Telephones and Mobile Devices

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Telephones and Mobile Devices

The Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 (HAC Act) generally requires that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ensure that telephones manufactured or imported for use in the United States after August 1989, and all “essential” telephones, are hearing aid-compatible. When Congress passed the Act in 1988, it specifically exempted “telephones used with public mobile services” (wireless telephones) from these requirements.

According to the FCC, a telephone is hearing aid compatible if it provides internal means (i.e., without the use of external devices) for effective use with hearing aids that are designed to be compatible with telephones that meet the FCC's technical standard for hearing aid compatibility (the technical standard is codified at 47 C.F.R. § 68.316). This is usually accomplished by inserting a telecoil in telephones that detects, or is compatible with, a similar telecoil in the hearing aid, and thus allows the hearing aid to "couple" with the telephone through an electromagnetic field.

To ensure that the HAC Act kept pace with the evolution of telecommunications, however, Congress granted the FCC a means to revoke or limit the exemption for wireless telephones. On August 14, 2003, the FCC determined that continuation of a complete exemption for wireless telephones would have an adverse effect on individuals with hearing disabilities, and that limiting the exemption was technologically feasible and in the public interest. Based upon these findings, the FCC established rules for the hearing aid compatibility of digital wireless phones.

In these pages you will find information and updates on both wireline and wireless hearing aid compatible phones. In addition, we provide information about Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) which provide access to services to allow you to connect to others using a telephone when you can no longer fully hear on the phone.

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