Smoke Alarms and Hearing: Will You Wake Up?

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Smoke alarms can usually be heard while we are awake.  But will it wake you up when you are sleeping?

Sleeping family

Sleeping family

When we are sleeping, sounds need to be louder to startle us awake and respond.  In fact – it needs to be as much as 40 dB louder for a person to wake up! Eventually, it may awaken you – but will it be in time to respond and exit safely in an emergency?

As we age, the ability to hear high-pitched sounds decreases.  While this may not impair your daily communication, it slows down your arousal and response for you to safely exit.   Smoke alarm signals are in this high-pitched range of hearing that decreases with age.

While  you may hear the smoke alarm – you will not be STARTLED to awaken from a sound sleep.   Combined with the TWO minute timeline for a fire to overtake a home, this illustrates the danger for those with hearing loss, sound sleepers and sleep apnea machines.  By the time you awaken from a “far away” sound, the fire may have progressed too far for a safe exit.

Here are the facts:

  • It’s about fast AWAKENING and having enough time to escape!
  • Majority of residential fire fatalities occur between 11 pm and 7 am when mosts people are sleeping.
  • 50% of adults with even Mild hearing loss DO NOT wake up to a smoke alarm.
  • Children, handicapped individuals, and heavy sleepers are slower to awaken and also impacted.
  • A lower frequency 520 Hz smoke alarm signal is the most effective signal for waking adults with hearing loss, heavy sleepers and handicapped individuals – waking 92%.  

This is about SAFETY and important for everyone to consider!  Contact our Audiologist for recommendations on smoke alarm options for those with apnea, decreased hearing, and sound sleepers.

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