One component of hearing loss that is rarely discussed is the basic decrease in safety of people who have hearing difficulties. Imagine this scenario: you’re in your house when a fire begins, and like most of us nowadays you have smoke alarms installed to alert you so that you and your family can safely evacuate before the fire becomes life-threatening. But now imagine further, and contemplate what would happen if your smoke detector goes off at night after you’ve gone to sleep, having removed your hearing aid.
Most smoke detectors (or related carbon monoxide detectors), including almost all units accredited and mandated by city and state governments, emit a loud warning tone between the frequencies of 3000 – 4000 Hertz. And while most people can hear these tones without difficulty, these frequencies are among those most affected by age-related hearing loss and other kinds of auditory impairment. So if you are one of the more than eleven million Americans with hearing problems, there is a good chance that you wouldn’t hear your smoke alarm even if you were awake.
Fortunately, there are home safety products which are specifically created for the needs of the hearing impaired. For people with slight to moderate hearing loss, there are smoke detectors that emit a 520 Hz square-wave warning tone that they can usually hear. In case you are fully deaf without your hearing aid 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 in an emergency. For comprehensive home safety, many of these more modern devices have been developed to be easily incorporated into more extensive home protection systems to warn you in case of intruders, or if neighbors are pounding on your doors.
Many who have hearing aids or who have cochlear implants have chosen to boost the performance of these devices by putting in induction loops in their homes. These systems are in essence long strands of wire positioned in a loop around your family 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 during emergency situations.
We should not ignore the basic telephone, which is indispensable during an emergency of any sort. Thankfully, many modern mobile and home telephones are now telecoil-compatible, to permit their use by individuals wearing hearing aids or CIs. Moreover, there are phones made 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 phone, you could still voice-dial for help. Other manufacturers produce vibrating bracelets that interact with your cell phone to awaken you or notify you if you get a phone call.
Other safety tips are less technological and more practical, like always having the phone numbers of fire departments, ambulance companies, health care providers, 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 ideas or recommendations, feel free to call us.