Making Your Home Safer for Hearing Impaired Members of Your Household
One component of hearing loss which is not often addressed is the basic decrease in safety of those who have hearing difficulties. Picture this situation: you’re in your house and a fire breaks out, and like most of us today you have smoke detectors installed to alert you to make sure you and your family can safely evacuate before the fire becomes intense. But now imagine further, and consider what would happen if your smoke alarm goes off in the middle of the night after you’ve gone to bed, removing your hearing aid first as you usually do.
The smoke alarms common in most houses and those mandated by city or state governments emit a very loud warning sound at a frequency between 3,000 and 4,000 Hz. Although most people can hear these sounds easily, these frequencies are among those most impacted by age-related hearing loss and other forms of auditory problems. So even if you had been awake, if you’re among the more than 11 million Americans with hearing loss, there’s a possibility that you would not hear the alarm.
Fortunately, there are home safety products which are specifically designed for the needs of the hearing impaired. For example, there are smoke alarms that emit a low-frequency (520 Hz) square wave tone that a majority of hearing-impaired people can hear. In case you are fully deaf without your hearing aids or when you turn off your cochlear implants (CIs), you’ll find alert systems that use a combination of flashing lights, loud alarms, and bed shakers to wake you up in an emergency. For complete home safety, many of these newer devices have been developed to be incorporated into more thorough home protection systems to alert you in case of burglars, or if neighbors are beating on your doors.
To hear other sounds which might indicate danger, many hearing-impaired people have set up induction loops in their houses for boosting the performance of their hearing aids or CIs. These systems are basically long strands of wire placed in a loop around your family 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 during emergencies.
We must not forget the basic telephone, which is indispensable during an emergency of any sort. The majority of modern phones now are available in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which permit their easy use during emergencies. Other models integrate speakerphone systems with very high volumes that can be used by the hearing impaired, and more notably, can be voice-activated. So if you fell and hurt yourself away from the phone, you could still voice-dial for assistance. There are other accessories for cellphones, such as vibrating wristbands that will inform you of an incoming phone call even if you are asleep.
Other safety suggestions are less technological and more practical, like always keeping the phone numbers of fire departments, ambulance providers, 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 assistance with any additional tips or recommendations, feel free to call us.