Home Safety Advice if a Member of Your Household is Hearing Impaired

Atlanta Hearing Associates' Blog.

One topic which is rarely discussed with regards to hearing loss is how to keep people who have suffered it safe in their own homes. For instance, suppose that a fire starts in your house; if you’re like most of us you have smoke alarms to sound a warning so that you and your family can evacuate the home before the fire becomes widespread, and thus deadly. But this time imagine further, and consider what might 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.

Nearly all smoke alarms (or related carbon monoxide detectors), including almost all units approved and mandated by city and state governments, emit a high volume warning tone between the frequencies of 3,000 to 4,000 Hertz. This approach is fine for nearly everybody, but the fact is that these frequencies are among those most susceptible to age-related hearing loss, so older adults or those who have suffered other types of hearing loss cannot hear them. So if you are among the more than 11 million people in America with hearing problems, there’s a possibility that you simply wouldn’t hear your smoke detector even if you were awake.

To correct this, there are a variety of home safety products that have been designed with the requirements of the hearing impaired in mind. For people with mild to moderate hearing loss, there are smoke detectors that emit a 520 Hertz square-wave warning tone that they can usually 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 that use a mix of blinking lights, loud alarms, and vibrating units that shake your bed to wake you up. Many of these systems are designed to be integrated into more complete home security systems to alert you to intruders or people pounding furiously on your door in the event of an emergency.

Many who have hearing aids or who wear CIs have chosen to boost the efficiency of these devices by setting up induction loops in their homes. These systems are basically long wires positioned in a loop around your family room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These can activate the telecoils inside your hearing aid or cochlear implant that increase the volume of sound; this can be very helpful in emergencies.

Not to mention the humble telephone, which all of us tend to ignore until we need one, but which may become crucial in any kind of emergency situation. The majority of modern phones now are available in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which permit their easy use during either normal or extraordinary conditions. Moreover, there are phones specifically designed for the hearing impaired which include speakerphones that operate at high volumes, and which can be voice-activated. So if you were to fall and hurt yourself away from the phone, you could still voice-dial for help. There are other accessories for mobile phones, such as vibrating wristbands that will alert you to an incoming telephone call even if you are asleep.

Other safety tips are less technological and more practical, such as always having the telephone numbers of fire departments, ambulance providers, doctors, and emergency services handy. We are as serious about your safety as we are about your hearing, so if we can be of assistance with any further tips or suggestions, feel free to call us.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.