In the past, people with all levels of hearing loss sometimes had challenges with various daily tasks that people with normal hearing may take for granted, such as hearing a knock at the door or knowing when their baby was crying from another room. Thus, people with hearing loss sometimes had to rely on others for their safety and connectivity. Thankfully, as technology rapidly evolved beginning in the 20th century, so, too, have devices evolved to help people with hearing loss live more independent lives.
Today there are assistive listening devices, hearing aids, FM systems, infrared systems, captioning and amplification devices that help people communicate with others, hear the sounds of everyday life and enjoy entertainment when they otherwise would have a difficult time of it due to hearing loss.
Less commonly known but perhaps more important are the alerting devices - some for everyday use and others for emergency situations - that can help people stay connected and safe. They have at least one - but more likely a combination - of these three types of signals: Visual (a flashing light), vibrotactile (a vibrating component) or auditory (increased amplification and lower frequency sounds).
Hearing a standard alarm clock can be a challenge for some people with hearing loss. Specially-designed alarm clocks for people who have hearing loss come in many forms, including those that have built-in strobe lights or bed-shakers and those that have an outlet where you can plug in a vibrating alert or lamp to wake you up each morning.
Smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors
These signalers come with various types of alerts. Some are sold separately while others are part of a combination fire and carbon monoxide detection system. Many have extra loud alarms as well as flashing strobe lights, depending on one's needs. There are also bed-vibrating fire alarms that have a component that goes under your pillow or mattress - depending on its strength - and alerts you to a fire by shaking you awake. There are also alerting devices with built-in technology that detects the pitch of your existing smoke detector and respond with a much louder, lower-pitched sound that is more likely to wake up a sleeping person who has hearing loss. Some of there also shake you awake while the digital display turns orange and says "FIRE."
There are various types of doorbell signaler which work with or without an existing doorbell to make sure that someone with hearing loss always knows when someone is at the door. There are also signalers that can work as security systems to alert you if a door or window is opened in your home. Door signalers can range from a simple flashing strobe light to a system connected to your phone or one with its very own receiver. There are some that you keep in a central location in your home and they alert you, through a message and/or a flashing light, whether you're receiving a phone call or someone is ringing the bell.
Phone signalers either plug directly into the outlet and phone line or are attached to the side of a phone to pick up the sound directly. However, with the prevalence of cell phones today, there are more unique, discreet and advanced options on the market than ever before.
Many phone technology companies have come up with discreet, modern bracelets that will alert the user when their cell phone is ringing.
Newest phone technology
Most recently, tech companies have come up with discreet, modern and even high-style bracelets that alert people when their cell phone is ringing. Anyone can benefit from this, such as when their cell phone is on silent in a purse or bag, but people with hearing loss can especially benefit since they often don't hear their phones ringing.
For example, the brightly colored Ariabracelet has a soft underside with moving "gills," as well as flashing lights on the outside of the bracelet that can alert you to six things, including if your phone is ringing or the fire alarm goes off. Or, there's the stylish MEMI bracelet, which is compatible with iPhones and vibrates to alert you of an important phone call, text message or calendar alert. You can even have it only alert you to calls from certain people.
Baby cry signalers
Regular baby monitors often do not generate enough sound for people with hearing loss to determine if their babies are crying. But manufacturers now make transmitters and receivers specifically meant to detect a baby's crying and transmit it to a central alert system. You can typically adjust the sensitivity of the devices.
Sometimes, people with hearing loss do not know about a dangerous storm because they cannot hear the rumble of thunder or crack of lighting. Additionally, some people don't watch TV or listen to the radio. In these cases, weather alerts can give warning about impending storms or other disastrous weather situations on the horizon. A weather alert radio can be used by itself or with other alerting accessories, such as strobes or bed-shakers, depending on one's needs and preferences.
Other alerting devices
There are some devices that alert you to any noise or movement, depending on what you need them for. Some are centrally located in your home, while others can be worn like a pager. Others will alert you to whatever you program them for, including the phone ringing, the doorbell sounding, a baby's cry or wherever else you have transmitters located in your environment. There are also devices that are specifically for motion detection.
As technology advances and more attention is given to the rising numbers of people living with hearing loss, it's likely that these alerting and signaling devices will greatly advance and include more sleek or artistically inspired options that also have high function and accuracy.
- Assistive Equipment and Technology, Minnesota Department of Human Services, http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased&dDocName=id_003399