By Anita Giles
MS, CCC-A Audiologist
Physicians Hearing Center
Hearing is vital to all facets of life. It is essential for maintaining relationships and connections with family and friends and makes it possible to engage, listen, laugh, and enjoy participation in life events. Hearing is the sensation of sound that is detected by the ears and turned into nerve impulses for your brain to identify and interpret.
Our brain uses this information to communicate with other people, monitor our own voices, and alert and protect us. Our ears are “on” 24 hours a day whether we are awake or asleep. There are no “earlids” to shut off the sense of hearing. Have you ever wondered why your ears don’t sleep? Your ears are your first line of defense. Your ears are scanning the environment for stranger danger even when you are talking, listening, or sleeping. They keep us safe by alerting us to sounds such as alarms or waking us up when we hear an unfamiliar sound in the night. Hearing helps us locate a sound, whether it be the voice of a loved one or the direction of a siren. Hearing is known as the survival sense. In military service, it provides the first source of information before enemy contact.
What happens when you lose the ability to detect sound? Loss of hearing disrupts the ability to detect and identify crucial sound information. The misinterpretation of sound delays and diminishes the ability to respond to a command or warning signal in an emergency, which compromises safety.
If a person is unable to hear well, they are going to need alerting devices that inform them when something is happening. Alerting devices are technologies that let a person know there is an emergency or event happening. For example, alerts can be put in place to let a person know when someone is at their door.
Alerting or alarm devices use light, sound, or vibrations to signal when something is happening. They can be found on doorbells, telephones, alarm clocks, timers, or baby monitors. In addition, they can be used with security systems, fire alarms, smoke detectors and other safety devices to alert a person in an emergency. Remote receivers can be placed all around the house, so that no matter where the person is, they will receive the alert. Emergency Alert Response Systems (EARS) can be placed in cars.
Being able to hear keeps us safe. In commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, October is Fire Prevention Month to raise fire safety awareness. If the only way to know there is a fire in your home is to be awakened by a fire alarm, the only way to protect a person who is hard of hearing is to have functioning alerting devices in their home. Please take the time to access the resources listed below to find out what you can do to keep those that you care about safe and alert to all the vital sounds that are part of life.
Resources for alerting devices for Deaf and Hard of Hearing: