Amazon announced on its Fire TV blog that its Fire TV Cube (2nd gen) now supports Audio Streaming for Hearing Aids, commonly known as ASHA. This makes Amazon Fire TV Cube “the first-ever streaming media player to support ASHA and allow customers to directly connect compatible Bluetooth hearing aids,” according to the company. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that 15% (37.5 million) of Americans over the age of 18 report some hearing loss and nearly 29 million US adults could benefit from using hearing aids.

With the feature, hearing aids connect with Fire TV Cube at the system level, so users can not only enjoy audio from their favorite apps but also Alexa, music, navigational sounds, and more, according to Amazon. Here’s more on how to enable this capability:

  • Customers with compatible Starkey Bluetooth hearing aids can connect directly to Fire TV Cube for private listening, using the remote’s volume buttons to control the streaming audio level.
  • To pair hearing aids, visit Fire TV Settings, Accessibility, select Hearing Aids, and follow the on-screen instructions to connect them, much like with Bluetooth headphones.
  • To control the streaming volume, use the Fire TV remote as you otherwise would. When you’re done with your movie, you can disconnect through a shortcut by pressing and holding the ‘Home’ button and selecting ‘Disconnect Hearing Aids.’
  • For an optimal experience, Amazon recommends customers connect over a 5Ghz WiFi network, within 10 feet and in line of sight to Fire TV Cube. Due to the small size of hearing aids, their radio antennas require closer proximity for the best connection. Customers with 2.4GHz WiFi can still enjoy the feature, with range that varies depending on spectrum congestion.
On a table, a pair of Starkey Bluetooth hearing aids in a case, a second generation Fire TV Cube, and an Alexa Voice Remote.

ASHA joins an existing set of a11y features design to enhance the viewing experiences for customers with disabilities.

  • Closed Captions can be turned on and left on as a default in Fire TV Accessibility settings.
  • VoiceView is a screen reader that speaks on-screen text out loud as you navigate menu options and settings.
  • Text Banner is an assistive technology that brings together information from different parts of the screen and presents descriptive text in one place that doesn’t move. This feature is especially important for customers with visual impairments and a limited field of view.
  • Screen Magnifier is an assistive technology created for customers who have low vision. It magnifies the screen as you navigate your Fire TV, making it easier to read or see.
  • Audio Description narrates details about actions, characters, scene changes, on-screen text, and other visual content while a movie or TV show is playing. It is intended for blind and visually-impaired viewers, but audio description makes movies more enjoyable for anyone who might not be looking at the screen. You can set Audio Description as a default on Prime Video while browsing from over 3,000 available titles.
  • Fire TV devices feature High Contrast Text, designed to help make text easier to read. It changes most of the text on-screen to black or white, and adds a border of the opposite color.
  • The ability to use Alexa to turn on the TV with voice helps customers with low mobility to more easily enjoy their entertainment.

Later this year, Amazon will expand ASHA support to more devices. The company says it is excited to evolve functionality over time and looks forward to getting feedback on what customers find more useful. Reach out to Amazon via social media @AmazonFireTV. You can also find more information about accessibility features at:

Source: Amazon Fire TV blog

Images: Amazon Fire TV blog