One subject that is seldom discussed with regards to hearing loss is how to keep people who have suffered it safe inside their own homes. Picture this situation: you’re in your house and a fire begins, and like most people today you have smoke alarms installed to warn you so that you and your loved ones can safely evacuate before the fire becomes life-threatening. But this time imagine further, and contemplate what would happen if your smoke detector goes off in the middle of the night after you’ve gone to bed, removing your hearing aid first as you usually do.
Most smoke alarms (or similar carbon monoxide detectors), including almost all units approved and mandated by city and state governments, produce a loud warning tone between the frequencies of 3,000 to 4,000 Hz. And while most people can hear these sounds without difficulty, these frequencies are among those most affected by age-related hearing loss and other kinds of auditory impairment. So if you are one of the more than 11 million Americans withhearing loss, there is a possibility that you simply would not hear your smoke alarm even if you were awake.
Luckily, there are home safety products which are expressly designed for the requirements of the hearing impaired. For those 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 completely deaf, or who cannot hear at all when they take out their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) at night, there are alert systems that blend exceedingly loud noises, blinking lights, and vibrators that shake your bed to warn you. For comprehensive home safety, a number of these more modern devices have been developed to be easily incorporated into more thorough home protection systems to alert you in case of burglars, or if neighbors are pounding on your doors.
To hear other sounds that may indicate danger, many hearing-impaired people have installed induction loops in their homes to improve the efficiency 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 embedded in your hearing aid or cochlear implant that raise the volume of sound; this can be useful during emergency situations.
Not to mention the humble telephone, which all of us often ignore until we need one, but which may become crucial in any kind of emergency. Thankfully, a number of modern mobile and residential 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 notably, can be voice-activated. These devices allow you to voice-dial for help in an emergency situation, or if you needed assistance of any kind. There are additional accessories for mobile phones, such as vibrating wristbands that can alert you to an incoming telephone call even if you are asleep.
Naturally, some home safety suggestions for the hearing impaired are the exact same as for those who can hear well, such as trying to keep lists of your health care providers, emergency service providers, and hospitals close by. If we can be of assistance to you in helping to make your house safer for the hearing impaired, call us; we’ll be very happy to assist.