FCC modifies rules for HAC requirements

In an effort to ensure that the latest technologies in wireless communications are available to those consumers who use hearing aids, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has modified its hearing-aid compatibility (HAC) rules, and has proposed additional rule changes.

The Commission’s Policy Statement and Second Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding HAC requirements was issued in August and is intended to implement changes to current HAC requirements in support of the recommendations of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan issued earlier this year.

Among the most important changes implemented by the Commission is its clarification that its HAC rules apply to any customer device that “contains a built-in speaker and is designed to be typically held to the ear.”  This clarification was deemed significant since an increasing number of multi-functional devices combine both computing and voice communications capabilities, and might otherwise be exempt from the requirements.

The Commission has also amended its rules to require manufacturers to deploy hearing aid-compatible handsets through all possible distribution channels, and not just through wireless communications service providers.  This change is intended to cover distribution of devices through what were previously considered to be non-traditional channels, such as electronics specialty stores, convenience stores, and even direct purchases from manufacturers via the Internet, channels through which an increasing number of wireless communication devices are now being sold.

The Commission has also requested comments on its proposal to extend its HAC requirements to include customer equipment used to provide wireless voice communications over any type of network.  The Commission is also seeking comments on whether to extend its requirement to offer consumers in-store testing of hearing-aid compatible headsets beyond those retail stores owned or operated by service providers.

Comments on the Commission’s proposed changes to its HAC requirements were due to be filed by not later than September 10thIn the meantime, read the complete text of the Commission’s Statement, Report and Notice regarding HAC rules.