One topic that is seldom mentioned when it comes to hearing loss is how to keep people who have it safe inside their own homes. Picture this situation: you’re in your house and a fire breaks out, and like most of us nowadays you have smoke detectors to warn you so that you and your family can evacuate before the fire becomes intense. But now suppose that the fire begins during the night, when you are asleep, and you’ve taken off your hearing aid.
The smoke detectors standard in almost all homes and those required by city and local governments emit a loud warning tone at a frequency between 3,000 and 4,000 Hz. And while most people can hear these tones easily, these frequencies are among those most impacted by age-related hearing loss and other kinds of auditory impairment. So if you are one of the more than 11 million people in America with hearing problems, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t hear your smoke detector even if you were awake.
Luckily, there are home safety products that are expressly designed for the requirements of the hearing impaired. For instance, there are smoke detectors that emit a low-frequency (520 Hz) square wave tone that a majority of hearing-impaired individuals can hear. If you are completely deaf without your hearing aid or when you turn off your cochlear implants (CIs), there are other alert systems that use a combination of flashing lights, very loud alarms, and vibrating units that shake your bed to wake you up in an emergency. For complete home safety, many of these newer units have been developed to be incorporated into more thorough home protection systems to warn you in case of burglars, or if emergency services are pounding on your doors.
Many who have hearing aids or who have cochlear implants have elected to extend the performance of these devices by setting up induction loops in their homes. These systems are in essence long strands of wire positioned in a loop around your family room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These serve to activate the telecoils inside your hearing aid or cochlear implant that increase the volume of sound; this can be very helpful in emergency situations.
We shouldn’t ignore the basic telephone, which is indispensable in an emergency of any kind. Most modern telephones now can be found in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which allow their easy use during either normal or extraordinary conditions. Other models integrate speakerphone systems with very high volumes that can be used by the hearing impaired, and more notably, can be voice-activated. These phones allow you to voice-dial for help in an emergency situation, or if you needed assistance of any kind. There are other accessories for mobile phones, such as vibrating wristbands that will alert you to an incoming call even if you’re sleeping.
Other safety tips are less technical and more practical, such as always having the telephone numbers of fire departments, ambulance providers, doctors, and emergency services handy. If we may be of assistance to you in helping to make your house safer for the hearing impaired, call us; we’ll be happy to assist.