When the negative effects of hearing loss are discussed, the conversation is typically focused on the impact on communication ability and relationships. But one topic that is often not discussed and should be more is safety.
One may not realize how often they use their hearing to keep themselves and their family out of dangers way. For example crossing a road or parking lot, you are alerted to cars not only by sight but sound. You are driving along the highway and in order to pull over for an emergency vehicle, you often are first alerted to the oncoming sirens by hearing them before seeing the vehicle. And how about at night while we are sleeping and a fire starts out in the kitchen - we are alerted by smoke detectors. However for persons with hearing loss, a recent study has demonstrated that standard smoke detectors do a poor job of waking them and alerting them to the danger.
The study, published in the February, 2009 edition of Ear and Hearing, found that standard smoke detectors which often utilize a pure tone sound with a frequency of around 3000 to 4000 Hz were inefficient at waking persons with hearing loss.
The study tested multiple types of smoke detectors to waken persons with hearing loss and found that for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, the most effective deterrent to the dangers of smoke and fire is a smoke detector with a low-frequency (520-Hz) square wave auditory signal.
In an article recently published on Healthy Hearing, study author Dr. Dorothy Bruck, School of Psychology, Victoria University, Australia, was quoted as stating this about their findings: "If you have moderate to severe hearing loss and you are relying on your hallway smoke alarm to wake you up you are living with a sense of false security. Our findings suggest that less than half of such hard of hearing people will awake to a hallway normal high pitched alarm. However, hard of hearing people were seven times more likely to wake up to a low frequency tone with a complex frequency profile (a 520 Hz square wave) than the normal alarm signal."
Bruck went onto state: "The standard smoke alarm that is widely sold has a pure tone with a frequency of around 3000 to 4000 Hz. Such high frequencies are the most vulnerable to hearing loss associated with advancing age."
Consider purchasing low frequency smoke detectors to ensure you (and your family) are safe in your home. There are currently two products on the market in the US that produce the 520 Hz square wave alarm. One is by LifeTone Technologies and the other is the Loudenlow by the Darrow Company.
To learn more about this study and other safety issues associated with hearing loss, you can read the full article on Healthy Hearing: Hearing Loss Safety: If You Can't Hear It, How Do You Avoid It?