We’re now well into what looks like a typical Australian summer. Even if you don’t live in an area that is at risk of bushfires, you should make sure that your smoke alarms have fresh batteries and are working correctly. It’s the legal responsibility of all owners and landlords to install working smoke alarms.
If you have a hearing impairment, there’s an essential question you need to ask yourself:
Can I hear the smoke alarm if I’m not wearing my hearing aids?
Think about this; when you’re asleep you lose your sense of smell. A smoke alarm is your electronic nose. It will alert you if there is smoke from a fire.
A small fire can grow to ingulf an entire room in 2 or 3 minutes.
If you are unable to hear your smoke alarm without your hearing aids, you’re reliant upon your senses of sight, taste or touch to wake you — by which time, it’s probably too late.
There are special smoke alarms for the hearing impaired
Thankfully, there are specialised smoke alarms available which can, in addition to their normal function, send a wireless signal to a bedside alert system designed to wake a hearing impaired sleeper via a bright flashing light and bed shaker. Unfortunately, these specially-designed alarms can cost up to $500 each.
The smoke alarm subsidy scheme can help you pay for them.
To offset the high cost of this specialised equipment for those who cannot hear a standard smoke alarm, most state governments have a subsidy scheme. Get in touch with your relevant society.
New South Wales – The Deaf Society of NSW
Victoria – Vicdeaf
Queensland – Deaf Services Queensland
South Australia – Guide Dogs SA.NT
Tasmania – Tasdeaf/Hearing Link
Sadly, my many attempts to contact the above organisation for further information received no response.
While not a specific smoke-alarm program, the Independent Living Centre for WA Inc administers a Disability Equipment Grant program. Applicants can apply for funds for assistive equipment including smoke alarms.
A properly functioning smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death
With specialised smoke alarm systems designed for the hearing impaired available at a subsidised price for those eligible, there’s no excuse to be unprepared.
Daniel Pistritto is an Audiometrist and Product Manager (assistive listening devices) at Blamey Saunders hears.