Hearing Loss & Smoke Detectors:

What You Need To Know

The audiogram below shows average hearing loss for adults as a function of age. As age increases, the ability to hear high-pitched sounds decreases. The standard signal emitted by most residential smoke detectors falls between 3000-4000 Hz (red shaded area).1  When individuals are sleeping, signals may need to be as much as 40 dB louder for a person to wake up.2  

audiogram-alarm signal

Current Research on Smoke Detectors and Hearing Loss

  • Majority of residential fire fatalities occur between 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM when most people are sleeping(and not wearing hearing aids)

  • Nearly 50% of adults with mild to moderately severe hearing loss (hearing test results that fall in the yellow area below) DO NOT wake up to an active smoke detector4 

  • Current residential smoke detectors may not be sufficient to arouse sleeping adults with hearing loss to wake up in a timely matter or in time to vacate the premises safely

  • Talk to your audiologists about bedside solutions designed to work with current smoke detectors and documented as effective in waking individuals with hearing loss to a activated smoke detector 



  1. Lee, A. (2005) The audibility of smoke alarms in residential homes. CPSC-ES-0503. Washington, DC:  US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  2. Bruck, D., Ball, M., Thomas, I., and Rouillard, V. (2008).  How does pitch and pattern of a signal affect auditory arousal threshold?  Journal of Sleep Research, Jun 18(2): 196-203.
  3. National Fire Protection Association 72 (2002). National Fire Alarm Code. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, Inc. Section
  4. Bruck, D & Thomas, I. (2009).  Smoke alarms for sleeping adults who are hard-of-hearing: comparison of auditory, visual, and tactile signals.  Ear and Hearing, 30(1): 73-80.