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.
1. An alarm with a bed shaker attachment
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. A small, portable vibrating alarm
On the advice of deaf friends, I purchased the ShakeAwake Vibrating Alarm Clock. It’s cheap ($17.99), small, and light (1.58 ounces), with the option of a sound or vibrating alarm. I wish those positive features made up for the negatives. Because it doesn’t have a clip, it can get lost inside a pillowcase. Being woken up by a vibrating alarm is bad enough, even if you’re able to turn it off quickly. Not so easy to do when you’re feeling around for it, half asleep. If you’re a restless sleeper, it could even fall out of your pillowcase onto the floor. True story.
While my ears don’t work, my eyes do, though admittedly I’m at the age where I’ve started needing readers. But even for someone with perfect vision, the controls of the ShakeAwake are extremely tiny. A back door is flipped to access the controls, but when desperately trying to turn the alarm off (with a button that’s hard to press), the door can also come unhinged. Just like me dealing with this, actually.
This alarm clock also doesn’t have a low battery indicator, so you have to be diligent about changing the batteries regularly if you don’t want to be caught unawares. Also, the alarm only goes off once, for 60 seconds. That’s it.
3. An alarm best used by heavy sleepers
A friend of mine uses the Sonic Alert Portable Loud Vibrating Alarm Clock, which would take care of the pillow security problem. But it’s larger and heavier than the ShakeAwake, and it would be too noticeable when trying to sleep. I already feel like the princess and the pea with my ShakeAwake. I know it’s there. Wait, is it still there? It provokes anxiety at the worst possible time! But it could provide you the peace of mind you need if you sleep too deeply for other alarms.
My top choice
I opt to use the ShakeAwake. While it’s not as great as I wish it could be, this is the alarm clock I rely on for its small size and its ability to vibrate enough to wake me up. It’s also the cheapest option if you’re just trying them out, and it's portable for traveling.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.