Preparing for the Changes to Hearing Aid Compatibility Requirements in ANSI C63.19-2019

By Engaged Expert Justin Chao

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In late 2019, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published a revision to standard C63.19, which addresses compatibility between mobile handsets and hearing aids. The transition period between the old and new versions of the standard ends on June 4, 2023, after which point the 2019 version is required for FCC HAC certification. This standard plays a major role in dictating how communication devices are tested for hearing aid compatibility (HAC), and what functionality requirements manufacturers must account for before sending a product to market. This revision of the standard introduces entirely new requirements and modifies existing procedures for how hearing aid compatibility is tested and evaluated. To bring products to market on a competitive timeline, it is important for manufacturers to be aware of these changes and to choose a testing partner with a complete and up-to-date understanding of HAC testing requirements.

Many of the changes to the standard attempt to more realistically address how hearing-impaired users may interact with their devices. This is a sensible approach but requires greater testing complexity and therefore creates a more challenging certification process. For example, ANSI C63.19-2019 has revised T-coil requirements with spatial thresholds to ensure that hearing aid users experience good audio performance when holding their handset in different positions, rather than a single narrow point. This better reflects real-world usage and gives the user a better experience but makes the test more difficult to pass.

ANSI C63.19-2019 also introduces brand-new test requirements that likely have not been previously tested or investigated. Volume control is a new test area where compliance is a significant challenge due because this requirement was not considered in the design process for new devices. By consulting with a knowledgeable test partner in the R&D and product design phases, costly testing delays can be avoided.

Another important change is the new “pass/fail” rating system specified in the 2019 standard. The previous numerical grading system for rating a device’s hearing aid compatibility has proven to be confusing for users, so devices will now simply be rated on whether they are or are not hearing aid compatible. Because the FCC currently requires that 85% of a given manufacturer’s handset models pass hearing aid compatibility, the new rating system and additional requirements in the standard will make meeting this requirement more challenging.

As industry experts have evaluated the changes to C63.19 over the last several years, concerns have been raised about how difficult the new requirements are for manufacturers to meet. The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) has issued a limited waiver request, which proposes that certain requirements in the standard be temporarily modified to make it more realistic for manufacturers to have their devices rated as hearing aid compatible. However, even if this request is granted, manufacturers will need to do more pretesting and troubleshooting than in previous years to effectively prepare their devices for the new requirements.

Because HAC testing is a uniquely challenging area of testing, it benefits manufacturers to work closely with testing partners throughout the product life cycle and head off compatibility problems before costly late-stage redesigns become necessary. Element’s connected technology experts were part of the task force that advised the FCC on hearing aid compatibility requirements for mobile devices and have served on committees that developed the ANSI C63.19 standards. We are committed to supporting the connected technologies industry in optimizing hearing aid-compatible devices. Element labs can submit FCC Knowledge Database inquiries on behalf of manufacturers and can help to expedite the HAC approval process for our clients.

To learn more about the changes to ANSI C63.19-2019 and about Element’s testing and advisory services, please visit our HAC testing services page or contact us to speak to an expert.

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