Deaf people need alarm clocks, too—here are my top picks
Vibrating alarms are ideal, but some are better than others.
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Imagine if we could all wake up naturally every day after a full night’s rest. Alas, tis but a lovely dream. Due to work, an appointment, or family obligations, we invariably have to get out of bed by a certain time. But what if you can’t hear the alarm clock? And I don’t mean in a sound-sleeper kind of way, but being literally unable to hear Beep! Beep!
That’s me. I was born profoundly deaf and raised to lipread and speak. I have a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other. I take them off when I go to bed, luxuriating in one of the few perks of being deaf: the ability to sleep in complete quiet. But I've found this to be a double-edged sword. I still have to adult. I’ve learned over the years that the best way to wake up is being gently tapped by a loved one. This method has its drawbacks, like having to rely on someone else's availability and ability to remember to do the job. It's taken some trial and error to find alarm clocks that work for me.
While my previous top choice is no longer for sale, here are five alarm clocks that can be a game changer for deaf and hard-of-hearing users based on consumer reviews and personal experience.
1. Sonic Boom Alert – a loud bed shaker
When I was growing up, I had an alarm clock with a bed shaker attachment placed under my fitted sheet or mattress pad—similar to the Sonic Alert Boom Alarm Clock with Bed Shaker. But now that I’m older and travel more, it’s not as practical. A portable version that clipped to the inside of my pillow case did the trick for a number of years until it was discontinued.
2. Sonic Alert SBP100 Portable Loud Vibrating Alarm Clock - a small, portable vibrating alarm
While the ShakeAwake alarm clock that was once my top choice is no longer being sold, the Sonic Alert portable version serves as a solid substitute for that discontinued product. In fact, it improves upon it via the addition of a clip that ensures the alarm clock never falls off the bed or becomes dislodged from the pillow it’s sitting under. This travel-based clock has three modes for vibration, an audio alarm, and a mode that uses vibration and audio simultaneously. Most folks in the deaf and heard-of-hearing community will likely make use of the vibration alone, which users suggest is strong enough to jerk them awake. While the LCD screen doesn’t feature a light of its own, there is an illumination button that allows the time to be read in the dark.
Reviews suggest this clock’s biggest downside is its lack of durability. As functional as it might be, some have suggested attaching multiples of this alarm clock to your pillow just in case one of them fails. With no indicator to tell you when the battery is running low, you may need to have a backup plan ready. That means this otherwise $38 alarm clock could cost closer to $80 for a truly optimal experience. If you can look past those faults, though, this may be the best option in its class right now.
3. Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock – an innovative solution
Sunrise alarm clocks have garnered more attention in the mental health community rather than the deaf community, but they could stand to be an interesting alternative for those who need to wake up but don’t want bed shakes or vibrations to get the job done. Instead, this Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock from JALL has large bulbs that become increasingly bright to wake you up from sleep via natural light. The lights work their way up to 100% brightness around 30 minutes before the scheduled time, at which point the light is accompanied by one of seven selectable sounds or the din of an FM radio. It’s possible to turn off those noises entirely if they don’t help you, leaving the light alone to do the job. The Sunrise Alarm Clock is also probably the most technically sophisticated option on our list, with features like a USB port for charging and the ability to double as a bedside lamp.
That said, while waking to natural light can be great for mental health, it may not be effective for everyone based on their individual hearing levels. Those who are profoundly deaf may want to consider the previous two options, while those who are closer to hard of hearing could feasibly make use of something like this.
4. ROCAM Vibrating Alarm Clock – good for ears and eyes alike
If $71 for the Sonic Boom is too rich for your budget, this ROCAM Vibrating Alarm Clock has many of the same features for a fraction of the price. It has four adjustable levels of volume ranging from 70-110 decibels, an attachable bed shaker with multiple levels of vibration, and individual settings that allow users to select between sound, vibration or both. And, should you happen to have vision issues in addition to hearing loss, the screen appears to be massive and customizable to multiple levels of brightness. Should technology matter, its USB port will charge your phone as well. This brand may not have the backing of a five-year warranty like the Sonic Boom, does, but you’ll still get a functional product for cheap.
5. Mesqool Extra Loud Alarm Clock for Heavy Sleepers – extra USB and lights
At first glance the Mesqool Extra Loud Alarm Clock looks like an exact replica of the previous selection, but it actually has some noteworthy differences. Like the others, this has bespoke settings for an included bed shaker, auditory buzzer, and a third setting that activates both the shaker and buzzer at once. Perhaps the main point of separation between this and the ROCAM is its top LED Light that can double as a night light for children. If you have lots of devices, this clock also has two USB ports instead of just one. The buzzer is a little quiet by comparison, peaking at just 90 decibels, but most owners feel the effectiveness of the bed shaker is good enough to suffice.
_Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.