One component of hearing loss which is not often discussed is the simple decrease in safety of those who have hearing difficulties. For instance, imagine that a fire starts in your house; if you’re like most people you have smoke detectors to sound a warning so that you and your loved ones can evacuate the home before a fire spreads too far and traps you. But this time imagine that the fire breaks out during the night, when you’re asleep, and you have removed your hearing aids.
The smoke detectors common in most homes and those mandated by city or state governments produce a very loud warning tone at a frequency between 3000 to 4000 Hz. This is fine for nearly everybody, but unfortunately these frequencies are among those most at risk of age-related hearing loss, so seniors or those who have sustained other forms of hearing loss can’t hear them. So even if you had been awake, if you’re one of the more than 11 million people in America with hearing loss, there is a possibility that you wouldn’t hear the alarm.
Fortunately, there are home safety products which are specifically designed for the needs of the hearing impaired. For instance, there are smoke detectors that emit a low-frequency (520 Hertz) square wave tone that most hearing-impaired people can hear. If you are fully deaf without your hearing aids or when you turn off your cochlear implants (CIs), you’ll find alarm systems that use a mix of flashing lights, very loud alarms, and vibrating units that shake your bed to wake you up in an emergency. Several of these methods are designed to be integrated into more extensive home security systems to warn you of burglars or people pounding madly on your doors in the case of an emergency.
Many who have hearing aids or who have CIs have elected to boost the efficiency of these devices by installing induction loops in their houses. These systems are in essence long strands of wire positioned in a loop around your family room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These can activate the telecoils embedded in your hearing aid or cochlear implant that increase the volume of sound; this can be very helpful during emergencies.
And of course there is the humble telephone, which many of us tend to ignore until we need one, but which can become crucial in any sort of emergency situation. Thankfully, many contemporary mobile and home telephones are now telecoil-compatible, to allow their use by individuals wearing hearing aids or CIs. Moreover, there are phones specifically designed for the hearing impaired which incorporate speakerphones that function at high volumes, and which may be voice-activated. So if you were to fall and hurt yourself out of reach of the phone, you could still voice-dial for assistance. Other manufacturers produce vibrating wristbands that communicate with your cell phone to wake you up or notify you if you get a phone call.
Other safety tips are less technical and more practical, such as always having 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 service with any additional tips or recommendations, feel free to give us a call.