Hearing Loss & Wearables

What are wearables, you ask? Simply put, they are smart devices that you wear on your wrist such as a smart watch like an Apple Watch or a fitness tracker like a FitBit. Many wearables have the capability to receive notifications – which would be a great asset for the deaf and hard of hearing.

I myself have a Pebble smartwatch and I love it. Whatever push notifications that my phone gets, I get on my watch. Text messages, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Even my credit card app gives me notifications. If I get a notification that my credit card was used to make a payment, I get it on my watch too.

How would this help the deaf, you ask? Because we cannot stay tied to our phones 24/7. Eventually, we have to charge the phone sometimes, right? This is where the wearable comes in handy. While my phone is charging, I can still receive notifications from my watch so as long as I stay within Bluetooth range of my phone, which is 30 feet. That’s about two rooms in a typical house or apartment. Still plenty of space to move around.

While I have not personally tested this yet, another good reason for the deaf and hard of hearing to have a wearable is to have a smart smoke alarm, smart carbon monoxide detector and a smart doorbell all in sync with your phone. This way, if smoke or carbide monoxide is detected or someone is at the door, a notification will appear on your phone and you will get it on your wearable as well.

One thing I love about my Pebble is that I use an app called Nav Me for Pebble to navigate on my road trips. It works in sync with Google Maps. Every time I’m nearing a turn or exit, my watch vibrates to let me know I’m getting close to the exit or turn. No longer do I have to keep constantly looking at the GPS unit to see if I’m getting close to the exit because I cannot hear the voice navigation. Nav Me is only avilable for Pebble, but I’m sure other smart watches have their own navigation apps that is similar to Nav Me.

While I love my Pebble smartwatch, I can’t recommend it because it is now discontinued. Support for the Pebble watch will end in 2018 and Pebble is no longer sold in stores though you might be able to find them on eBay. However, there are plenty of other wearables on the market. To decide which one works best for you, check out this review site that reviews all type of wearables out there and can give you a general idea of what is out there for what you want the wearable to do.

If you have thought about getting a wearable, I recommend getting one because it is a great assistive device for the deaf & hard of hearing. Any questions, let me know and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Until next time, stay tuned 🙂

Hearing Loss and Home Safety

This past Monday (October 9th), I attended a meting of the local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) in Appleton. The topic of that meeting covered Hearing Loss and Home Safety.

Many people with hearing loss of some sort such as myself may not always hear smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors or being able to contact emergency services if something does happen. I’ll discuss what deaf and hard of hearing people can do in these situations.

Let’s start with smoke alarms. The typical home may have very old smoke alarms that may have sat in the house for years and may have an old 9 volt battery in it. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 7 to 10 years. But if you are like me, most likely, your own smoke alarms have been in your home for longer than 10 years. I admit I’ve had mine since I bought my house 12 years ago and they probably were there long before I bought it. I plan on replacing every one of my smoke alarms soon as I do my own research what to get.

I’m not gonna tell you what smoke alarm that I recommend to get. You need to do your own research and decide what type of smoke alarm is best for your living situation. But I will tell you that it is recommended that smoke alarms should be in every room of your residence (except the bathroom and garage) plus the basement. It’s also recommended that they are connected to each other. For example, if smoke is detected in the basement, the smoke alarms should go off upstairs as well. Smoke alarm systems like this are not cheap, but it is well worth the money for the peace of mind that your home is being protected.

For the deaf and hard of hearing, there are also smoke alarms available with strobe lights on them that flash when smoke is detected. Find out what kind of strobe light smoke alarms will work for you. Even better, get a smart smoke alarm system that will send an alert to your smart phone if smoke is detected. Again, do your research on those systems as there are several smart smoke alarm systems.

To sum it up, make sure there is a smoke alarm in every room of your residence and the smoke alarm is replaced every 7 to 10 years. Some websites say 10 years, but the presenter at the meeting recommends 7 years, so I’m going with that. In addition to that, for battery operated alarms, the battery itself is to be replaced every 6 months. But some battery operated smoke alarms never need replacing batteries. They use lithium batteries that will last about 7 years or so, which is about the lifetime of the smoke alarm itself. So you will never have to worry about changing the battery in those types of smoke alarms. Those lithium battery smoke alarms are not cheap, but when you think about the cost of replacing a 9 volt battery every 6 months for about 7 years, it does add up, making the lithium battery operated smoke alarm cheaper in the long run.

When you install a new smoke alarm, write the date on the alarm of the day that you installed it so you can check it in the future and can decide if it needs replacing as it nears its age.

Next, we will talk about Carbon Monoxide detectors. The presenter. who is a member of the Appleton Fire Department, also recommends that each home have one. It is also recommended that the carbon monoxide detector is one with a digital read out so you know exactly just how much carbon monoxide is present. If you get even a minuscule reading of carbon monoxide being present, investigate it right away. Don’t wait for the alarm to go off. Find out where the carbon monoxide is coming from and get it taken care off right away. The sooner, the better.

Carbon monoxide detectors with digital readouts are also great for the deaf and hard of hearing. They can monitor the readings and be ready to act if carbon monoxide is present.

For those of you with furnaces, it is recommended that you get your furnace checked at least once a year to make sure it is running smoothly and not giving off any carbon monoxide, which often called a silent killer for the reason in that you cannot see it or smell it. It can kill you if you don’t act right away. Again, do your research and choose a good detector that is best for your living situation. Don’t skimp on the cost. You get what you pay for.

For the deaf and hard of hearing, let’s talk about contacting emergency services. Some communities offer the option to text 911. But if texting 911 is not available in your area, there may also be a phone number available that you can text which will put you in contact with a 911 dispatcher. Check with your local emergency services if texting 911 or a different number is available in your area.

If texting is not possible and you can still speak, but cannot hear, the next best thing to do is to call 911, give it a few moments for the dispatcher to answer and then give as much information as you possibly can – your name, location, phone number, what is the emergency and any other information that you can think of. The more information, the better. Then try and remain at the location that you gave and wait for help if possible. Don’t worry that they won’t arrive. If the information that you gave them is accurate, they will come.

The meeting covered a lot more than this. If I wrote about everything discussed in the meeting, I would have to write a book 😀 But the topic of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and contacting emergency services were the main focus of this article. If you have any questions, comment below or send me a message on my Facebook page.

Until next time, stay tuned 🙂