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Question Number: 32180

Law 4 - The Players Equipment 1/19/2018

RE: Club Competitive Under 14

Chrissy of New Durham , NH USA asks...

My son wears hearing aids on a regular basis. Hes been playing both rec and competitive soccer with them for four years and hasnt had any issues with a ref not allowing him to play until we traveled down to Florida to compete. The ref gave his coach a hard time about it, but eventually let him play. Is there a law that states that they are or arent allowed?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Chrissy,
there is no law that I am aware of prohibiting the wearing of a hearing aid to play soccer. Innovative tech hearing aids are much less bulky and have better ear attachments so it would be unusual for referee to think it posed a serious danger unless it was sticking out or attached in a sketchy manner?

A referee is duty bound though if he holds the opinion something is unsafe in the absence of a specific quideline or ROC command or bylaw to permit its use!
He might think a sideways head to head or ball impact could cause an injury?

I allow regular glasses to be worn in youth matches if I believe they are of sturdy construction, not just contacts or recently invented sports glasses especially designed for soccer. Other referees including my colleagues believe enough danger exists to NOT permit ordinary glasses. A ball impacting the face could drive the frame or pop the glass into the eye orb or cut the nose face.

To make a solid decision I would have to see the earpiece but I think most referees would permit it unless it clearly posed a significant hazard.


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Chrissy
Thanks for the question. There is no specific law yet a cover all statement which states that * player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous.* is made in Law 4. Unfortunately in the modern world litigation is ever present and referees tend to take anything 'different' to what they are used to as a risk / challenge. In your sons home leagues referees get familiar with players and probably ask each other what they do in the case of hearing aids. When nothing happens referees become comfortable with hearing aid use.
I am somewhat glad that the discussion was with the coach and the referee ONLY and that sense did prevail in the final decision. I have had such discussions with coaches over the use of regular glasses with metal frames which can pose a greater risk of injury. It is up to each referee to decide what could pose a risk.
Now having said all that all soccer clubs, coaches, referees and officials should take responsibility for supporting hearing impaired players and addressing their needs without debate.
Involving hearing impaired young people in soccer is great for their confidence, social skills and team work, and they must have the same opportunities to access the game as other young people.
In the UK official FA guidelines state that players are permitted to wear hearing technology during football matches. The decision on whether to wear a hearing aid during a match is up to the player and their parents in underage games not the referee.
This follows a landmark case a number of years ago where a game was abandoned because a referee would not allow a substitute player to play with a hearing aid. His team then refused to continue and the incident attracted significant media attention which resulted in the FA making a policy decision on the use of aids.
Personally I have allowed players with hearing aids to play as the risks are extremely low. I am not bound by any other associations decision other than my own yet the FA decision is sensible. It is a greater decision for the player than the referee based on whatever medical and technical advice has been given on the aids. Probably a much greater risk if the player cannot hear properly.
BTW in Deaf Soccer games hearing aids are not allowed not because of the danger just that they would create an advantage to the wearer. That is a competition rule not part of the Laws.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

I see that your son is nearing the age when he may be playing high school soccer. Here is the high school rule concerning hearing aids: 'Hearing Aids worn in or behind the ears are legal provided that the device does not create the threat of injury.'

I have been at numerous high school games where players are wearing hearing aids. I have not seen any hearing aids ruled as creating injury for many years, because the hearing aids are now so small and no longer a threat.

I hope that your son has a very successful season does not encounter this problem again.

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