Nobody thinks of hearing aids as superhero gear, or part of their childhood fantasies. But Marvel comics and American Girl are out to change the hearing aid experience
for kids by incorporating the devices into their highly popular products.
About a year ago, Marvel Comics responded to an unusual email from Christina D’Allesandro. Her 4-year-old son, Anthony Smith, refused to wear hearing aids when he noticed that none of the superheroes in comic books needed hearing aids, so Ms. D’Allesandro entreated Marvel to create a superhero who wears hearing aids.
Marvel responded by making Anthony an honorary Avenger, and created Blue Ear, a comic superhero who uses hearing aids and teams up with Hawkeye to fight the bad guys. Needless to say, Anthony started wearing his hearing aids. Marvel Comics and Phonak – the company that makes Anthony’s hearing aids – have since partnered to create a kid-friendly comic poster, featuring Blue Ear, that teaches children about the importance of hearing aids.
Fast-action comics and Avengers are fun for boys, but what about girls with hearing impairments? Have no fear – American Girl began making hearing aids for their dolls in November. Doll owners can bring their special friends to the Doll Hospital, and they will be fitted for a pink and white hearing aid. American Girl also offers accessories for other physical disabilities, such as a wheelchair and a service dog in harness.
As portrayed in Marvel’s new poster, hearing impairments can have numerous effects on self-esteem in children. According to a 2007 study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, hearing impaired children who attend special schools viewed themselves less favorably than hearing-impaired children in mainstream schools. They made less friends, had less self-confidence, and were more anxious and sad. The study concluded with the assertion that it is important to consider the psychological well-being of a hearing-impaired child when sending them to a special or mainstream school.
Making hearing aids cool for kids can help them feel proud about their hearing aids – and themselves. Audicus, though it only offers hearing aids for adults, aims to bring cooler devices to those with hearing loss.