FCC Adopts Landmark Agreement to Improve Access to Hearing Aid Compatible Cell Phones and Wireless Devices

On August 4, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules to ensure people with hearing loss have full access to wireless devices. As the FCC noted, the action taken “will modernize existing hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules while maintaining the balance between fostering accessibility and promoting innovation and investment.”

Upon the adoption of the rules, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in his statement, “One area where the Commission has made significant progress in making sure accessibility is baked into new technology is hearing aid compatibility for new mobile devices. Today we take another step toward the day when Americans with hearing loss can access the same range of wireless handsets as anyone else.”

The new rules will require manufacturers and service providers to make more HAC phones available to consumers:

  • 66 percent of offered handset models must be compliant within two years for manufacturers of handsets, with additional time for service providers.
  • 85 percent of handsets must be compliant within five years for manufacturers, again with additional time for service providers.

The FCC reported that it “reconfirms its commitment to pursuing 100 percent compatibility within eight years.” Chairman Wheeler stated, “To be clear, we expect to require 100 percent compliance.”

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted, “I know I am in good company in saying that I look forward to the day when all Americans who use hearing aids have the same options as everyone else when purchasing a mobile phone.”

HLAA was intimately involved in the collaborative effort that led to the groundbreaking consensus letter signed by industry representatives: CTIA, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and consumer organizations: HLAA, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI), and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

HLAA would like to thank all the parties to the consensus proposal for their willingness to compromise and their commitment to finding a way to reach the goal of 100 percent HAC phones. We are thrilled to see our hard work codified into rules.

HLAA is also grateful for the efforts of FCC Commission staff, Chairman Wheeler and all the Commissioners in taking the consensus proposal from an idea to reality by drafting and adopting these updated HAC rules.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in her remarks supporting the new rules, “Hearing loss is a big deal.” All of us at HLAA – members, staff and board alike, know only too well how true those words are. These new rules will give those of us with hearing loss greater access to mainstream products and services, thus giving us more tools to live well with hearing loss.

Press Release August 10, 2016 by HLAA National