Being Safe at Home when a Member of Your Household is Hearing Impaired

One aspect of hearing loss which is not often discussed is the basic decrease in safety of people who have experienced it. For instance, imagine that a fire breaks out in your house; if you’re like most of us you have smoke alarms to sound an alert so that you and your loved ones can evacuate the premises before the fire spreads too far and traps you. But now imagine further, and think about what might happen if your smoke alarm goes off at night after you’ve gone to bed, removing your hearing aid first as you usually do.

The smoke detectors standard in most homes and those mandated by city and local governments emit a loud warning sound at a frequency between 3,000 and 4,000 Hertz. Although the majority of people can hear these tones easily, these frequencies are among those most affected by age-related hearing loss and other forms of auditory problems. So if you are one of the more than 11 million people in America with hearing loss, there’s a good chance that you 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 re-engineered with the requirements of the hearing impaired in mind. For those with slight to moderate hearing loss, there are smoke alarms that emit a 520 Hertz square-wave warning sound that they can usually hear. If you are completely deaf without your hearing aids or when you turn off your cochlear implants (CIs), there are other alarm systems which use a mix of flashing lights, loud alarms, and vibrating units that shake your bed to wake you up. Several of these systems are designed to be integrated into more complete home security systems to warn you of burglars or neighbors pounding madly on your door in the event of an emergency.

Many who have hearing aids or who have CIs have elected to improve the efficiency of these devices by putting in induction loops in their homes. An induction loop is simply a lengthy wire that encircles your family room, bedroom, or children’s rooms, which activates the telecoils embedded in your devices to increase the volume of sounds, and thus can help you not to miss any important or emergency announcements.

We should not ignore the basic telephone, which is vital in an emergency of any sort. The majority of present day telephones now are available in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which allow their easy use during either normal or extraordinary conditions. Other models incorporate 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 help. There are additional accessories for cell phones, such as vibrating wristbands that will alert you to an incoming call even if you’re asleep.

Other safety suggestions are less technical and more practical, like always keeping the telephone numbers of fire departments, ambulance companies, 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 suggestions, feel free to give us a call.