The profoundly deaf Queensland athlete is the first ever to use disruptive new technology: ‘A very real game changer’

Jamie Howell was born with a profound bilateral hearing loss, meaning she cannot hear in either ear.

She loves Aussie Rules Footy and plays for the Yeronga South Brisbane Devils in QAFLW but has so far relied on her teammates to communicate non-verbally with her.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Jamie Howell becomes the first athlete to use new headgear for the deaf and hard of hearing.

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In fact, Jamie has loved sports since childhood as she has been involved in athletics since a young age.

She has won four gold medals at the Pacific School Games in 2008 and represented Australia at the 2017 Asia-Pacific Deaf Games and Deaflympics while also trying to overcome the challenges of being deaf.

This month, Howell became the first to test a prototype of brand new technology that allows her and other athletes who are hard of hearing to hear the game and her teammates, and participate fully and equally in the game.

In everyday life, Howell wears a cochlear implant that gives her access to sound and speech, using both foreign and spoken English to communicate, but it’s not the same in sports.

Athletes with a hearing aid need protective headgear to keep it securely in place.

QAFLW player Jamie Howell is the first to try new technology for deaf athletes. Credit: HEARING AIDS/delivered

However, traditional jerseys dampen noise, making it difficult for the wearer to be aware of all the action taking place in the game, to the point where team cues are missing and play resumes after a whistle is blown.

“Traditional headgear has soundproof padding that protects the head but also muffles noise,” Howell told

“It means I can’t hear much on the pitch, including my teammates, key cues, the whistle and the referees. I rely heavily on visual cues and gestures.

“The new technology was developed to give my hearing aid access to more sound. This allows me to hear my teammates and the sounds of the game more clearly.”

In redesigning the standard headgear, Hear Gear removed the padding and a cutout for a hearing aid designed to allow sound waves to reach the implant.

It was specifically designed for use in Australian football but can be extended to other contact sports where head protection is required.

“It’s a real game changer not only for me, but for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Australia and around the world,” Howell said.

“Being able to clearly hear the game I play professionally along with the voices of my team and the people who have always supported me makes all the difference.”

Jamie says she is proud of the inclusive environment her teammates have created and hopes other clubs can join to offer more support and advocacy to those who need it.

“My teammates are great. They have been incredibly supportive of my communication needs. You will often use a lot of gestures and pointing on the field. It makes it easier for me to follow the game,” she said.

“I usually play on the wing and that’s an advantage because I can see most of the game and follow what’s happening.”

In August 2020, Jamie’s team went viral online for learning the club’s victory song in Auslan, surprising them in the rooms after their game.

“One club ❤️🖤 Special moment yesterday when our team surprised @jamiehowell_ by singing the club song in Auslan,” wrote the club’s Instagram account.

The tradition is continued in the club to this day.

In 2021, Jamie was announced as one of the 2021 NAB AFL Premiership Cup ambassadors.

Jamie Howell was the 2021 AFLW Premiership Cup Ambassador. Credit: mark the brake/Getty Images

Alongside her athletic career, Jamie has a Bachelors in Exercise Science and Nutrition and is currently studying for her Masters in Learning and Teaching Primary to become a teacher for the Deaf.

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James Brien

James Brien is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. James Brien joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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