TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Digital Wireless Phone Hearing Aid Compatibility

Digital Wireless Phone Hearing Aid Compatibility

FCC Public Service Message (
Thu, 16 Nov 2006 15:20:28 -0600

As more and more American consumers have come to rely on their
wireless phones for safety, business, and personal reasons in the past
few years, it has become critical that access to digital wireless
phones increases for the hearing disabled community. Unfortunately,
because of interference and other technological issues, not all
digital wireless phones are currently accessible to people who wear
hearing aids or have cochlear implants. The FCC recently took an
important step to increase the hearing disabled community’s access
to the benefits of wireless telephones by requiring equipment
manufacturers and wireless service providers to make available more
digital wireless phones that are hearing aid compatible.

What prevents me from being able to hear well on my wireless phone
when wearing my hearing aid?

Hearing aid users often experience a buzzing sound that makes it
difficult or impossible for them to hear conversations over a digital
wireless phone. This buzzing typically occurs when the electromagnetic
energy emitted by a digital wireless phone's antenna, backlight, or
other component, commonly know as RF emissions, interferes with a
hearing aid's or cochlear implant's ability to process sound

People who wear hearing aids containing telecoils will often
experience additional difficulties using digital wireless
phones. Hearing aids with telecoils avoid unwanted background noise by
turning off the microphone and receiving only magnetic fields
generated by telecoil-compatible telephones. As most digital wireless
phones are not equipped to emit magnetic fields, they do not work with
hearing aids containing telecoils.

How will the new FCC rules ensure that hearing aids and wireless
phones work better together?

In order to ensure the timely availability of digital wireless phones
that are compatible with hearing aids and cochlear implants, the FCC
has adopted the following deadlines for the availability of digital
wireless phones:

Late summer, 2005: Most digital wireless service providers and phone
manufacturers will offer consumers two digital wireless phone models
that have reduced RF emissions. Nationwide wireless service providers
will offer 25 percent of their digital phone models with reduced RF

Late summer, 2006: Most digital wireless service providers and phone
manufacturers will offer consumers two digital wireless phone models
that are telecoil compatible.

February 18, 2008: At least half of the digital wireless phone models
offered by most digital wireless service providers and manufacturers
will have reduced RF emissions.

How will the new FCC rules work to limit interference and promote
compatibility between my hearing aid and my digital wireless phone?

To assist you in finding a hearing aid compatible digital wireless
phone, the FCC adopted a uniform hearing aid compatibility scale on
which digital wireless phones and hearing aids are rated. Specifically,
this scale provides:

Type of phone Best Performance
Least Interference Worst Performance
Most Interference
Telecoil U4T U1T
Non-Telecoil Coupling
(Acoustic) Mode U4 U1
Type of Hearing Aid Best Immunity to
Interference Least Immunity to
Immunity Rating U4 U1

You can use these performance ratings to find a digital wireless phone
that works well with your hearing aid. If adding the immunity rating
of your hearing aid to the emissions rating (or telecoil coupling
capability rating) of a wireless handset equals 5 or higher (e.g., a
U2 hearing aid and a U3 wireless phone), the two should provide for
normal use. If, however, the performance ratings of the phone and your
hearing aid add up to less than 5 (e.g., a U2 hearing aid and U1T
wireless phone), you will most likely still have trouble hearing phone

As part of its rules, the FCC has mandated that, according to the
implementation schedule described above, most of the hearing aid
compatible digital wireless phones offered by wireless service
providers and phone manufacturers meet the U3 performance rating, and
that a certain number of digital wireless phones meet the U3T
performance rating. In addition, the Hearing Aid Industry Association
has pledged that all of its members will start producing hearing aids
with a U2 or higher immunity rating. This means that, in the near
future you will be able locate digital wireless phones that are
compatible with your hearing aid. However, recognizing that not all
hearing aids will work with all hearing aid compatible phones, the FCC
has encouraged service providers and manufacturers to adopt flexible
trial use and return policies.

In addition, in order to assist you in locating hearing aid compatible
digital phones, the FCC is requiring all hearing aid compatible phones
to be labeled with the appropriate rating on their packaging, in their
product manual, and for service providers to make this information
available to consumers through appropriate means, such as on their
websites. The FCC has also encouraged hearing aid manufacturers to
label their products in a similar manner.

What can I expect when I purchase a new digital wireless phone?

As the deadlines for digital wireless phone manufacturers and service
providers near, you should be able to purchase phones that work with
your hearing aid from any wireless service provider or manufacturer.
If the provider does not have a given handset available for purchase
on site, it is required to do its best to provide you with that
wireless phone within 48 hours. In addition, the FCC has encouraged
service providers to offer at least one hearing aid compatible handset
that is a lower-priced model and one that has higher-end features. In
this manner, you should be able to find an appropriate model that fits
your service and budgetary needs.

Other than an appropriate hearing aid compatibility rating, what other
features should I look for to improve my wireless phone's ability
to work with my hearing aid?

You may also find increased compatibility of digital wireless phones
with your hearing aid by focusing on the design and operation of the
phone itself. Experience has demonstrated that consumers who purchase
digital wireless phones that distance the antenna from the hearing aid,
such as those with a 'clamshell' (or flip) design, and phones that allow
the user to turn 'off' the backlight of the display screen and keypad
experience minimized interference and better performance with their
hearing aid.

How can I learn more?

The FCC website contains information about the Commission's new digital
wireless hearing aid compatibility rules at In
addition, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association website
contains frequently asked questions about hearing aid compatibility, a
list of hearing aid compatible digital wireless phones, and a message
board at

For more information on hearing aid compatibility, you can visit the
FCC's website at or call the FCC's Consumer Center at
1-888-CALL-FCC (voice) or 1-888-TELL (TTY). You may also e-mail the FCC

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