One subject that is rarely discussed with regards to hearing loss is how to keep people who have it safe in their own homes. For instance, imagine that a fire starts in your home; if you’re like most people you have smoke detectors to sound a warning so that you and your family can evacuate the premises before a fire spreads too far and traps you. But now imagine that this fire begins at night, when you’re sleeping, and you have taken off your hearing aids.
The smoke detectors standard in almost all homes and those required by city and local governments emit a loud warning sound at a frequency between 3000 to 4000 Hz. And while the majority of people can hear these sounds easily, these frequencies are among those most impacted by age-related hearing loss and other kinds of auditory impairment. So if you’re among the more than 11 million people in America with hearing problems, there’s a possibility that you simply would not hear your smoke alarm even if you were awake.
Fortunately, there are home safety products which are specifically designed for the needs of the hearing impaired. For instance, there are smoke alarms that emit a low-frequency (520 Hz) square wave tone that a majority of hearing-impaired people can hear. For those who are totally deaf, or who are unable to hear whatsoever when they remove their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) at night, there are alert systems that combine exceedingly loud noises, blinking lights, and vibrators that shake your mattress. Several of these systems are designed to be incorporated into more complete home security systems to alert you to intruders or people thumping furiously on your door in the event of an emergency.
To hear other sounds which might signal danger, many hearing-impaired individuals have installed induction loops in their homes for boosting the efficiency of their hearing aids or cochlear implants. These systems are basically long strands of wire placed in a loop around your living room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These serve to activate the telecoils embedded in your hearing aid or cochlear implant that increase the volume of sound; this can be useful in emergencies.
And of course there is the humble telephone, which many of us often ignore until we need one, but which may become crucial in any sort of emergency situation. Thankfully, many modern mobile and home telephones are now telecoil-compatible, to allow their use by those wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. Moreover, there are phones made for the hearing impaired which incorporate speakerphones that operate at high volumes, and which may be voice-activated. So if you were to fall and hurt yourself out of reach of the telephone, you could still voice-dial for help. Other manufacturers make vibrating wristbands that interact with your cell phone to awaken you or advise you if you get a phone call.
Naturally, some home safety suggestions for the hearing impaired are the exact same as for people who can hear well, such as trying to keep lists of your health care providers, emergency service providers, and hospitals close at hand. We are as concerned about your safety as we are about your hearing, so if we can be of assistance with any further tips or recommendations, feel free to call us.