Sound is a major way people navigate our environments on a daily basis. Ability to establish safety and detect safety hazards is also connected to sensing sound – hearing cars, sirens, alarms, voices expressing warning etc. This can be more challenging for people with hearing loss who experience a reduced capacity to absorb and process incoming sound information. Hearing loss impacts nearly 48 million people who have some degree of impaired hearing in one or both ears. It is incredibly important to know and practice ways to stay safe with hearing loss. There are various factors to consider and safety measures you can implement to increase your safety.
Installing Effective Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms provide warning of smoke and/or fire which requires quick reaction in order to secure safety. Typically, smoke alarms make a high frequency sound so that people can immediately be woken up and aware of danger. This is particularly challenging for people with hearing loss because people do not wear hearing aids to sleep so have less capacity to hear. Additionally, the tone of this loud warning sound is often part of the types of frequencies that people with hearing loss experience more difficulty in detecting and processing.
Detectors with low-frequency tones tend to work better for people with impaired hearing. Be sure to explore available options of fire alarms that are designed for people with varying degrees of hearing loss. These can range from producing low-frequency sounds which could be useful for people with moderate hearing loss – to alarms that use vibrations and flashing lights which could work better for people with more severe forms of hearing loss.
Ensuring Quick Access to 911
Being able to dial 911 quickly in the event of an emergency is important. Quick and easy accessibility to the 911 system involves a little more intentionality for people with hearing loss. There are a few ways to ensure that you can easily connect with emergency responders including:
- Activate GPS: using your smartphone, be sure to activate the GPS feature which allows others to pinpoint your exact location after receiving a call from you. So even if you are unable to hear the responder on the phone, they are able to track your location.
- Invest in Bluetooth Technology: this could make it easier to hear and communicate after making an emergency call. Hearing aids with Bluetooth technology are able to connect with your smartphone wireless which enables your hearing device to stream the audio directly.
- Install Landline: having access to a landline near your bed can also be useful. Especially in the event of weather or environmental emergencies that disrupt cell phone services.
- Use Assistive Devices: like captioned phones or video relay systems which help facilitate easier and effective communication.
In addition to these efforts to increase accessibility to 911 services, be sure to establish an emergency contact list. This should include names and phone numbers that are already programmed in your phone and only require a simple button to call.
Home Security System
Similar to smoke alarms, home alarm systems also tend to produce a high frequency sound that is more challenging to detect and process for people with hearing loss. Fortunately, there are home security systems that are more effective for people with different hearing needs. This includes systems that come with bed shakers, lights, remote panic button etc. that provide warnings of a break-in.
Wear Hearing Aids
Though this may seem obvious, it is a helpful and important reminder! Wearing hearing aids throughout the day allows you to be aware of your surroundings and potential hazards to your safety. They significantly support your capacity to hear warnings, detect danger, and communicate your needs. Be sure to ask your hearing healthcare provider all of the questions you may have about your hearing aids – their features, technologies, settings etc. You should feel comfortable wearing and maintaining them!
Ensuring your safety is critical to your health and well-being. This requires more intention and deliberate action for people with hearing loss. By thinking through and applying these measures, you can increase accessibility and your capacity to navigate all of the environments you navigate!