Hearing Impairment

There are approximately four million Australians who have some degree of hearing loss ranging from mild loss to profound deafness, with around 30,000 being profoundly deaf. It’s been proposed by the United States Fire Administration Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that people with a hearing impairment are the most affected in their ability to receive notification of an emergency and are therefore most at risk.[1] The key to people with hearing impairment surviving an emergency evacuation are mechanisms for early detection, so that they can quickly respond to alarm cues.[2]

This is a significant issue when you consider that the ABC 2009 census found 1 in 6 Australians are affected by hearing loss. The U.S National Association for the Deaf believe that people that are deaf or with a hearing impairment experience fear and frustration during an emergency and can make poor safety decisions when they are ill-informed about the extent or nature of the emergency. It has also been proposed that designers of emergency communications systems must consider the needs of people with hearing disabilities to ensure the system accommodates all of their needs.[3] When doing so, effective signage strategies advising of emergency information must be considered.

[1] United States Fire Administration FEMA 1995, Emergency Procedures for Employees with Disabilities in Office Occupancies, p.7, http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/fa-154.pdf, viewed 27 August 2015

[2] United States Fire Administration 1999, FEMA 1999, FA-202/December 1999 Fire Risks for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing, http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/txt/publications/fa-202.txt, viewed 27 August 2015

[3] Moore, WD 2010, Emergency Mass Notification and Fire Alarm Systems for All, http://ohsonline.com/articles/2010/09/01/emergency-mass-notification.aspx?sc_lang=en, viewed 27 August 2015

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