Today Amazon Fire TV announced launch of Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) on Fire TV Cube (2nd generation) for compatible Bluetooth hearing aids from Starkey. It will be the first ASHA-enabled streaming media player in the US.
National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that 15% (37.5 million) of Americans over the age of 18 report some hearing loss, and nearly 29 million American adults can benefit from hearing aids. According to World Health Organization1.5 billion people in the world suffer from hearing loss, and this number continues to grow.
According to Amazon, improving TV sound quality has been one of the most requested features among hearing aid users.
Customers can connect compatible hearing aids directly to the Fire TV Cube for private listening. This gives them the ability to enjoy audio from streaming services, apps, games, and even Alexa. ASHA on the Fire TV Cube uses data that digitally encodes audio directly to the hearing aid’s tiny antenna.
Compatible hearing aid models in the US include Starkey, which makes the Audibel, NuEar, MicroTech, and Audigy brands.
To pair your hearing aids, go to Fire TV Settings, Accessibility, then select Hearing Aids and follow the instructions to pair them. The steps are somewhat similar to connecting Bluetooth headphones. Customers use the Fire TV remote to control volume and can disconnect by holding the Home button and selecting “Mute Hearing Aids”.
One downside is that customers must sit within 10 feet and have a line of sight to their Fire TV Cube to get the best connection. Amazon also encourages customers to connect over 5GHz Wi-Fi, however those with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi can use the feature “with a range that varies depending on spectrum congestion.”
Achin Bhowmik, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering at Starkey, said:
“At Starkey, we are transforming hearing aids into feature-rich devices that allow our patients to connect and communicate with the world through our technology. Through this strategic collaboration with Amazon, we are paving the way for cutting-edge products for connecting and streaming audio to our state-of-the-art hearing aids.”
Later this year, Amazon will expand ASHA support to more devices.
said Peter Korn, Amazon’s director of device accessibility CNET that additional devices include a Fire TV Stick and a Fire TV streaming device. The company is also apparently looking into connecting cochlear implants to Amazon Fire TV.
Although the main competitor Roku has a lot accessibility features, such as text-to-speech, closed captioning, and voice search, there are no signs of support for compatible hearing aids on the company’s website. Apple TV gives users the ability to customize their hearing controls and enable closed captioning, however this is not like Amazon’s audio streaming for hearing aids. Another rival Googlehas more or less the same accessibility features as Roku and Apple.
Streaming hearing aid audio to the Fire TV Cube is a step in the right direction for greater accessibility on entertainment devices.
Credit: techcrunch.com /