Amazon teamed up with hearing implant company Cochlear to launch Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) support to compatible Cochlear devices, the company announced today.
Now, select Fire TV devices — such as Fire TV Omni Series, Fire TV Omni QLED Series, Fire TV 4-Series, Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) and Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen) — can stream audio directly to Cochlear Nucleus 8, Nucleus 7, Nucleus Kanso 2 and Baha 6 Max sound processors.
The purpose of ASHA support is to give thousands of Cochlear implant users a more comfortable way to watch their favorite movies and TV shows as well as use Alexa, listen to music, hear navigational sounds and more, according to Amazon.
Amazon software engineer Michael Forzano (featured in the photo above) believes ASHA support for Cochlear devices “takes the strain” out of streaming, he said in an official Amazon blog. Forzano was born blind and has used Cochlear implants ever since he lost his hearing at five years old. Forzano, along with members of Amazon’s affinity group for people with disabilities, AmazonPWD, helped test the tech.
Before using the new feature, Forzano was unable to enjoy watching TV. “If I was trying to watch on the TV in the living room, I’d probably be missing out on, say, 40-50% 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,” Forzano said. “I’m really excited for the world that [ASHA support] is going to open up for me.”
Peter Korn, director of accessibility for Amazon Devices and Amazon’s accessibility teams, added that customers who use hearing aids want to hear the TV while also being able to clearly hear the people around them. So, Korn and his team worked with Cochlear to discover how to “bypass the implant’s microphones, stream audio from Fire TV directly into the implants, and prevent the audio from being degraded by noise and echoes,” the company wrote in its blog. Korn also claims that the technology works over living room distances.
Amazon’s collaboration with Cochlear is an extension of the company’s accessibility efforts. In April 2022, Amazon launched ASHA on Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) for compatible Bluetooth hearing aids from Starkey, the hearing aid company that manufactures the Audibel, NuEar, MicroTech and Audigy brands.
“TV is a big part of our lives; we get our news and information through television, our entertainment, sports and music,” Ryan Lopez, director of Nucleus product management and marketing, said. “If you have a Cochlear Nucleus or Baha implant sound processor of the right generation and an Amazon Fire TV, you can pair those today and start using [this technology] immediately.”
Cochlear has spent multiple years working on streaming sound from smartphones directly to hearing devices, so smart TVs were the next logical step for the company. Cochlear’s Nucleus Sound Processors have built-in technology that lets users stream sound directly from a compatible Apple or Android device.