The Hearing Aid Compatibility Act requires the FCC to ensure all wireline telephones manufactured or imported for use in the United States and all "essential" telephones, such as public phones, emergency phones and workplace phones are hearing aid-compatible. Beginning in 2003, the FCC established rules for the hearing aid compatibility of digital wireless phones as well.
What makes a telephone hearing aid compatible?
Hearing aid compatible phones have an internal feature that works with telecoil or T-coil hearing aids.
In the United States, about 60 percent of hearing aids contain telecoils, which generally are used by individuals with profound hearing loss.
Many people report feedback or "squealing" when they place the handset of the telephone next to their hearing aid. T-coil hearing aids can eliminate this feedback because their microphones automatically turn off to block out ambient sound and the hearing aids only amplify the phone signal.
Consumer tip: Some hearing-aid users may need to place the ear-piece slightly behind the ear rather than directly over the ear to obtain the clearest signal.
What additional technology considerations are there for wireless phones?
The ability to make wireless telephones compatible with hearing aids also depends in part on other technical and design choices made by carriers and manufacturers. For example, for technical reasons, it is easier to meet hearing aid compatibility standards on systems using Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) air interface than on systems using Global System for Mobile (GSM). It is also easier to meet hearing aid compatibility standards in phones with flip phone designs than in other styles.
What are the requirements for hearing aid compatibility for digital wireless telephones?
Analog wireless telephones usually do not cause interference with hearing aids. Digital wireless telephones, on the other hand, sometimes cause interference because of electromagnetic energy emitted by the telephone's antenna, backlight or other components.
The standard for compatibility of digital wireless phones with hearing aids is American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard C63.19. A digital wireless handset is considered hearing aid-compatible if it meets a "T3" (or "U3T") rating under the ANSI standard.
In addition to rating wireless phones, the ANSI standard also provides a methodology for rating hearing aids from M1 to M4, with M1 being the least immune to RF interference and M4 the most immune. To determine whether a particular digital wireless telephone is likely to interfere with a particular hearing aid, the immunity rating of the hearing aid is added to the rating of the telephone. A sum of four indicates the telephone is usable, five indicates normal use and six or greater indicates the telephone would provide excellent performance for hearing aid users.
Are there labeling and testing requirements?
Packages containing hearing aid-compatible handsets must be explicitly labeled and must include detailed information in the package or product manual.
Wireless service providers must offer a means for consumers to test hearing aid-compatible handsets in their retail stores.
Some hearing aid manufacturers are voluntarily including information about hearing aid compatibility with their products.
Manufacturers and service providers are required to post information about their hearing aid-compatible handset offerings on their websites.
Some handsets are capable of using wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, for which hearing aid compatibility technical standards have not yet been adopted by the FCC. If a handset includes such a technology, the packaging material and other disclosures must inform consumers that such operations have not been tested for use with hearing aids.
Try before you buy
Be sure to try your wireless device with your hearing aid in the store before making your purchase. It's best to try several models before buying to find the best match with your hearing aids. Visit a full service carrier store and ask to try devices that have been designated as "hearing aid compatible." Your cell phone's RF emissions can change depending on your location. Be sure to fully evaluate your listening experience outside and during the return period.
Filing a complaint
If you have a problem using a hearing aid with a digital wireless phone that is labeled as hearing aid-compatible, first try to resolve it with the equipment manufacturer or your wireless service provider. If you can't resolve the issue directly, you have multiple options for filing a complaint with the FCC:
- File a complaint online
- By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
- By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554
What to include in your complaint
Your complaint should include:
- The make and model number of the equipment or device you are complaining about.
- The name, address, and telephone number (if known) of the company or companies involved in your complaint.
- A brief description of your complaint and the resolution you are seeking, and a full description of the equipment or service you are complaining about, including date of purchase, use or attempt to use.
For more information
For more information about FCC programs to promote access to telecommunications services for people with disabilities, visit the FCC's Disability Rights Office website.
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