Amazon Fire TV’s accessibility upgrade is a massive step forward

Watching a Fire TV using ASHA
(Image credit: Amazon)

Devices like the Amazon Fire TV Cube may not top our list of the best streaming devices but they certainly make the cut. They are a great option for streaming content from a ton of the best streaming services. And now they just got a massive accessibility upgrade.

In a blog post, Amazon (opens in new tab) announced that select Fire TV devices will now work with Cochlear implants to allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to more easily watch their favorite shows and movies. This accessibility feature is called Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids (ASHA) and is an open-source protocol. The feature is live immediately for compatible devices.

While there have been some solutions for hearing your TV’s sound with a hearing aid (opens in new tab), the results can be mixed. You require either smart TV with built-in Bluetooth and a modern hearing aid or implant with built-in Bluetooth, or you need to buy a Bluetooth streaming box adapter or a telecoil that uses magnetic coils to stream your TV's audio signal into your hearing aid/implant. 

ASHA on Fire TV is simple. If you have a compatible Cochlear implant and an eligible Fire TV device, you can now connect your implant directly to your Fire TV device simply by accessing the Accessibility menu on your Fire TV device. This will connect the implant to the Fire TV via Bluetooth at the touch of a button — much simpler than some of the existing solutions.

Again, this does play on the existing solution of Bluetooth connectivity to improve TVs for the hard of hearing and deaf communities, but ASHA is so simple and is intentionally designed for and by those communities. Now, it needs to be the standard going forward — not only for Amazon and its Fire TV devices but for all TVs. Especially since this solution is open-source.

A close-up of the Fire TV Cube (2022) with its blue Alexa bar glowing

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

Fire TV Cochlear implant accessibility: Compatible devices 

At the moment, Amazon says that ASHA works with Cochlear Nucleus 8, Nucleus 7, Nucleus Kanso 2, and Baha 6 Max sound processors. It connects directly to the Fire TV device and is said to work with “movies and TV episodes available from Netflix, Prime Video, and other streaming services, as well as local TV networks.” It is unclear if there are series, movies, networks, etc. that ASHA is not compatible with.

In terms of Fire TV devices, the following devices are ASHA compatible: Fire TV Omni QLED Series, Fire TV Omni Series, Fire TV 4-Series, Fire TV Cube (2022), and Fire TV Cube (2019). Hopefully, more devices will be added to this list in the near future. 

Malcolm McMillan
A/V, AI and VR Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment with a particular focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-based tools like ChatGPT. He has written up much of our coverage on the latest AI tools including ChatGPT, the new GPT-powered Bing and Google Bard. He also covers A/V tech such as televisions, soundbars and more, in addition to covering VR headsets from the Meta Quest 3 to the PS VR2.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.