One topic that is rarely discussed when it comes to hearing loss is how to keep people who have it safe inside their homes. Picture this situation: you’re at home and a fire begins, and like most people today you have smoke detectors installed to warn you so that you and your family can evacuate before the fire becomes serious. But this time imagine further, and contemplate what would happen if your smoke alarm goes off at night after you’ve gone to sleep, removing your hearing aid first as you usually do.
Virtually all smoke alarms (or similar carbon monoxide detectors), including nearly all devices accredited and mandated by city and state governments, emit a loud warning sound between the frequencies of 3,000 to 4,000 Hertz. And while the majority of people can hear these sounds easily, these frequencies are among those most affected by age-related hearing loss and other forms of auditory problems. So even if you were awake, if you are among the more than eleven million people in America with hearing loss, there is a possibility that you would not hear the alarm.
Luckily, there are home safety products which are specifically created for the requirements of the hearing impaired. For those with slight 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 completely deaf, or who cannot hear whatsoever when they remove their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) at night when they go to bed, there are alert systems that blend extremely loud alarms, flashing lights, and vibrators that shake your mattress to warn you. For comprehensive home safety, many of these newer devices have been designed to be easily integrated into more extensive home protection systems to warn you in case of intruders, or if emergency services are pounding on your doors.
Many who have hearing aids or who have cochlear implants have chosen to boost the efficiency of these devices by setting up induction loops in their homes. An induction loop is simply a lengthy strand of wire that encircles your living room, bedroom, or children’s rooms, which activates the telecoils embedded in your devices to raise the volume of sounds, and therefore may help you not to miss any important or emergency signals.
And of course there is the lowly telephone, which many of us tend to ignore until we need one, but which can become crucial in any sort of emergency. Most present day telephones now can be found in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which allow their use during emergencies. Other models incorporate speakerphone systems with very high volumes that can be easily used by the hearing impaired, and more importantly, can be voice-activated. So if you fell and hurt yourself away from the phone, you could still voice-dial for assistance. There are additional accessories for mobile phones, such as vibrating wristbands that can inform you of an incoming phone call even if you are asleep.
Other safety tips are less technical and more practical, like always keeping the telephone numbers of fire departments, ambulance companies, doctors, and emergency services handy. We are as concerned about your basic safety as we are about your hearing, so if we can be of service with any further tips or suggestions, feel free to give us a call.