One aspect of hearing loss which is seldom addressed is the simple decrease in safety of those who have experienced it. Imagine this scenario: you’re at home and a fire begins, and like most of us today you have smoke detectors installed to alert you so that you and your loved ones can safely evacuate before the fire becomes intense. But this time suppose that this fire breaks out at night, when you are sleeping, and you have removed your hearing aid.
Virtually all smoke alarms (or similar carbon monoxide detectors), emit a high volume warning tone between the frequencies of 3,000 to 4,000 Hz. This approach is acceptable for most people, but unfortunately these frequencies are among those most vulnerable to age-related hearing loss, so seniors or those who have sustained other forms of hearing impairment cannot hear them. So even if you were awake, if you are among the more than 11 million people in America with hearing loss, there is a possibility that you wouldn’t hear the alarm.
To correct this, there are a variety of home safety products that have been re-engineered with the needs of the hearing impaired in mind. For those with mild to moderate hearing loss, there are smoke detectors that emit a 520 Hertz square-wave warning sound that they can generally hear. For people who are completely deaf, or who cannot hear whatsoever when they remove their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) at night when they go to bed, there are alert systems that blend extremely loud noises, blinking lights, and vibrators that shake your bed to warn you. For comprehensive home safety, a number of these newer devices have been designed to be integrated into more thorough home protection systems to alert you in case of burglars, or if emergency services are pounding on your doors.
To hear other sounds that may indicate danger, many hearing-impaired individuals have set up induction loops in their houses for boosting the efficiency of their hearing aids or cochlear implants. An induction loop is simply a lengthy strand of wire that surrounds your living room, bedroom, or children’s rooms, which activates the telecoils embedded in your devices to raise the volume of sounds, and therefore may help you not to miss any important or emergency signals.
Not to mention the humble telephone, which many of us tend to ignore until we need one, but which can become crucial in any sort of emergency. Most modern phones now are available in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which enable their use during either normal or extraordinary conditions. Moreover, there are telephones made for the hearing impaired which incorporate speakerphones that operate at high volumes, and which may be voice-activated. So if you fell and hurt yourself away from the phone, you could still voice-dial for help. There are additional accessories for cell phones, such as vibrating wristbands that will alert you to an incoming telephone call even if you are asleep.
Other safety recommendations are less technical and more practical, like always keeping the phone numbers of fire departments, ambulance companies, health care providers, and emergency services handy. If we can be of assistance to you in helping to make your home safer for the hearing impaired, give us a call; we’ll be happy to help.