Photo courtesy of JD Mason via the Creative Commons License

This week, the FCC announced that March 30 will be the effective date for amending hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules. These rules, published in the Federal Register on March 6, were designed to allow those who are hard of hearing to have access to the national telecommunications network and to further implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. These changes were originally adopted by the FCC in October 2017.

The rules include: an updated wireline HAC volume control standard, an updated volume control for wireless headset standard, and elimination of an obsolete wireless handset standard. The objective of changing these standards, according to the Commission, is to “modernize and improve the ways that Americans with hearing loss can access our nation’s wireline and wireless communications services.”

The new technical standards will change how hearing aid volume is measured. Measurement will now occur via the Head and Torso Simulator (or HATS) method, eliminating the previously used IEC-318 coupler. The HATS method, the FCC found, will take into account how handsets are actually used, especially with regard to the seal between a phone receiver and a user’s ears. Furthermore, amplification standards will be updated to use what is called “conversational gain” where loudness in sound is measured from face-to-face conversation by a distance of one meter. This is intended to eliminate the “variation on maximum amplification levels that results from maximum amplifications being measured relative to each telephone’s nominal sound level.”

The new standards will also require that volume control levels be provided to at least 18dB and no more than 24dB Conversational Gain at the maximum setting.

Finally, the FCC has adopted a proposal to eliminate the 2007 Wireless RF Interference/Inductive Coupling Standard which it deems as “outdated.” The rule now requires that wireless handsets comply with the existing 2011 Wireless RF Interference/Inductive Coupling Standard to “achieve more effective coupling between handsets and hearing aids or cochlear implants.”

As you navigate through these changes, keep up to date on our blog or contact us for more information.