In arguably one of the most genuinely beneficial software updates we’ve seen in a long time, Amazon has released a new feature that lets you stream audio directly from your Amazon Fire TV devices to hearing implants.
A collaboration with hearing device manufacturer Cochlear, the feature uses 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 iPhones or Android phones.
According to Amazon, the new accessibility feature will offer Cochlear users a more convenient way to watch their favorite movies and TV shows, as well as use Alexa, listen to music and hear navigation sounds.
Cochlear’s new feature follows Amazon’s recent decision to offer ASHA compatibility on Fire TV Cube (2nd generation) for Bluetooth hearing aids made by Starkey, the company that makes 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 the profound effect the new functionality could have for Cochlear users.
In the post, Forzano claims he didn’t watch TV because he would miss “40 to 50% of words thanks to echo and poor sound quality.” Using his implant in conjunction with the Fire TV appears to have had a real impact in terms of improving quality of life, with Forzano stating: “I’m very excited for the world this is going to open up for me.”
Analysis: Amazon support is an encouraging sign for those affected by hearing loss
With up to 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 a billion young people around the world could be at risk of hearing damage (opens in a new tab) of listening to headphones at volumes that are too high, it seems like a missed opportunity that more consumer technology manufacturers are not taking advantage of the accessibility benefits these new devices offer.
Apple has led the way to some extent with a number of accessibility features offered to compatible Made for iPhone hearing aids, while Live Listen (opens in a new tab) feature in AirPods means they can be used as makeshift hearing devices.
This latest move by Amazon arguably goes a step further with its support for cochlear implants that is likely to make a world of difference for users. Fingers crossed, today’s news will soon lead to a stream of tech firms being onboarded – how nice would it be to see Cochlear audio streaming support for Apple TV 4K (2022) or Chromecast with Google TV… or from any smart tv, actually.