avoid buying intermediary devices and improves access to TV-based content. Michael Forzano, an Amazon software engineer who has used cochlear implants since losing his hearing in early childhood, has been testing the technology in the months leading up to this launch, according to an Amazon blog post. “If I was trying to watch on the TV in the living room, [using hearing implants alone]” Forzano said, “I’d probably be missing out on, say, 40% to 50% of the words, due to the echoing, the loss in quality, and due to the different voices that you might not be so familiar with.”

This isn’t the first time that Amazon has added support for those who have hearing impairments. In 2022, Fire TV devices became the first to use ASHA to stream directly to Bluetooth-capable hearing aids.

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