The Federal Communications Commission proposed that 100% of wireless handsets— namely mobile phones and smartphones—offered for sale in the United States be fully compatible with hearing aids. 

The FCC says it wants to ensure that all Americans, including those with hearing loss, are able to access communications services on an equal basis. To address these needs and ensure that consumers with hearing loss can take advantage of the wide array of wireless handsets available on the market, the Commission is proposing a plan to fully implement its long-standing goal of achieving complete wireless handset model hearing aid compatibility (HAC). 

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today tentatively concludes that a 100% HAC requirement for wireless handset models offered or imported for use in the United States is achievable. The Commission will also seek comment on adopting a broader definition of HAC that would include the use of Bluetooth connectivity between wireless handsets and hearing aids. The FCC proposes that all wireless handsets have two forms of coupling with hearing aids: 100% must have acoustic coupling and either inductive or Bluetooth coupling. 

Further reading: Roundtable: Hopes for Hearing Care in 2024

The Notice explores ways to reach the 100% compatibility benchmark, including proposing a 24-month transition period for handset manufacturers; a 30-month transition period for nationwide service providers; and a 42-month transition period for non-nationwide service providers. Finally, the Notice seeks comment on a number of proposals to ensure that consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions and to reduce the regulatory burden on manufacturers and service providers. 

These proposals build off the recommendations of the Hearing Aid Compatibility Task Force, which included representatives from device manufacturers, accessibility advocates, wireless services providers, and more. 

Action by the Commission Dec. 13, 2023 by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 23- 108). Chairwoman Rosenworcel, Commissioners Carr, Starks, Simington, and Gomez approving. Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Commissioner Starks issuing separate statements.