Home modifications for hearing loss
Whether you were born d/Deaf or have experienced hearing loss, simple home modifications can make your space more accommodating.
Technician installing motion sensor camera
3 key takeaways
- There are plenty of ways to make a house feel like home – Several modifications can help you make life more comfortable no matter your hearing.
- Specialty devices make all the difference – When it comes to alarms and security, devices designed for people living with hearing loss go a long way.
- Surround yourself with soothing colors – Calming colors such as pale gray and light blues can help reduce cognitive overload.
Everyone deserves to feel at home in their space. After a long day at work, or even a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, your house should be a place where you feel most comfortable – and most capable. But for those who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing, this may mean making certain modifications to your space.
From investing in appliances specifically designed to accommodate those with hearing loss to purchasing devices that can help non-verbal communication in the case of an emergency, there are several ways you can make your house work best for you.
Assistive listening systems
Sometimes called Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), assistive listening systems (ALSs) are essentially amplifiers that bring sound directly into the ear.
According to the National Association of the Deaf, “people who are hard of hearing often require a volume (signal to noise ratio) increase of about 15 to 25 dB to achieve the same level of understanding as people with normal hearing.”
Many movie theaters and auditoriums are equipped with ALSs, but you can equip your home with them as well. Companies such as ListenTech sell plenty of Assisted Listening Systems and other tools that can help make your home that much more comfortable!
This way your hearing aid or listening device can hook straight into your television or stereo system in order to increase your understanding and make life in your home that much more comfortable.
From waking you up in the morning to alerting you to real danger, alarms are an extremely important part of any home.
So, how can alarms still be useful to you if you struggle to or are unable to hear them? Let’s explore the options available to you.
Luckily, there are several watches and smartwatches available on the market that will vibrate to alert you when it’s time to get up.
You can also use these wearable alarms to help you keep track of when your laundry is finished, when it’s time to switch from one task to the next or when you need to take your medication.
Audiologist Dr. Jessica Hinson notes that there are also bed and pillow shakers that can vibrate with a home alarm clock so you won’t have to wear anything to sleep.
Popular prescription hearing aid brand Oticon sells hearing aids that connect with the If This Then That network. When used with smart outlets, this smart system can automatically start one event when another occurs.
For example, when you turn your hearing aids on in the morning, your coffee in the kitchen will start brewing.
Smoke detectors were, unfortunately, designed with a hearing population in mind. Those who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing will not find these alarms particularly useful in their homes.
However, there are alternative alert methods, such as flashing lights or vibrating devices, that can be programmed to alert you to smoke in your home.
🚨Those who struggle with photosensitivity or photosensitive epilepsy will want to purchase a vibrating device. Most of the alarm systems with flashing lights come equipped with a strobe effect that can cause seizures.
Carbon monoxide detectors
Like smoke detectors, there are specialty carbon monoxide detectors that either strobe lights or cause your bed to vibrate should they detect carbon monoxide in the home.
These can be effective at alerting you to the toxic presence and making sure you evacuate safely.
Some people who use a hearing aid report that background noise, such as the whirring of a laundry machine or the humming of a refrigerator, can become too loud or frustrating, making it nearly impossible to live with certain appliances.
There are a few ways to remedy this:
Ask for assistance when purchasing
First, when you go to your local hardware store to purchase a washer or dryer, be sure to speak to the salesperson about your specific needs (if you are non-verbal, you can either use a transcribing app on your phone, ask for an ASL interpreter, or bring a companion to assist you). Tell them about your need for a quiet appliance.
One note: front-loading washers tend to create more noise and vibration than top-loading washers, so keep that in mind when you shop.
Keep it flat
Next, make sure that your appliance is completely flat on the floor, as elevated or crooked appliances can make a lot of noise.
This may require you to purchase pads or adjustable feet for your fridge, washer, or dryer.
Repair when needed
Finally, be sure that you stay on top of upkeep. Older appliances, especially older fridges, tend to clank and hum more with age. Maintaining upkeep and budgeting for replacements can help to mitigate this.
Those who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing do not have the luxury of relying on their hearing to tell them whether a faucet is leaking.
In order to cut down on water wasted from a leaky faucet, it may be in your best interest to invest in an automatic faucet.
In days gone by, this wouldn’t be an option. Today, however, there are several types of automatic faucets to choose from, including:
- Spring loaded handles. These automatically move to an off position when released, shutting the faucet off.
- Smart faucets. These use facial recognition to toggle the faucet off and on. They can even tailor water preferences to the specific user.
- Motion sensors. You’ve seen these in public restrooms. An infrared sensor detects your hands under the faucet and automatically turns the water on and off.
