Recording of mother’s voice more effective than smoke alarm, study finds

By Nicola Davis for theguardian.com

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: there’s a fire in the house, the alarms are beeping, but the children are sleeping on oblivious. Now scientists say they have found a better way to rouse slumbering youngsters.

Researchers in the US have discovered that playing a child a recording of their mother’s voice is about three times more likely to wake them than a traditional alarm. What’s more, it does so faster and is linked to a quicker escape.

“[High pitched beeping] alarms don’t wake up children well at all under about 12 years of age,” said Dr Gary Smith, a co-author of the research from the Nationwide Children’s hospital in Ohio, although he said at present it is not known why. With children from about five years of age potentially able to save themselves, he said it was important to look at developing better alarms.

The team say the research supports a smaller study previously conducted by the group, but reveals that using the child’s name does not make a difference to the effectiveness of the voice alarm. Smith said the team now want to explore whether a voice other than the child’s mother can be just as effective, or if the gender of the voice matters.

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