One aspect of hearing loss which is not often addressed is the basic decrease in safety of people who have experienced it. For example, suppose that a fire starts in your house; if you’re like most of us you have smoke detectors to sound an alert so that you and your loved ones can evacuate the house before the fire becomes widespread, and thus deadly. But now suppose that the fire begins at night, when you are sleeping, and you’ve taken off your hearing aids.
Most smoke detectors (or related carbon monoxide detectors), produce a loud warning tone between the frequencies of 3,000 to 4,000 Hz. This approach is fine for most people, but the fact is that these frequencies are among those most vulnerable to age-related hearing loss, so seniors or people who have sustained other forms of hearing impairment can’t hear them. So even if you were awake, if you are among the more than eleven million people in America with hearing loss, there’s a chance that you wouldn’t hear the alarm.
Luckily, there are home safety products which are expressly created for the requirements of the hearing impaired. For people with mild to moderate hearing loss, there are smoke alarms that emit a 520 Hertz square-wave warning sound that they can generally hear. For people who are completely deaf, or who cannot hear at all when they take out their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) at night when they go to bed, there are alert systems that combine exceedingly loud noises, blinking lights, and vibrators that shake your mattress. Several of these methods are designed to be incorporated into more extensive home security systems to alert you to intruders or people pounding madly on your door in the case of an emergency.
Many who have hearing aids or who have cochlear implants have chosen to extend the efficiency of these devices by putting in induction loops in their houses. These systems are basically long strands of wire placed in a loop around your living room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These serve to activate the telecoils inside your hearing aid or CI that raise the volume of sound; this can be useful during emergency situations.
And of course there is the humble telephone, which all of us tend to ignore until we need one, but which can become crucial in any sort of emergency. The majority of modern phones now are available in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which allow their easy use during emergencies. Other phone models integrate speakerphone systems with high volumes that can be easily used by the hearing impaired, and more notably, 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 make vibrating wristbands that communicate with your mobile phone to awaken you or inform you if you get a phone call.
Other safety recommendations are less technical and more practical, such as always having the phone numbers of fire departments, ambulance companies, health care providers, and emergency services handy. We are as serious 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.