On September 29, 2023, the FCC released an order waiving portions of wireless hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules that require, among other things, wireless handsets to meet volume control requirements to be certified as hearing aid-compatible.  In 2021, the FCC adopted a new standard for hearing aid compatibility for wireless handsets, called the 2019 ANSI Standard, to improve acoustic and inductive (t-coil) coupling between hearing aids and wireless handsets and to provide adequate volume control performance.  The 2019 ANSI Standard incorporates by reference the TIA 5050 Standard for volume control.  Beginning on December 5, 2023, new wireless handsets will be required to meet this volume control standard along with the rest of the 2019 ANSI Standard to be certified as hearing aid-compatible.  On behalf of wireless handset manufacturers and service providers, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) requested a waiver of certain aspects of these rules on the grounds that the existing volume control testing standard is fundamentally flawed.  ATIS requested that an alternative volume control testing methodology be adopted while a new standard is being developed that the Commission can adopt into its rules.

The FCC agreed to allow an alternative testing methodology for volume control as specified in the waiver order.  This will allow a handset to be certified as hearing aid-compatible under the 2019 ANSI standard if it meets the alternative volume control testing methodology as well as other aspects of that standard.  Consumers with hearing loss can therefore benefit from the improvements of the new standard while work on a new volume control testing standard proceeds.

The waiver will last for two years.  One year from release of the order, ATIS must report on the status of the development of a new volume control standard and when the new standard will be made available to the Commission for adoption.

Link to the Order:

https://www.fcc.gov/document/wtb-grants-limited-waiver-hac-volume-control-rules

A consumer guide on Hearing Aid Compatibility for Wireline and Wireless Telephones can be found here: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/hearing-aid-compatibility-wireline-and-wireless-telephones.

For questions about the Order granting the waiver, please contact Eli Johnson, Attorney Advisor/Special Counsel, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, at eli.johnson@fcc.gov.  Individuals who use videophones and are fluent in American Sign Language may call the FCC’s ASL Consumer Support Line at 844-432-2275 (videophone). 

Updated:
Friday, September 29, 2023