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Hearing Safety: Soft and Loud Dangers for Hearing Loss


Not all dangers come with warning alarms like carbon monoxide or smoke detectors, or the beep-beep of a truck backing up. There are both loud dangers and soft dangers, and both put you and others at risk.

A study published in the February, 2009 edition of the journal Ear and Hearing, indicated that some smoke alarms were more effective at waking people with significant hearing loss than other alarms. Study authors tested the effectiveness of a variety of smoke detectors and determined that those devices with low frequency alarms afforded the most protection.

The study looked at other warning devices such as strobe lights and bed shakers to provide emergency warnings when danger is near - or at least a possibility. And the results of this first-of-its-kind study are surprising to many.

First, the study revealed that strobe lights were ineffective in waking hearing impaired sleepers. Kind of surprising, especially for those light sleepers who wake at the crack of dawn but study results clearly point out the strobes don't work.

Second, bed and pillow shakers do work for people with severe or total hearing loss. But, 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) alarm sound.

The study concluded that this type of smoke detector worked most effectively among a variety of test groups including hearing impaired, children, older adults, young adults and even alcohol impaired test subjects - all reacted faster and more consistently when exposed to a smoke alarm with a low-frequency sound.

But here's the thing, not all dangers come with alarms. Not all dangers are loud. In fact, some are very soft - the murmuring of an infant, the sound of a car backing up in a parking lot, a neighbor's call for help or a distant tornado siren.

When a smoke alarm sounds it's designed to be loud. REALLY LOUD to wake you up in case you're sleeping when danger is near and your house is filling up with smoke. But not all signals of danger are so obvious.

Crossing the street is dangerous. Driving is dangerous. Working in a construction zone or manufacturing floor is dangerous. Even working in an office can be dangerous.

Let's call these soft dangers - dangers that surround you but you might not hear.
If you can't hear loud or soft dangers, you put yourself, your family, co-workers and neighbors at higher risk. You're a walking danger magnet.

Time for a Hearing Evaluation

Okay, you've been putting off a hearing evaluation because, well, hearing aids are expensive and they make you look old and it's a hassle. But now you understand that there's more than just vanity at stake, here.

The ability to hear is essential to your safety and the safety of others around you. Your family and friends. The ones closest to you need protection. And the ability to hear dangers - both soft and loud - is essential in providing that protection for yourself and others.

So forget the vanity thing. Keep yourself and others safe from soft and loud dangers at home, at work and around town. All you need is a visit to a hearing professional to help yourself and others protect themselves from the dangers that surround us.

To learn more about safety precautions for persons with hearing loss and for more information on low-frequency smoke detectors visit: Hearing Loss Safety: If You Can't Hear It, How Do You Avoid It?

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