Achieving Hearing Aid Compatibility for 100% of Cell Phones: A work in progress

Ever since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) partially modified the original exemption for wireless (cell) phones from hearing aid compatibility (HAC) requirements, consumer organizations for individuals with hearing loss have worked, through advocacy, toward the goal that all cell phones would become accessible to and usable by hearing device users. Over the last eight months, there has been both policy activity at the FCC and consensus building work between consumer organizations and the wireless industry that may achieve this goal. Last November (2015), consumer and industry stakeholders jointly submitted a letter to the FCC outlining the terms of a consensus proposal, which included enhanced benchmarks for HAC cell phones, a task force process for assessing the achievability of 100% HAC compliance for cell phones and a means for enabling innovation to achieve HAC in cell phones. Currently, the FCC is considering comments provided in response to its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on this proposal and other matters. It’s expected that the FCC will establish rules based on the consensus proposal by years end. The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology RERC has provided technical advising to consumer organizations throughout the consensus building effort and signed onto comments to the FCC in support of the consumer’s goal.

For more information on the FCC’s policy work related to HAC, visit: https://www.fcc.gov/general/hearing-aid-compatibility-and-volume-control

For more information on the consumer perspective and their advocacy efforts on HAC, visit: http://www.hearingloss.org/advocacy/telephone-mobile-devices/hearing-aid-compatibility

At the same time, standards activity related to the hearing aid compatibility of cell phones and hearing aids has begun again.   The C63.19 standard provides the method for measuring the compatibility between cell phones and hearing aids. The American National Standards Institute-Accredited Standards Committee-C63® (ANSI-ASC-C63) is the United States standards development organization for this type of electromagnetic compatibility engineering work. ANSI-ASC-C63 recently approved the revision of C63.19 and the topics to be addressed. The last (and fourth) revision of the standard occurred in 2011. The work for this fifth revision of the standard got underway at the May 2016 meeting of ANSI-ASC-C63. The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology RERC is participating in the working group addressing the revision. Volunteer participation in the working group is open and free, and volunteers are expected to attend meetings and actively participate in the work effort.

For more information on ANSI-ASC-C63, visit: http://c63.org/documents/misc/about/about.htm