Emergencies and Hearing Loss – How to Prepare
Emergencies strike whether you’re prepared or not. From the dangers of natural disasters like hurricanes and blizzards, to power outages and flooding, planning ahead allows you to be more prepared during an emergency. And if you or a loved one is hearing-impaired, it’s important to prepare to have those special needs met during an emergency.
In addition to stocking up on canned goods, bottled water and batteries, here are some steps to take to assure you or your loved ones with hearing loss will be safe in case of emergency.
Hearing Loss Emergency Kit
Make sure to pack a special “emergency kit” designed for those with hearing loss. This could include, but is not limited to:
- Extra hearing aid batteries, a spare
- Water-resistant hearing aid container – A dry aid kit with desiccant is ideal, but even a sealed sandwich bag can work
- Desiccant to absorb moisture from hearing aids. Even if you have a dry case, it’s good to have this around for when rain, snow, condensation or even high humidity are a concern,
- Cleaning tools. Hopefully your hearing aids came with a cleaning tool. Usually these tools include a small wire loop for removing wax accumulations from the tip of the devices, a brush for clearing dust and other debris from the microphone, and for behind-the-ear devices, a thin plastic line for clearing the tubing. We normally would never recommend using anything other than specialized cleaning tools on your hearing aid. But in an emergency when you don’t have your cleaning tool, you can use a paper clip in place of the wire loop, a toothbrush for cleaning the microphone and fishing line for clearing the tubing on behind-the-ear devices. But remember to never poke the end of a paper clip inside the hearing aid’s tubing. Just use it to scrape the surface of the opening.
- Paper and pen (for those with severe hearing loss, in case someone will need to write in order to communicate).
- A list of city, county and state emergency numbers, in addition to close friends and relatives that can help you in case you need assistance. These numbers should be on a separate piece of paper, as well as programmed into your cell phone.
- A back-up or spare pair of hearing aids
Other helpful items include: a battery-powered handheld television with closed captions, a battery-operated radio and an extra cell phone charger that plugs into your car in case you lose electricity.
What if My Hearing Aids Quit During an Emergency?
If your hearing aids suddenly die for apparently no reason, follow these troubleshooting steps:
- Replace the battery. Always try this first, as it’s by far the most common cause of a dead hearing aid.
- Clean them. Use your cleaning tool (or the makeshift cleaning tools mentioned above) to carefully remove wax or other debris from the tip of the device, and, for behind-the-ear devices, clear the tubing. This is the second most common cause of dead hearing aids.
- Dry them. Moisture can have dramatic and unpredictable effects on hearing aids. If neither of the first two steps work, dry out the hearing aids in a dry aid kit, or even just a sandwich bag with desiccant. This usually requires overnight drying, but often just an hour or two can work wonders.
Another easy step you can take to make yourself safer in case of an emergency is to place a “Hearing Impaired” sign in your home near the front or back doors alerting any emergency personnel that might need to help you, so they will know they need to communicate loud and clear.
It’s also important that trusted neighbors, nearby relatives and friends are aware of your degree of hearing loss. In the event an emergency occurs, they will know to when and how to get a hold of you to notify you in case you need to take shelter or evacuate your home.
Consider signing up for an alert system like Emergency Email. These types of services are generally free to the public and will send you a text, email or give you a phone call in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency situation in your area. These types of systems are strongly recommended if you cannot hear tornado sirens or if you lose power frequently.
It’s impossible to know when an emergency will strike and can be worse if you don’t realize an emergency is occurring. If you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss or deafness, taking extra preparations like those mentioned here can ensure that the disaster will run more smoothly.