The Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) Act of 1988 requires all landline telephones manufactured or imported for use in the United States to be hearing aid compatible. In other words, all corded and cordless telephones that plug into a jack in the wall must provide inductive and acoustic connections that allow hearing instrument (and/or cochlear implant) users to communicate by phone. At the time Congress passed the law, cell phones were exempt since Congress considered this technology non-essential. As such, many hearing instrument wearers experienced a loud buzzing noise when trying to use cell phones. In the past 5 years, the government has responded by partially lifting the exemption of cell phones from HAC, mandating compliance with ANSI C63.91. For more information on cell phone interference, see the previous post in this blog entitled No-Buzz Cell Phone Solutions.
When the HAC Act was mandated, all cordless phones were 900 MHz analog devices and, therefore, worked well with hearing instruments. Since then, cordless telephone technology has evolved to digital products operating at the 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz frequencies. Unfortunately, this caused hearing instrument users to experience the same audible buzzing noise seen with cell phone use when trying to use a landline cordless telephone!
As a result of consumer feedback, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and cordless phone manufacturers formed a working group to address the issue and offer a solution. The outcome was the development of TIA-1083 , a performance benchmark outlining digital cordless telephone performance measurement requirements designed to reduce interference hearing instrument users were prone to experiencing. Many corded phone manufacturers have indicated phased-in commitments to 100% compliance by 2010 although this is not necessarily a mandated requirement of all cordless phones. Cordless phones meeting the requirements of this standard will typically be labeled as TIA-1083 compliant on the packaging. So, if your hearing instrument patients are concerned about getting a cordless telephone that is hearing aid compliant, the best choice is to choose a phone that is TIA-1083 compliant.