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Pilot project to provide special smoke detectors for hard-of-hearing

A new pilot project will equip the homes of some hard-of-hearing or deaf people in Newfoundland and Labrador with special smoke detectors, devices that could otherwise be out of their reach financially.

Detectors give visual clues, vibrations when there's a fire

An example of smoke detectors designed for the deaf or hard-of-hearing. The alarms are connected to strobe lights and a vibrating pad. (Canadian Hard of Hearing Association NL)

A new pilot project will equip the homes of some hard-of-hearing or deaf people in Newfoundland and Labrador with special smoke detectors, devices that could otherwise be out of their reach financially. 

Leon Mills is the executive director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association - Newfoundland and Labrador. (Canadian Hard of Hearing Association NL)

"They're really very, very effective, but they're very costly," said Leon Mills, executive director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association - Newfoundland and Labrador (CHHA-NL), adding the units retail for up to $1,000.

This week province announced it has given CHHA-NL $60,000, to provide 68 such alarms to hard-of-hearing or deaf people who can show financial need.

Online applications will be available Oct. 12.

"This is only a drop in the bucket to the overall need, but you have to start somewhere," Mills told the Central Morning Show.

Regular detectors fall short

The special detectors consist of two sets, one of which is placed in the main living area and is connected to a strobe light to provide a visual alarm. The other is placed beside the bed, and connects to a wireless, vibrating disc that goes under a person's mattress or pillow.

"In bed at night, people take off their hearing aids. You can't sleep with them on, for the most part. It's very awkward. So you're in really critical danger, if there is an actual fire," said Mills.

Mills said it's not well known that regular smoke detectors fall short in alerting hard-of-hearing people to fires in their homes, with the alarms' high frequencies often going unnoticed.

"Myself for example, I found out a while ago I couldn't hear the fire alerts in my house. I was cooking in the kitchen and set them off. I was standing there, I had no idea. My wife and daughters came running out and said, 'the fire alarm is on'," said Mills.

Mills said 15 to 20 per cent of the population have a degree of hearing loss.

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