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The University of Southampton

Southampton audiology specialists to detect ‘deafness doping’ at the Deaflympics

Published: 19 July 2013
Doctor Daniel Rowan

A team of audiologists from the University of Southampton have been chosen to assess the levels of hearing loss of sportsmen and women competing at the Deaflympics for deaf and hard of hearing athletes, being held in Sofia, Bulgaria later this month.

As part of that team, postgraduate research student Hannah Semeraro and BSc Healthcare Science (Audiology) graduate Charlotte Morgan from the University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) will be scientific advisors to the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf (ICSD), which organises the games for around 3,000 athletes from more than 80 countries.

Hannah says: “We will be carrying out hearing tests on up to 150 athletes in Sofia. Some athletes come from countries which do not have adequate equipment to carry out hearing tests, so will therefore need to be tested when they arrive. Other athletes will be spot checked to ensure their hearing loss is at a level which allows them to compete. We are aiming to ensure no athlete has an unfair advantage over another because their hearing ability does not meet the participation requirements.”

“The eligibility of our athletes is something we take very seriously,” says ICSD President Craig Crowley MBE. “To ensure the integrity of our events, we do need to ensure that our athletes meet our criteria for deafness before they line up for competition. ICSD is grateful to the University of Southampton for developing and implementing measures for us to ensure all our athletes are competing fairly.”

Team GB Deaflympics Marathon runner Melanie Jewett from Hamble, who received a cochlear implant at the University’s Auditory Implant Service, worked with Hannah and Charlotte to highlight her experiences of long distance running with a hearing impairment. University staff and students have also donated money to help Melanie compete in the Deaflympics this summer.

The ISVR is also leading a pioneering research programme with the ICSD into the effects of hearing loss on sporting performance, how hearing assessments can be standardised and how faked or exaggerated hearing loss, albeit rare, can be detected. “One aim is to help ICSD widen access to top level sport for people with hearing loss around the world by making hearing checks fair and inexpensive,” explains Dr Daniel Rowan, Lecturer in Audiology. “We are proud to be involved in such an inspiring event, which celebrates the breadth of human talents,” adds Dr Rowan who is leading on the project with Dr Rachel van Besouw.

The Deaflympics will be held between 26 July and 4 August 2013.

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