What you need to know
- Amazon's Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) has gained a new capability to send audio directly to compatible hearing aids.
- This feature works with Starkey's hearing aids, allowing users with hearing impairments to listen to private audio from streaming services, apps, and games.
- More hearing aid models will pick up support for this new accessibility feature later this year.
While many of the best streaming devices (opens in new tab) already include accessibility features like text-to-speech support and closed captioning, none of the current options allow streaming directly with hearing aids. That changes now with a new feature for the Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen).
Amazon has announced (opens in new tab) that the streaming media player has added support for Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) for compatible Bluetooth hearing aids from Starkey. This means that people with hearing impairments can now pair their hearing aids with the Fire TV Cube.
The integration also provides a system-level experience. For example, users can use the streaming box's remote to control volume. They can also privately listen to audio from their favorite streaming services, apps, and games, as well as Amazon Alexa (opens in new tab).
To disconnect, you can press and hold the "Home" button and select "Disconnect Hearing Aids."
For now, the feature is compatible only with hearing aids from Starkey, including the Audibel, NuEar, MicroTech, and Audigy brands. Later this year, ASHA support is expected to arrive on more devices.
The second-generation Fire TV Cube is the first streaming media player in the United States to stream audio directly to hearing aids, according to Amazon.
Pairing your hearing aids is as smooth as connecting your Bluetooth headphones. You can head over to the Fire TV Settings and then go to the Accessibility Section. From there, select Hearing Aids and follow the on-screen instructions.
There's a caveat, though. Hearing aid wearers must stay within 10 feet of the streaming box to maintain an optimal signal. This is one of the drawbacks of relying on Bluetooth connectivity.
Amazon also recommends connecting over a 5GHz Wi-Fi network. "Due to the small size of hearing aids, their radio antennas require closer proximity for the best connection," the company said. "Customers with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi can still enjoy the feature, with range that varies depending on spectrum congestion."
The latest update elevates the Fire TV Cube's accessibility features to a new level, and we can only hope that other streaming brands will follow suit.
Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.
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