By Susan L Fenrich
About 20 percent of Americans, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of those people seek hearing help. For those that do use amplification they return to their quite world at night, when they take their hearing aids or cochlear implants off to go to bed. Can these people hear the smoke alarm? Probably not especially when they are sleeping soundly.
Do you have a hearing loss? Can you hear the smoke alarm when you sleep? Even people with a mild to moderate hearing loss may not hear the smoke alarm. Most smoke detectors have a very high-frequency alarm. Unfortunately, it is the hearing in the high frequencies that people tend to lose their hearing first. In some places smoke alarms are required to have a minimum of 75dB of volume. Unfortunately, there is no regulation as to which frequency is supposed to be used. Most of them use 3100 Hertz which is quite high and may be missed by many with hearing loss in the high frequencies. The average voice is 1000 Hertz which is considerably lower.
So why do the manufacturers choose to amplify such high frequencies? They do this mostly because of size. To be small it needs a small speaker, and smaller speakers can’t put out low-frequency sounds at a high enough volume. One smoke alarm study found that with the use of standard smoke alarms the people in the study only woke up 56% of the time. By increasing the volume, participants would wake up about 84% of the time. At least 16% of participants didn’t wake up at all, when a louder-than-normal alarm went off. I certainly would not want to be one of those that didn’t wake-up, would you?
Fortunately, there are several alerting options available. Some smoke alarms are very loud and have strobe lights on them. However, it was found that the strobe lights only woke of about 27% of the study participants. Bed shakers or pillow-shaking alarms woke up about 80% of people with hearing loss in the high frequencies. The best solution so far for those with a high frequency hearing loss has been a smoke detector whose alarm plays a low, 520 Hertz, sound. When loud enough, this will wake up 100% of participants and often does so within 10 seconds. That means even people with hearing loss in the high frequencies will be able to hear the alarm. The only downside to low-frequency alarms is size. 520 Hertz alarms tend to be larger than their higher-frequency counterparts. The Lifetone Bedside Fire Alarm is a combination alarm clock and smoke alarm that hears the sound from the 3T smoke alarm and in turn plays a 520 Hertz sound while also using a bed shaker, and a flashing visual display that says, “FIRE.” With three alarms going off at the same time, the person is almost sure to wake up in case of a fire.
Some of the other smoke alarms available, work with master signalers that can in part be funded through the Telecommunications Equipment Purchase Program. Having your hearing tested will help determine which type of smoke alarm would be best for your hearing loss. According to statistics, 40% of all fire fatalities occur when a fully working smoke detector was nearby. Don’t wait to see if you can hear the alarm when you are sleeping and a fire breaks out. Call Welsch Hearing Aid Company, of Sheboygan at 920-452-0213 or 1-800-924-2101 to schedule you FREE hearing test and find out how we can help you hear your smoke alarm!
Some of the information for this article came from: https://blog.medel.com/the-best-smoke-detector-for-hearing-loss/