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Smoke Alarms For The Deaf and Hearing Impaired

Every year, smoke alarms save lives, and they have proven to be an excellent investment. But a smoke alarm is only of value if it can actually be heard.

For a hearing impaired person, it can be difficult to hear an ordinary smoke alarm, and that is why smoke alarms especially for people with hearing loss have been developed.

There are a number of different solutions, for example, alarms which send out a strong light and activate a small vibrator, which the hearing  impaired person can place under their pillow, or alarms which send out low-frequency sounds. Low-frequency alarms send out sound with a frequency of 520 Hz whereas a normal alarm sends out a sound with a frequency of around 3000 – 4000 Hz.

How effective are the alarms?

A Study published in 2009 in the journal Ear and Hearing showed, that some smoke alarms are more effective than others when it comes to waking people with hearing loss.

A Japanese research team has been awarded the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their patented invention, the Wasabi Smoke Alarm.

According to the study, the alarms which send out a strong light are not particularly effective. The small vibrator under the pillow is however effective with regards to people with severe or total hearing loss, but with regards to people with mild or moderate hearing loss, the alarms with low-frequency sounds are the most effective. According to the study, the likelihood if a hearing impaired person being woken by a low-frequency alarm is seven times greater than by a normal smoke alarm.

A new type of alarm

In Japan, a group of researchers from the Department of Medicine at Shiga University have developed a smoke alarm which works through  smell. When the alarm is triggered, it sends out a very strong and sharp smell, which comes from the wasabi radish.

Different smells were tested in connection with the development of the alarm, but wasabi provided to be the most effective in waking people. The alarm was tested on 14 sleeping people, of which one was deaf. The 13 people with normal hearing woke in the space of two minutes after the wasabi extract was squirted into the room, while the deaf person woke after just 10 seconds.


About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at

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