Student with epilepsy designs wearable seizure hat to help others stay safe
09 July 2021
A student who developed epilepsy after receiving treatment for a brain tumour has designed a wearable safety hat to protect others from head injuries when they experience a seizure.
Owen Sutton, 22, created an insert from smart materials to sit under an ordinary baseball cap to help protect other people with epilepsy if they fall and bang their head.
Owen, who is studying BA Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, made a prototype from Poron XRD, which absorbs more than 90 percent of energy when impacted at high strain rates.
After receiving a brain operation to remove the tumour he has since suffered multiple seizures. One of which happened in his kitchen causing him to fall over and smack his head. Owen wanted to buy a seizure hat for his own use but found nothing which he considered wearable and discrete.
His research – with various epilepsy charities – showed that many existing seizure hats were “clunky” in appearance and people were put off wearing them for this reason.
The aim of Owen’s design is to provide the wearer with a good degree of protection, but without the hat looking like a safety device in any way whatsoever.
“Most seizure hats look painfully obvious to the outside world that they’re for medical reasons,” said Owen, from Elford near Tamworth, who underwent proton beam therapy for his tumour after an unsuccessful operation.
“When you consider that wearing one is completely optional, there’s no way we will ever see a huge take-up of them if people feel self-conscious. I would personally hate to wear one in a restaurant, for instance, and have everyone staring at me.
“People I have spoken to, as part of my research, found that they were treated differently by members of the public when wearing one. Some felt that people acted cautiously around them – no one wants that experience.”
Owen has designed his working prototype for Nottingham Trent University’s Summer Show, which will see graduating artists and designers displaying their work as part of an online public exhibition. Owen’s prototype can be seen alongside that of other product design students on www.ntudesignindustries.com.
“When you consider that around 1 in 100 people have epilepsy, this is a product that could benefit a lot of people,” said Owen, who is also considering designing a flat cap seizure hat.
“It’s surely no coincidence that you very rarely ever see somebody wearing one, when most look like they currently do.
“So I’m convinced there’s a better solution. By improving the appearance of a seizure hat - so it appears for all intents and purposes like an ordinary hat – it will increase uptake and help more people with epilepsy feel safer.”
Richard Malcolm, lecturer in Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Owen has taken his personal experience of a serious medical condition and used it to fill an apparent gap in the market and help other people.
“He’s created a product which will enable people with epilepsy to feel less self-conscious when wearing a seizure hat. In turn, that may increase the uptake of such products and improve people’s safety by preventing serious head injuries.”