Modifications for Hearing Loss
The following recommendations are suggested for adapting your home or apartment and keeping it safe. These recommendations came from consumers and from Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH). As you consider appropriate adaptations, remember that they depend on the extent of your hearing loss, as well as personal needs and preferences.
The most typical adaptation for a house occupied by people with hearing loss is the use of signalers, additional alerting systems that tell occupants when the phone is ringing, a visitor is at the door, smoke or a fire has started, or baby is crying. Signalers flash lights, make a loud sound, or shake the bed. A basic unit is used for one room only. Deluxe models facilitate signalers in multiple rooms. (Click here for telecommunications resources.)
Hard wired capability is suggested for use with a smoke alarm in the home so that a fire starting in the basement activates smoke alarms on all floors. A strobe light alerts the house occupants. Another choice is a wireless system, however this system is not activated until smoke/noise reaches the alarm on any given floor. The type of home: apartment, house, ranch house, etc, (along with personal preferences) are factors in determining which system is most appropriate.
Telephone jacks should be installed near electrical outlets to accommodate signalers, TTYs, and other devices.
Since a person with hearing loss may not be able to hear someone's voice on the other side of his or her door, a view panel (a window or side panel) helps identify visitors. A view panel is preferable to a typical peephole because it's easier to see through. One should be installed in an entry door or beside it, far away from the lock, to prevent burglaries.
Occupants must consider their own lighting requirements to facilitate optimal communication. For instance, a person relying on sign language or lip-reading may want to avoid facing light directly. Subsequently, glare or mirrored reflections should be avoided. Keeping the curtains and blinds open in the daytime provides a connection to the outside environment and a way to "see" what can't be heard, including weather conditions.
The type of flooring used is another important consideration. If background noise is problematic, wall to wall carpeting will help absorb sound. However, if occupants depend on feeling vibrations in the home, thin carpeting or rugs, linoleum, or hardwood floors are better.
When building a new home, it is helpful to control ambient sound by locating the HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) in a remote part of the home and insulating the duct.
Arrange your furniture to leave a lot of open space to facilitate lines of vision. This makes communication with other occupants easier and makes it easier for lip reading. Avoid tall, partitioning bookcases that block the view. Look for homes or apartments with a nice flow of space. For example, a living room that flows into an attached dining room and kitchen. However, avoid loft living if ambient noise is a problem.
Keep these basic adaptations in mind the next time you change houses or apartments.
Photo credits: "Wearing SoundBite Behind-the-Ear Device" by Sonitus Medical - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.