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When you read this you are gonna laugh. And flame me for being a time-wasting muppet. I deserve it.
The way I got mplayer to do hdmi sound was
mplayer dvd://sr0 -ao alsa device=plughw=1.3
rather than just
mplayer dvd://sr0 -ao alsa
This made me think that the first of those commands was forcing alsa to ignore all its myriad configuration files and just using the device specified. I don't think there is any way to send a command-line option like that to Firefox. So maybe change some of alsa's myriad configuration files.
I put "alsa configuration" into Google and got the answer. Three lines in /usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf. Took me 5 minutes. I could have done that 6 months ago.
I shall now dedicate the rest of my life to slapping my forehead with the palm of my hand and going "dohh"