Would you hear your smoke alarm?

22 September 2021 – 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 they cannot hear ordinary smoke alarms.

Tracy Henderson, hearing therapist with Life Unlimited Hearing Therapy

Tracy Henderson, hearing therapist with Life Unlimited Hearing Therapy

That’s why it’s not only important to check that smoke alarms are working, 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 Tracy Henderson.

“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. Being asleep and with one ear on the pillow can exacerbate the problem.”

A new generation of alarms can help. They have strobe lights and can be wired to vibrate under a pillow, or directed to other receivers such as a pager.

Everything is designed to make responding to a smoke alarm as simple and safe as possible.

Anyone who 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.  The service is located in community locations throughout New Zealand.

Hearing therapists work nationally with the Fire Service’s fire risk management officers to assess the needs of people with hearing impairment to determine if they can hear conventional 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 high tech, Tracy 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 Tracy.

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.hearingtherapy.co.nz.

Read: Fire alarms for hearing impaired