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FCC Mandate to bring Cell Phones Into Compatibility with Hearing Aids


New York, Feb 22, 2007

Mobile phone manufacturers now have one year to comply with a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate requiring mobile handsets built or used in the United States to comply with the American National Standard for cell phone-hearing aid compatibility.

Issued in 2003, the mandate is intended to ensure that new mobile phones available on the market are accessible to individuals using hearing aids [See related article: FCC Order Leans on Standard for Wireless Compatibility with Hearing Aids]. By February 18, 2008, mobile phone manufacturers and service providers will have to ensure that at least 50% of all handsets marketed in the U.S. meet the requirements of ANSI C63.19:2006, Methods of Measurement of Compatibility between Wireless Communications Devices and Hearing Aids. Approved as an American National Standard in 2001, C63.19 was developed by the ANSI Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) C63 on electromagnetic compatibility, a group administered by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

A measurement standard for hearing aid compatibility with wireless communications devices, C63.19-2006 aims to achieve an acceptable level of performance between cell phones and hearing aids by reducing the interference of radio frequency emissions. The standard defines emissions and immunity-to-interference requirements, as well as test methods to determine the level of interoperability between the devices. The document is intended to apply to all types of hearing aids with acoustic output.

An estimated 28 million Americans have some degree of hearing impairment; by 2030, this number is expected to double. The Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 (HAC Act) directed the FCC to ensure that all telephones manufactured or imported for use in the United States, and all “essential” telephones—including phones provided for emergency use, coin-operated phones, and phones in the workplace, hospitals, nursing homes and hotel rooms—be hearing aid-compatible. The increasing reliance on wireless mobile phones for business and personal use, coupled with the growing number of technologically-savvy baby boomers, led the FCC to put pressure on wireless carriers and equipment manufacturers to increase the number of hearing aid-compatible wireless phones available on the market.

Although the FCC mandate applies solely to wireless digital devices used in the United States, Europe and other regions are expected to implement similar regulations, as the benefits to the hearing impaired become more apparent.

ANSI Nanotechnology Standards Panel