The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (Bureau) seeks updated comment on the operation and effectiveness of the Commission’s rules relating to hearing aid compatibility of wireless handsets.
The FCC provides information about hearing aid compatibly on their website. They say:
Hearing aids operate in one of two modes – acoustic coupling or telecoil coupling. Hearing aids operating in acoustic coupling mode receive and amplify all sounds surrounding the user; both desired sounds, such as a telephone’s audio signal, as well as unwanted ambient noise. Hearing aids operating in telecoil coupling mode avoid unwanted ambient noise by turning off the microphone and receiving only signals from magnetic fields generated by telecoil-compatible telephones … .
A telecoil is a small, tightly-wrapped piece of wire inside the hearing aid that, when activated, picks up the voice signal from the electromagnetic field that leaks from compatible telephones. While the microphone on a hearing aid picks up all sounds, the telecoil will only pick up an electromagnetic signal from the telephone. Thus, users of telecoil-equipped hearing aids are able to communicate effectively over the telephone without feedback and without the amplification of unwanted background noise … .
Many people report feedback (or squealing) when they place the handset of the telephone next to their hearing aid. When placed correctly, telecoils can eliminate this feedback because the hearing aid microphone is turned off and the hearing aid only amplifies the signal coming through the telecoil. 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.
A telephone that is hearing aid compatible has an internal feature that allows the use of telephone compatible hearing aids. Thus, telephones can be used effectively by persons with hearing aids.
There are many different wireless mobile phones available, and some of the wireless mobile phones work better with some hearing aids than others. The FCC has requirements for some, but not all, wireless phones to be hearing aid compatible.
Finding a Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) mobile phone has always posed a problem for people who wear hearing aids. About a year ago, between January 28 and February 7, 2011, HLAA conducted an online survey to gather consumer experience with HAC mobile phones. We were surprised at the results. We found widespread discontent with both the process of searching for HAC handsets and we found a surprising number of people who ended up settling for phones that didn’t really work with their hearing aids. We concluded:
Hearing Loss Association of America (“HLAA”) and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access (“RERC-TA”) along with the Association of Late-Deafened Adults, Inc. (ALDA) Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI), National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN), and Hands & Voices filed comments with the FCC January 12, 2012 regarding the standards for testing mobile devices for hearing aid compatibility. The FCC expects to issue address other issues regarding hearing aid compatibility in the near future, so HLAA will continue to watch notices issued by the FCC on this issue. HLAA thanks all the organizations who supported us by signing onto these comments.