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A young AFC Bournemouth fan is the talk of his friends after becoming the first person to be fitted with hearing aids branded with the team’s crest and colours.
It’s all thanks to a novel idea from the Audiology Team at Dorset HealthCare, with support from the Premier League club and London-based hearing aid manufacturer Starkey.
Football-mad Alfie Gibbs, 10, who lives with his mum Charlene in Wallisdown, was born completely deaf, and has seen his life transformed by the tailor-made devices.
Charlene, 35, said: “Since the age of four, we have really struggled to get Alfie to wear his hearing aids as he often got embarrassed – to the point where we both turned to learning British sign language to help him communicate better.
“But we have seen a real transformation in Alfie since he got these branded hearing aids and it is such a simple idea. He is more confident, and his communication is improving significantly by the day. He never takes them out and is always showing friends and family.”
And Alfie was even more thrilled when he got the chance to show off the unique hearing aids to Cherries striker Callum Wilson and midfield ace Dan Gosling, after the club invited him to meet some of his heroes at the club’s Vitality Stadium.
Alfie also wears the moulds while playing for the AFC Bournemouth Ability Counts football team, a side run for people of all ages with different disabilities.
Lisa Nind is Lead Clinical Scientist for paediatric audiology at Dorset HealthCare, and worked closely with Alfie and his family to bring the creative idea to life.
She said: “Alfie has been attending our audiology department for many years, and we all knew how much he loves AFC Bournemouth so it was a no-brainer. Seeing how proud he is to wear the new moulds is fantastic.
“Using colours and pictures for hearing aids has actually been around for about 15 years, and we find it’s really helpful to get children to engage with their hearing aids, particularly if they have chosen the picture.
“It is so important a child wears their hearing aid as much as possible throughout their early years, particularly at school. When children grow older they can become quite self-conscious and embarrassed, so anything that makes them feel proud and enjoy wearing them is invaluable.”
Alice Jeans is Disabled Liaison Officer at AFC Bournemouth. She said: “We are delighted that having the club’s crest on his hearing aids has helped Alfie feel more confident and developed his communication skills.”