Smoke alarms are essential for home safety but, for the one in six New Zealanders who live with a hearing loss, there’s a risk that ordinary smoke alarms don’t provide the peace of mind they need.
That’s why it’s not only important to check that smoke alarms are working this daylight savings on Sunday, it’s also important to ensure you can hear them as well, says Hearing Therapy, the free national service which helps people manage living with hearing loss.
“Many people think they’ll be able to smell smoke at night, but the truth is you can’t,” says Hearing Therapy’s Tania Shearer. “Our sense of smell switches off when we’re asleep.
“It’s especially important as people get older, when age-related hearing loss typically affects the ability to hear high frequencies like door bells and smoke alarms. This type of hearing loss can occur gradually so it often goes unnoticed.”
That’s why anyone who lives alone and is concerned about their hearing should make an appointment to see a hearing therapist by phoning 0800 008 011.
Hearing Therapy provides free hearing evaluations as part of its Ministry of Health-funded service. A hearing therapist can also visit people in their home and assess their need for an alert system if they’re having trouble hearing regular smoke alarms.
In many cases, people who live independently with a hearing loss may be eligible for funding for a smoke alarm system that is specially designed for people who are Deaf or hearing impaired.
Their home will be installed with a smoke detector that transmits a signal to a strobe light, located in the bedroom, and a vibrating pad that can be positioned under a pillow or mattress.
Although alert systems are hi-tech, Tania insists they are simple to use and hearing therapists can help every step of the way. “We always set the system up for people and make sure they’re confident using it.”
The benefit of this type of system for people with a hearing impairment is that it enables them to live safely and independently in their home. “It allows people with hearing loss to have the same peace of mind as everyone else,” says Tania.
Hearing Therapy, provided by charitable trust Life Unlimited, is available to New Zealanders over 16 years who would like help to manage the impact of hearing loss or a free hearing check. To book an appointment, contact 0800 008 011. More information, including clinic locations around New Zealand, is available at www.lifeunlimited.net/hearing.
Tania Shearer, Hearing Therapist with Life Unlimited Hearing Therapy