Whether it’s the whistle blowing or using sound cues to make the next move, Hear Gear helps athletes with hearing devices to compete and feel included in sports which require head protection.
For Deaf athlete and Queensland Australian Football League Women’s (QAFLW) player, Jamie Howell, Hear Gear has helped her to hear for the first time out on the field. Whether it’s the whistle blowing or using sound cues to make the next move, Hear Gear helps athletes with hearing devices to compete and feel included in sports which require head protection.
Hear Gear is unlike traditional headgear kits, which muffle sounds and make it difficult for the wearer to be aware of all actions taking place in the game, to the point of missing important signals.
Redesigning the standard headgear, the padding has been removed and a recess for a hearing device to sit has been created for sound waves to reach the implant. This provides protection without limiting sound, empowering players to hear the game they play and its sounds more clearly.
“Hear Gear is a very real game changer for not only me, but for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Australia and around the world. Being able to hear the game I play professionally clearly, along with the voices of my team and people who have always supported me, makes all the difference,” says Ms Howell.
Hear Gear has been designed for use across AFL but has the potential to extend into other contact sports where head protection is necessary, such as boxing, rugby and cricket.
Seeing a need for change and for greater inclusivity for deaf and hearing impaired players, Colgate (American oral care conglomerate) brought the initial idea to Steeden, Australia’s leading rugby equipment and apparel company, to develop the headgear.
“I met Colgate in 2022, where I featured as part of the Smile Strong content series. I shared my story of when my team, the Yeronga Devils, surprised me in the locker room by learning the team song in Auslan,” says Ms Howell.
Steeden sponsors a number of well-known athletes across Australia, including Melbourne Demons AFL premiership player Angus Brayshaw and Sydney Swans player Aliesha Newman.
“Colgate and Steeden have heavily involved me in the design of the prototype. I have provided feedback on what I believe would make Hear Gear successful for deaf and hard of hearing athletes who wear hearing devices,” she says.
“When Colgate came to us with Jamie’s story, we knew we had to help and after talking to her, we knew exactly how to,” says Hannah Gray, Product and Procurement Manager at Steeden.
A prototype for Hear Gear was created, initial production runs funded by Colgate via Steeden, the sole owners of its design.
A campaign promoting Hear Gear from April 18 until May 28 is seeking expressions of interest from deaf or hard of hearing athletes to contribute to further development and help Hear Gear accommodate for the unique ways athletes wear their hearing implants.
“I believe that there are going to be barriers, but you can always overcome them. I would encourage people to reach out to their coach or leadership group. Have a conversation with them about your situation and needs. I would also ask to chat to your teammates, explain your situation and how they might support you. This is such a powerful way to educate people and create awareness about inclusion in sport,” says Ms Howell.
The deaf and hard of hearing community can find out more and register at www.heargear.com.au