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How to pick an alarm

February 05, 2009 3 min read

J.R. wrote to ask, "What are the pros and cons of using an alarm with sound and vibration or ones with multiple tones?

J.R., I think that we are fortunate that technology has progressed to the point where we have a lot of choices in bedwetting alarms. However, that can make deciding on just the right one a little more challenging. Traditionally, bedwetting alarms have worked by emitting a loud sound when the child wet. As a response, the child and/or parents heard the sound and got up to walk to the bathroom.

A few parents commented that their child seemed to grow accustomed to this particular sound and began sleeping through it. Others commented that their child woke more easily if they shook their shoulder. They asked, "Couldn't the alarm be designed to do this? Alarm manufacturers have incorporated these suggestions into the design of some of the most popular alarms, like the Malem Ultimate (sounds and vibrates) or the Malem Selectable (has 8 different sounds).

When should you choose an alarm with both sound and vibration or one that makes multiple sounds? Here are some of my general guidelines: Younger children, less than 7-8, usually do fine with the smallest alarm, the Malem auditory. This alarm is lightweight and only sounds in response to moisture. For children who have never used an alarm in the past, a single tone alarm works well. This group often needs the most assistance from parents and it is a little easier for parents to alert from their groggy sleep to the same sound coming from their child's room. If you feel that your child is an especially sound sleeper, adding vibration to the sound for a few more dollars is worthwhile.

The alarm that sounds and vibrates both (Ultimate) also just takes AAA batteries which are easily replaced, inexpensive and found in most families' homes. For the older children and teens, I use alarms with more features. Vibration and sound both seem to be helpful, as well as the ability to change sounds if they audio-accommodate.

The Selectable alarm allows you to choose one particular sound or let the alarm randomly choose sounds. I recommend picking one annoying sound to play for the first few weeks. If you find your child beginning to tune this sound out, pick another sound to play for the next few weeks, etc.

There are a few other alarms with special features that are nice for special situations. The Recordable Malem alarm allows parents to record a sound or their voice if loud sounds aren't acceptable to their child. The Rodger and Malem Wireless alarms are both nice for children that do not wear a shirt to bed or refuse to use a wearable alarm. The Malem Wireless allows you to choose one of 8 sounds, while the Rodger can be ordered with an optional vibratory pillow. Both of these wireless alarms require that the child get out of bed to turn the sound off so encourage walking on in to the bathroom while they are already up.

So, JR, in response to your question - the pros and cons of the various alarms depend on the age of your child, what you've observed about your child and what your child may have used in the past. The important thing is to choose an alarm that your child likes and will use regularly.

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