When it comes to inclement weather, it’s important to stay alert and informed, especially in the event of tornadoes or hurricane evacuation notices.
Use closed caption alerts
Of course, closed-captioned television can provide these alerts for you, but what do you do if you’re asleep or if you—understandably—don’t want to keep the television on all the time?
Many home improvement and even electronic stores sell specialty weather radios designed to alert those who are deaf or those with hearing loss to immediate weather dangers.
You will want to check the back of the radio for an ‘EXT alert’ jack, which allows a strobe light or a pillow shaker to be plugged in so you can be alerted when you’re sleeping.
These radios also come with visual alarms and flashing lights to grab your attention if you’re up and about when the weather alert comes through.
Security systems have become even more popular in recent years, and for good reason. Break-ins and burglaries are a real risk in today’s world. The good news is that there are several security systems designed for people with hearing loss, along with additional security measures you can take to make your home safer.
Like alarms, security systems come equipped with flashing lights or with pillow shakers or vibrating bed panels to alert homeowners to the problem.
It’s important to keep in mind that false alarms happen quite often, so, if you are non-verbal, you will want to make sure you have a communication device nearby. That way, when the home security company reaches out to check on you, you can respond quickly.
You can equip the outer perimeter of your house with motion lights to alert you to intruders outside.
Of course, they will also probably let you know when a hungry raccoon or a possum comes to visit, too, so know that just because the light turns on, it doesn’t mean you’re in immediate danger.
Deaf video relay service
It’s important to know that the Federal Communications Commission has set up a video relay service (VRS) for those who use American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary form of communication.
Visit the FCC’s website to get the latest information on VRS providers in your area.
Now, more than ever, there are many smart doorbell options out there. The Ring doorbell comes equipped with the ability to enable a flashing light. There are also other doorbell options specifically for people who are deaf or people with hearing loss.
You can pick up one of these doorbells at a home improvement or hardware store, or even at some electronics stores.
Other companies, like Safeguard, sell doorbells for people who are hard of hearing on Amazon and other online retailers.
There are several landline and cell phone options that are available for people who use hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Sites like accessWireless give people who are hard of hearing access to cell phones and other wireless devices specifically designed to fit your needs.
There are also captioned phones that allow people who are deaf to communicate with the person on the other line. A live communications assistant listens to the other party on the line and provides the text on the captioned phone, usually via speech recognition technology.
This program is subsidized by a federal program, and oversight is conducted through the FCC.
Dr. Hinson notes that CapTel and CaptionCall are two companies who provide and install captioned phones for no charge to anyone with a landline phone, internet, or Bluetooth capability.
Not only do they ring especially loudly, they automatically caption phone calls and voicemails on a large LED screen. All the company needs is approval from an audiologist.
See your local audiologist to obtain one.
Obviously, those who are hard of hearing or deaf will depend more on sight than sound. Houses with a lot of hallways or closed off rooms will make it more difficult to communicate with other people in the home.
Utilize open floor plans
When you’re looking to purchase a home, it’s best to look for one with an open floor plan. This will make it easier to see people as they come in and out of rooms. The longer the sight line, the better.
Arrange in circular or horseshoe shape
In terms of arrangement, it might be best to place your furniture in either a circular or horseshoe shape so that everyone can see each other. This will make lip reading or sign language easier.
Choose moveable furniture
Additionally, it might be better to use individual swivel chairs rather than large, heavy couches so those who are hard of hearing can easily turn toward the person speaking to them or toward the device producing sound.
People who communicate using ASL or who read lips may struggle to understand if they’re surrounded by loud colors or crowded wallpaper.
Keep it simple
To help facilitate easy conversation, select warm, neutral colors for your walls.
You also might want to think about cognitive overload when selecting paint for your home. People who are hard of hearing or deaf have to rely on additional sensory information to effectively communicate with the people in their lives.
Keep it neutral
Neutral colors, such as soft grays and warm beiges, provide a soothing atmosphere, which can help calm the mind before or after a long day.
You might be a person who absolutely adores bright colors. That’s okay! Add pops of color back into your home using throw pillows, blankets, and more.
Resources for home modifications
There are plenty of resources out there to help people modify their homes and make them more accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Unfortunately, the homeowner will have to cover most of the expenses themselves, though funding is available through reverse mortgages or insurance providers.
You can also contact social workers in your area who might be able to provide you with additional funding options.
If you’re looking for a list of reliable contractors skilled at home modifications for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, contact:
Older adults might be interested in the following organizations, which have developed programs for Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS).
These remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, and healthcare consultants are trained in how to modify homes specifically for those who are aging and have developed conditions such as hearing loss or deafness because of it.
Reach out to:
Be sure to tell them you’re interested in discussing a CAPS project.