One component of hearing loss which is rarely discussed is the simple decrease in safety of people who have hearing difficulties. Picture this scenario: you’re at home and a fire begins, and like most people today you have smoke alarms to warn you so that you and your loved ones can evacuate before the fire becomes life-threatening. But now suppose that the fire begins at night, when you are asleep, and you have removed your hearing aid.
The smoke detectors standard in almost all homes and those mandated by city or state governments emit a loud warning tone at a frequency between 3000 to 4000 Hertz. This approach is acceptable for nearly everybody, but the fact is that these frequencies are among those most at risk of age-related hearing loss, so seniors or people who have suffered other forms of hearing loss cannot hear them. So if you are one of the more than 11 million Americans with hearing problems, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t hear your smoke alarm even if you were awake.
Luckily, there are home safety products which are specifically designed for the requirements of the hearing impaired. For people with mild to moderate hearing loss, there are smoke detectors that emit a 520 Hz square-wave warning tone that they can generally hear. For people who are totally deaf, or who cannot hear at all when they take out their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) during the night, there are alert systems that blend extremely loud noises, blinking lights, and vibrators that shake your bed. For complete home safety, a number of these newer devices have been designed to be easily integrated into more thorough home protection systems to alert you in case of intruders, or if emergency services are pounding on your doors.
To hear other sounds that may signal danger, many hearing-impaired individuals have set up induction loops in their homes to improve the performance of their hearing aids or CIs. These systems are basically long wires placed in a loop around your living room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These serve to activate the telecoils inside your hearing aid or cochlear implant that raise the volume of sound; this can be very helpful during emergencies.
We shouldn’t ignore the common telephone, which is indispensable in an emergency of any sort. Fortunately, a number of modern mobile and home telephones are now telecoil-compatible, to permit their use by individuals wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. Other models incorporate speakerphone systems with high volumes that can be used by the hearing impaired, and more importantly, can be voice-activated. So if you fell and hurt yourself out of reach of the phone, you could still voice-dial for assistance. There are other accessories for cellphones, such as vibrating wristbands that can inform you of an incoming call even if you’re asleep.
Naturally, some home safety tips for the hearing impaired are the exact same as for people who can hear well, such as keeping lists of your doctors, emergency service providers, and hospitals close by. If we may be of assistance to you in making your house safer for the hearing impaired, give us a call; we’ll be very happy to assist.