Hearing Aid Compatible Telephones
The Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 (the HAC Act) statute requires all essential telephones and all telephones manufactured in or imported into the United States to be hearing aid compatible. The mandates apply to all wireline and cordless telephones and certain wireless digital telephones. Hearing aid compatible telephones provide inductive and acoustic connections that allow individuals with hearing aids and cochlear implants to communicate by phone. To achieve inductive coupling, the telephone must emit sufficient electromagnetic energy to couple with a telecoil in the hearing aid or the cochlear implant processor. When activated, the telecoil converts the magnetic field into sound and the hearing aid or cochlear implant microphone is simultaneously turned off or reduced to eliminate or decrease any background noise or feedback that can make it difficult to hear speech. Acoustic coupling uses the microphone in the hearing aid or cochlear implant to pick up and amplify sounds from the telephone’s receiver. Under FCC rules, in order to be considered hearing aid compatible, telephones with digital wireless technologies must also minimize electromagnetic interference, which has the effect of creating additional noise that makes it difficult to understand speech.
The HAC Act requires that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ensure that all wireline telephones (not wireless, mobile, or cell phones) manufactured or imported for use in the United States after August 1989, and all “essential” telephones, are hearing aid-compatible. “Essential” telephones are defined as “coin-operated telephones, telephones provided for emergency use, and other telephones frequently needed for use by persons using such hearing aids.” “Essential” phones might include workplace phones, phones in confined settings (like hospitals and nursing homes), and phones in hotel and motel rooms. Secure phones, approved by the U.S. Government to transmit classified or sensitive conversations, and phones used with public mobile and private radio services (wireless, mobile, and cell phone) were exempt from the HAC Act.
For more information, please see the FCC Consumer Factsheet for HAC Wireline Telephones at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/hac_wireline.html. This factsheet describes what makes a telephone hearing aid compatible; the FCC’s requirements for wireline telephones, including labeling requirements; and about filing complaints with the FCC.
The HAC Act generally requires that the FCC ensure that wireline 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. 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.
For more information, please see the FCC Consumer Factsheet for HAC Wireless Telephones at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/hac_wireless.html. This factsheet describes what makes a telephone hearing aid compatible; the FCC’s requirements for digital wireless telephones, including labeling and testing requirements; and about filing complaints with the FCC.
The FCC maintains a list of telephone equipment manufacturers, with contact information, at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/section255_manu.html, and a list of telephone service providers, with contact information at