Smoke Alarms for People with Hearing Loss

smoke alarms for the deaf

Fire Protection Publications at Oklahoma State University/IFSTA

People who are hard of hearing need an alert device installed where they sleep that makes a low-frequency sound and activates a bed shaker for a tactile alert. People who are deaf need the bed shaker to wake them up and a visual alert such as a strobe light. For more information:

Home Fire Safety Solutions Smoke Alarm Project, developed by Oklahoma State University’s Fire Protection Publications and Oklahoma ABLE Tech.

NFPA Tip Sheet on smoke alarms for people who are deaf or hard of hearing

Here are some examples of these specialized alarms and alert devices.

This alert device actively listens for the sound of a conventional smoke alarm. It is not a smoke alarm. It is activated by the signal from a conventional smoke alarm. The Lifetone has seven-day back-up battery power.

When it detects the sound of the smoke alarm, it creates four signals:

  • A loud 520 Hz square-wave alarm (90 dB).
  • A powerful clamshell-like vibrating bed shaker (placed under the mattress).
  • Instruction in a loud voice (“Fire! Get out!”) in multiple languages.
  • The word “FIRE” is displayed in large text against a flashing orange backlight.
home visit

Fire Protection Publications at Oklahoma State University/IFSTA

Installation takes approximately 20 minutes. If you find that it doesn’t respond to the existing smoke alarms, replace them with smoke alarms that generate the correct signal.

This photoelectric, single-station smoke alarm is designed to alert with both an audible and visual signal. The audible alarm is the standard UL 217 temporal three high-frequency sound. The visual alarm is a strobe light. Gentex makes a model that is AC-powered with a nine-foot-long cord and a 9-volt backup battery. The battery provides backup power to the smoke alarm only. The alarm does not require an electrician to install. The alarm is packaged with a small bracket that is used to prevent the alarm from being unplugged. It is secured with the small screw that keeps the receptacle cover in place.

SafeAwake™ :
This device is triggered by a conventional smoke alarm sound and includes a motorized bed shaker, a flashing light, and a low-frequency, high-decibel square-wave sound.

CAUTION: There are several devices on the market that claim to notify people who are deaf and people who are hard of hearing to a residential smoke alarm sound. At publication time, only two devices are listed by national testing laboratories: Lifetone and SafeAwake, and some Silent Call equipment.