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FCC proposes full hearing aid compatibility for mobile phones 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing that all wireless handsets, “namely mobile phones and smartphones,” sold in the United States be fully compatible with hearing aids.

The FCC aims to ensure that everyone, particularly those with hearing loss, has equal access to communication services. More than 37.5 million people in the U.S. experience hearing loss, with its prevalence higher among older adults: nearly a quarter of those aged 65 to 74 and half of those 75 and older have disabling hearing loss. 

To meet these needs and enable consumers with hearing loss to use the wide range of wireless handsets available, the commission is proposing a plan to fully achieve its long-standing goal of 100% wireless handset model hearing aid compatibility (HAC).

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that was adopted concludes that achieving 100% HAC for wireless handset models in the U.S. is feasible. The FCC also seeks feedback on adopting a broader HAC definition, including Bluetooth connectivity between handsets and hearing aids. It suggests that all wireless handsets should offer two forms of hearing aid coupling: 100% should have acoustic coupling, and either inductive or Bluetooth coupling.

The Notice discusses methods to attain the 100% compatibility goal, proposing transition periods for manufacturers and service providers: 24 months for handset manufacturers, 30 months for nationwide service providers and 42 months for non-nationwide providers. 

It also solicits comments on proposals to inform consumers and reduce regulatory burdens on manufacturers and service providers.

The proposals are based on recommendations from the Hearing Aid Compatibility Task Force, including representatives from device manufacturers, accessibility advocates, wireless service providers and others.

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