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Amazon Fire TV devices get an amazing upgrade for hearing implant users

In arguably one of the most genuinely beneficial software updates we’ve seen in a while, Amazon has launched a new feature that enables audio to be streamed directly from its Amazon Fire TV devices to hearing implants.

A collaboration with hearing device maker Cochlear, the feature makes use of the open source Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) protocol and marks the first time that a smart TV device can stream sound directly to a hearing implant processor.

The feature is now available for Fire TV Omni Series, Fire TV Omni QLED Series, Fire TV 4-Series, Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) and Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen) devices and can work in conjunction with Cochlear Nucleus 8, Nucleus 7, Nucleus Kanso 2 and Baha 6 Max sound processors.

Cochlear already offers direct sound streaming to its Nucleus Sound Processor devices from iPhone or Android phones.

According to Amazon, the new accessibility feature will offer Cochlear users a more comfortable way to watch their favorite movies and TV shows as well as use Alexa, listen to music, and hear navigational sounds.

The new Cochlear feature follows Amazon’s recent move to offer ASHA support on Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) for Bluetooth hearing aids made by Starkey, the company which manufactures the Audibel, NuEar, MicroTech and Audigy brands.

A blog post and accompanying video featuring hearing-impaired Amazon software engineer Michael Forzano who helped test the feature, highlights just how much of a profound effect the new functionality could have for Cochlear users.

In the posting Forzano, states he didn’t watch TV because he’d miss “40–50% of the words thanks to echoing and poor sound quality.” Using his implant in conjunction with Fire TV appears to have had a real impact in terms of quality of life improvement, with Forzano stating: “I’m really excited for the world that this is going to open up for me”.

The back of a man's head, with the Cochlear implant in place. A TV is visible in the background

With direct streaming to implants such as this one, watching TV just got a lot easier for some people – from compatible Fire TV devices, at least. (Image credit: Amazon)

Analysis: Amazon support is an encouraging sign for those affected by hearing loss

With as many as 430 million in the world currently living with some form of hearing impairment according to the World Health Organization, and a recent report warning that one billion young people worldwide could be at risk of hearing damage from listening to headphones at too-loud volumes, it does therefore seem like something of a missed opportunity that more consumer tech manufacturers aren’t tapping into the accessibility benefits these new devices are offering.

Apple has led the way to a certain extent with a host of accessibility features offered to Made for iPhone compatible hearing aids, while the Live Listen feature on AirPods mean they can be used as makeshift hearing devices

This latest move by Amazon arguably goes a step further with its support for Cochlear implants likely to make a world of difference for users. Fingers crossed today’s news will prompt a flow of tech firms getting on board – how great would it be to see Cochlear audio streaming compatibility for Apple TV 4K (2022) or Chromecast with Google TV… or from any smart TV, really.

More blog post here