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August 8, 2003

Coming: Cell phones that work with hearing aids

From: Consumer Reports - Aug 8, 2003

The Federal Communications Commission ruled in mid-July that the cell-phone industry must become more accommodating to people who are hard of hearing. Up to now, the 6 million people who wear hearing aids or have cochlear implants have had difficulty using digital cell phones--the leading type--because they create too much interference.

The FCC rules require the following changes:

Within two years, phone manufacturers and cellular carriers such as AT&T Wireless, Cingular, spirint, T-Mobile, and Verizon must offer at least two phone models with reduced interference or ensure that one-fourth of the phones the carriers sell produce less interference.

Within three years, carriers must provide at least two phones with the capability for telecoil coupling: generating a magnetic field strong enough to allow hearing aids with telecoils to pick up the signals from the phone, which then allow sound to be delivered to the hearing aid. Twenty-five to 30 percent of hearing aids contain telecoils, which are often used by those with severe hearing loss.

By February 2008, half of all digital cell phones sold must offer reduced interference. Manufacturers offering no more than three phones will be required to develop one that's accessible to hearing-aid users. The FCC has encouraged the industry to provide at least one low-priced and one full-featured phone that is hearing-aid compatible.

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