One element of hearing loss that is rarely addressed is the basic decrease in safety of those who have hearing difficulties. Imagine this situation: you’re in your house and a fire begins, and like most of us today you have smoke detectors to warn you so that you and your loved ones can safely evacuate before the fire becomes serious. But now imagine further, and ponder what would happen if your smoke alarm goes off in the middle of the night after you’ve gone to sleep, removing your hearing aid first as you usually do.

The smoke alarms standard in almost all homes and those mandated by city and local governments produce a loud warning sound at a frequency between 3,000 and 4,000 Hz. This is acceptable for most people, but the fact is that these frequencies are among those most susceptible to age-related hearing loss, so older adults or people who have suffered other types of hearing loss cannot hear them. So even if you were awake, if you’re among the more than 11 million Americans with hearing loss, there is a possibility that you would not hear the alarm.

Fortunately, there are home safety products which are expressly created for the needs of the hearing impaired. For those with slight to moderate hearing loss, there are smoke detectors that emit a 520 Hz square-wave warning tone that they can generally hear. For people who are totally deaf, or who are unable to hear at all when they remove their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) during the night, there are alarm systems that blend exceedingly loud noises, blinking lights, and vibrators that shake your bed. Several of these methods are designed to be integrated into more extensive home security systems to warn you of intruders or people thumping madly on your doors in the event of an emergency.

To hear other sounds that may signal danger, many hearing-impaired people have set up induction loops in their homes to improve the performance of their hearing aids or cochlear implants. An induction loop is merely a lengthy strand of wire that surrounds your family room, bedroom, or children’s rooms, which activates the telecoils embedded in your hearing assistance devices to raise the volume of sounds, and thus may help you not to miss any important or emergency notifications.

And of course there is the humble telephone, which many of us tend to ignore until we need one, but which may become crucial in any kind of emergency situation. Fortunately, a number of contemporary mobile and residential phones are now telecoil-compatible, to allow their use by individuals wearing hearing aids or CIs. Plus, there are telephones specifically designed for the hearing impaired which include speakerphones that operate at high volumes, and which may be voice-activated. These phones allow you to voice-dial for assistance in an emergency situation. Other companies produce vibrating wristbands that communicate with your cell phone to awaken you or inform you if you get a telephone call.

Naturally, some home safety suggestions for the hearing impaired are the exact same as for those who can hear well, such as trying to keep lists of your health care providers, emergency service providers, and hospitals close by. If we can be of assistance to you in making your home safer for the hearing impaired, call us; we’ll be happy to help.