Smoke detectors have long since proven their worth as a lifesaving tool, saving countless lives against fire threats each year. Unfortunately, an ordinary smoke detector can be difficult, if not impossible, for a hearing-impaired person to hear. This is where a hearing impaired smoke detector can be a big help to those with significant or total hearing loss.
There are several different types of smoke detectors that rely on other ways to alert occupants in lieu of the typical audible alarm.
A hearing-impaired person may not be able to hear the average smoke detector, but they may be able to see a visual warning that clearly stands out. Strobe lights are designed to offer that visual warning by providing a high intensity light that’s nearly impossible for anyone to miss. Many fire detection systems use strobe lights in combination with smoke detection devices to provide a comprehensive level of protection for building occupants.
The only downside is that someone suffering from deteriorated vision, including older adults who have lost significant visual acuity, may be less likely to respond to a strobe alarm.
Many people who have suffered significant hearing loss are unable to hear the high-pitched homes that are produced by the average smoke detector. However, they may still have the ability to hear low-frequency sounds. Low-frequency smoke detectors take advantage of this by producing a sound between 400 and 520 Hz. In comparison, most smoke detectors sound off at 3,100 Hz.
In a recent study involving 38 adults with mild to moderately severe hearing loss, 92 percent of test subjects were successfully woken up by low-frequency smoke detectors using a 520-Hz tone.
Vibration-based smoke detector systems are another way of alerting the hearing-impaired to impending fire threats. These devices usually come in the form of a pillow or bed shaker designed to rouse a hearing-impaired person out of bed through intense vibrations. These devices were also proven to be 84 percent effective at waking hearing-impaired individuals, according to the previously mentioned study.
Vibrations, visual cues and low-frequency sounds aren’t the only way of alerting the hearing-impaired to an impending fire. However, relying on the smell of smoke as a warning can be a deadly gamble – most fires are capable of producing deadly, odorless gases that can incapacitate sleeping individuals before they wake up.
Japanese researchers have recently come up with a hearing-impaired smoke detector that uses the same chemical found in wasabi as a warning scent. The chemical compound, allyl isothiocyanate, induces a stinging, burning sensation when deployed, making it surprisingly effective at rousting the elderly and others with significant hearing loss.