The FCC has been making waves with inquiries, policy changes and new proposals lately, all aimed at making the wireless industry better and more consumer-friendly. This would, naturally, include the somewhat large subset of the population who require a hearing aid. Some devices don’t support all features of popular and legacy hearing aid devices, limiting the mobile device choices of those who use hearing aids. Technologies to that end have come and gone over the years, with any kind of real widespread adoption becoming increasingly rare as new protocols are developed. In the end, hearing aid users just end up getting the short end of the stick. The FCC introduced both a new change in the current laws and a proposal today, both aimed squarely at correcting this problem.
The new law, known as The Fourth Order And Report, ropes newer communication standards such as WiFi Calling and VOLTE into existing laws, requiring handsets sporting these technologies to comply with the same set of hearing aid rules as those that do calls over more traditional 2G networks. This will ensure that hearing aid wearers aren’t left behind as the newest devices roll out and networks are built out leading up to and after the spectrum auction in March. THe new rule also states that future technologies in that vein must comply with current laws like their predecessors. The new initiatives would ensure that OEMs, carriers and software makers consider the implications of the new laws on their designs from the drawing board. The FCC is hoping this will eventually result in more innovation in the area of hearing aid compatibility, allowing it to become the de facto standard.
A proposal was also brought forth, looking for comments and consensus on a plan to work with mobile tech companies toward the goal of making one-hundred percent of mobile handsets compatible with all hearing aid technologies at some point in the future. The proposal, if passed, would come into law and require all, rather than a percentage, of a given carrier or manufacturer’s offerings to be compliant with the new rules. This would completely remove the limits placed on consumers with hearing issues.