Panna Nyeste has designed a jewellery making kit for hearing aid wearers. Her kit, named ‘Pimp and Pomp’ has been inspired by supportive online communities who share how-to information on how to customize hearing aids.
Panna says, “The NHS supplies hearing aids on a loan basis and they must be returned in their original condition after use. People have started to decorate and personalise their hearing aids and many people use Washi tape (a type of patterned masking tape) which can be removed easily.”
She continues, “Ready-to-wear hearing aid jewellery can costs from £100 upwards. My jewellery kit is cheaper and includes pliers, cookie cutters, different blocks of clay, plus instructions. It’s a different take on customisation and it lets people create something unique for themselves. Most hearing aids are designed to be discreet – almost camouflaged – but there is a growing trend and desire to treat them as fashion accessories.”
Gathering enough insight and information to allow Panna to construct a solid theoretical and practical foundation for her project has been the key to the project. She describes her approach as “research heavy”. She says, “As part of the research for my dissertation about hearing aid ‘pimping’, I read Design Meets Disability by Graham Pullin. The book questions what the role of designers and artists is and should be in relation to disability.”
“I also interviewed people with hearing loss. Many of the people I spoke to said that hearing aids are seen as medical equipment. But by customising them, it’s possible to make them more visible and this invites non-hearing aid wearers to ask questions about them, starting a useful conversation about hearing loss.”
Panna has also been struck by the number of people who are affected by hearing loss. She says, “There are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, and an estimated 900,000 people have severe or profound hearing loss. Many more people could be benefitting from hearing aids than are currently doing so - only around 40% of people who need hearing aids have them.”
Panna says one of the highlights of her ECA experience has been the opportunity to take part in an Erasmus exchange while in third year. “I went to the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn for six months. The classes and culture were very different from ECA and it was an amazing experience to encounter a different way of doing things.”
Shortly after she completed her exchange, Panna secured a graphic design internship with an NGO (non-governmental organisation) in Tokyo, Japan. The NGO, Ashinaga, provides educational support to orphaned children worldwide.
Panna’s worked on a guidebook to help overseas students to orientate themselves in Japan. She says, “My job was to illustrate and artwork the guidebook. In a way I was making it for myself because I was living exactly the experience that was the subject of the book – how to settle in and adjust to a new culture.”
After ECA, Panna would like to work abroad and she’s keeping her options open. She's looking to expand her portfolio and looking to work with a range of clients.