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 allows hearing implant users to 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.
The new feature uses a Bluetooth protocol called Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA), with special modifications for the specific needs of people who use implants. Currently, 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.
More than 750,000 people worldwide have had hearing implants installed since the devices were first introduced in the 1980s, according to the Australian Institute of Ear Science. Despite this large user base, the devices remain controversial within the deaf community, a topic explored in the critically acclaimed 2019 film,. Metal Sound.
For those with implants, the Fire TV support allows them to avoid buying intermediary devices and improves access to TV-based content. Michael Forzano, an Amazon software engineer who has used cochlear implants since he lost 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 TV in the living room, (using hearing implants by myself),” Forzano said, “I’d probably be missing, say, 40% to 50% of the words, because of the echo , loss of quality, and because of the different voices that you may not be so familiar with.”
This is not the first time that Amazon has added additional support for the hearing impaired. In 2022, Fire TV devices were the first used by ASHA to stream directly to Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids.