One subject which is rarely mentioned with regards to hearing loss is how to keep those who have suffered it safe inside their own homes. For example, suppose that a fire breaks out in your house; if you’re like most of us you have smoke detectors to sound a warning so that you and your family can evacuate the home before the fire spreads too far and traps you. But this time imagine that this fire begins during the night, when you’re sleeping, and you’ve removed your hearing aids.
Virtually all smoke alarms (or related carbon monoxide detectors), including almost all devices accredited and mandated by city and state governments, produce a high volume warning tone between the frequencies of 3000 – 4000 Hertz. And while the majority of people can hear these tones easily, these frequencies are among those most impacted by age-related hearing loss and other forms of auditory impairment. So if you are among the more than 11 million people in America with hearing loss, there’s a possibility that you would not hear your smoke alarm even if you were awake.
Fortunately, 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 usually hear. If you are fully deaf without your hearing aids or when you turn off your cochlear implants (CIs), you’ll find alarm systems which use a mix of blinking lights, very loud alarms, and vibrating units that shake your bed to wake you up. Many of these methods are designed to be integrated into more extensive home security systems to alert you to burglars or people pounding furiously on your doors in the event of an emergency.
Many who have hearing aids or who wear cochlear implants have elected to extend the performance of these devices by putting in induction loops in their houses. These systems are in essence long wires placed in a loop around your living room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These can activate the telecoils embedded in your hearing aid or cochlear implant that raise the volume of sound; this can be very helpful in emergencies.
Not to mention the lowly telephone, which all of us tend to ignore until we need one, but which can become critical in any sort of emergency situation. Thankfully, a number of modern mobile and home phones are now telecoil-compatible, to allow their use by those wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. Other phone models integrate speakerphone systems with high volumes that can be used by the hearing impaired, and more importantly, can be voice-activated. These devices allow you to voice-dial for assistance in an emergency situation. Other manufacturers make vibrating wristbands that communicate with your cell phone to wake you up or advise you if you get a telephone call.
Obviously, 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. We are as concerned about your safety as we are about your hearing, so if we can be of service with any additional ideas or recommendations, feel free to call us.