One topic that is seldom discussed when it comes to hearing loss is how to keep people who have it safe inside their homes. Imagine this scenario: you’re at home when a fire begins, and like most people today you have smoke alarms installed to warn you to make sure you and your family can safely evacuate before the fire becomes life-threatening. But this time suppose that the fire begins during the night, when you’re asleep, and you have taken off your hearing aid.
The smoke detectors standard in most houses and those mandated by city or state governments produce a loud warning sound at a frequency between 3000 to 4000 Hz. And while most people can hear these tones without difficulty, these frequencies are among those most impacted by age-related hearing loss and other forms of auditory impairment. So even if you were awake, if you’re one of the more than 11 million people in America with hearing loss, there’s a possibility that you wouldn’t hear the alarm.
Luckily, there are home safety products that are expressly designed for the requirements of the hearing impaired. For example, there are smoke alarms that emit a low-frequency (520 Hertz) square wave tone that most hearing-impaired people can hear. In case you are fully deaf without your hearing aid or when you turn off your cochlear implants (CIs), there are other alarm systems which use a combination of flashing lights, loud alarms, and vibrating units that shake your bed to wake you up. Several of these methods are designed to be incorporated into more complete home security systems to alert you to burglars or people thumping madly on your door in the case of an emergency.
Many who have hearing aids or who have cochlear implants have chosen to boost the performance of these devices by setting up induction loops in their homes. These systems are in essence 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 increase the volume of sound; this can be very helpful in emergency situations.
And of course there is the humble telephone, which all of us tend to ignore until we need one, but which may become crucial in any sort of emergency. Fortunately, a number of contemporary mobile and residential phones are now telecoil-compatible, to permit their use by those wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. Plus, there are phones specifically designed for the hearing impaired which include speakerphones that function at high volumes, and which can be voice-activated. So if you fell and hurt yourself out of reach of the telephone, you could still voice-dial for assistance. Other manufacturers produce vibrating bracelets that interact with your cell phone to awaken you or inform you if you get a telephone call.
Other safety tips are less technological and more practical, like always keeping the phone numbers of fire departments, ambulance providers, health care providers, and emergency services handy. We are as concerned about your safety as we are about your hearing, so if we can be of assistance with any further ideas or recommendations, feel free to call us.