Situational Awareness for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

This article was co-written with Brie Lilly.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that, “15% of adults aged 18 and over had some hearing trouble without a hearing aid.” About 28.8 million American adults could benefit from hearing aids and “only 1 in 4 U.S. adults ages 20 and over who could benefit from hearing aids has used them.” That proportion increases to only about “30% of the population ages 70 and up” who have used the hearing aids that could help.

There are many solutions to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing navigate the world around them and some insurance providers will cover the expense. Cochlear implants and middle-ear implants are examples of implanted hearing aids.

Accessibility to these devices may be more difficult for those who do not have insurance or who are unable to pay out-of-pocket costs involved. In addition, for those who opt not to have hearing implants (which can range in price from $15,000 to $100,000 or more per ear) and instead chose hearing aids, there is the issue of removing the devices.

Hearing aid manufacturers often recommend removing hearing aids before going to sleep, reducing the individual’s ability to hear during that period. One way to promote awareness while without hearing aids is to use devices which monitor the surrounding environment and alert the wearer to frequencies that could be cause for concern, such as alarms or a gunshot.

These devices are often inexpensive and can be purchased without insurance at little cost, for example a device called “SoundSense.” This device monitors the surrounding environment and buzzes or flashes to alert the user if a frequency is emitted which might be concerning. SoundSense is inexpensive to produce and can be purchased without insurance for about $25, making it easily accessible for most consumers.

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