HEARING TIPS

Being Safe at Home when a Member of Your Household has Hearing Loss

One aspect of hearing loss which is rarely addressed is the basic decrease in safety of people who have experienced it. Imagine this situation: you’re at home when a fire breaks out, and like most people today you have smoke alarms installed to warn you so that you and your family can evacuate before the fire becomes serious. But now suppose that this fire begins during the night, when you are asleep, and you have removed your hearing aids.

Most smoke detectors (or related carbon monoxide detectors), emit a loud warning sound between the frequencies of 3,000 to 4,000 Hz. Although most 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 even if you were awake, if you are among the more than eleven million Americans with hearing loss, there’s a chance that you would not hear the alarm.

Fortunately, there are home safety products which are expressly designed for the requirements of the hearing impaired. For instance, there are smoke detectors that emit a low-frequency (520 Hertz) square wave sound that most hearing-impaired individuals can hear. For those who are completely deaf, or who cannot hear whatsoever when they take out their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) at night, there are alert systems that blend extremely loud noises, flashing lights, and vibrators that shake your bed to warn you. Many of these systems are designed to be incorporated into more extensive home security systems to warn you of intruders or people pounding madly on your door in the event of an emergency.

Many who have hearing aids or who have cochlear implants have chosen to improve the efficiency of these devices by putting in induction loops in their homes. These systems are in essence long strands of wire placed in a loop around your living 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 during emergencies.

We must not forget the basic telephone, which is vital during an emergency of any kind. Most present day telephones now are available in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which permit their use during emergencies. Plus, there are telephones specifically designed for the hearing impaired which incorporate speakerphones that function at high volumes, and which can 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 companies produce vibrating bracelets that communicate with your cell phone to wake you up or inform you if you get a call.

Obviously, some home safety tips for the hearing impaired are the same as for people who can hear well, such as always keeping lists of your doctors, 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 service with any further tips or suggestions, feel free to give us a call.

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