Special Fire Alarms Can Alert Individuals with Hearing Loss to Danger

smoke detector

According to the American Red Cross, which responds to more than 60,000 house fires annually, fires kill more Americans each year than all other natural disasters combined. Children under 5 and adults over 65 are more than twice as likely to die in a home fire than the rest of the U.S. population.

Smoke Detectors May Not Be Loud Enough for the Hearing Impaired

Smoke detectors are an important aspect of fire safety and are required to produce sound at 85 dB measured 3 feet from the alarm. While 85 dB may sound loud, it may not be loud enough. To put that number in perspective, the average noise level of a restaurant is around 80 dB, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Many people with hearing loss have losses greater than 85 dB in the high frequencies and even for those with milder losses, there are other factors to consider. Many people may be able to hear the smoke alarm when they are wide awake, standing directly under it pushing the button to test it, but would that signal be loud enough to wake them up if they were sound asleep behind a closed door?

Specialized Bedside Alarms Include Strobe Lights and a Bed Shaker

Amplified smoke detectors are louder than most smoke detectors, but even those may not be loud enough to wake someone with significant hearing loss. For this reason, many fire departments and the American Red Cross offer special smoke detection systems that can include a strobe light and vibrating bed shakers to assist in notifying individuals with hearing loss when smoke is present. The American Red Cross installs a limited number of specialized bedside alarms for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. You can contact your local fire department or visit GetASmokeAlarm.org to learn more.

Close Before You Doze

Did you know that fires are getting faster? Due to the use of synthetic materials, the amount of time you have to escape a fire is down to about 3 minutes, compared to 17 minutes 40 years ago!

To slow fire down, the national Close Your Door campaign highlights the importance of keeping bedroom doors closed when you sleep. This simple step can stop the fire from spreading, and keep heat and smoke out, allowing for more time to escape.

Want to help others? Join Associated Audiologists in supporting fire safety by visiting the American Red Cross campaigns including Save a Life, GetASmokeAlarm.org, redcross.org/sound-the-alarm.html or closeyourdoor.org to learn more.

To discuss fire safety options for individuals who are hearing impaired, schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist.