Over the past decade positive role models have been taking over the toy world, updating the idols and princesses of days gone by. American Girl is continuing this with trend by releasing the first-ever doll with hearing loss.
This competitive athlete born with hearing loss and a passion for surfing joins a cast of empowering characters. Going by the name of ‘Joss’, it is hoped that she will help girls with hearing loss learn and grow with confidence, in addition to normalizing the condition of hearing loss. Joss is a surfer and competitive cheerleader from Southern California.
According to her story, she has congenital hearing loss in her left ear and uses a hearing aid to hear better in her right ear. Out of the box, she comes complete a swimsuit, hoodie, shorts, and a removable hearing aid in her right ear.
Positive role model
Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl says: “We’re proud to welcome Joss Kendrick, whose stories are sure to instill confidence and character in girls who are learning to think about the possibilities in their own lives.”
American Girl collaborated with a team of range of experts to develop Joss, including professional athletes as well as Sharon Pajka, professor of English at Gallaudet University, a private university for the deaf. They also consulted Jennifer Richardson who is an educational audiologist and founder of the Hearing Milestones Foundation.
Not content with providing a role model for a generation of young girls with hearing loss, to celebrate the release of Joss, American Girl has also pledged $25,000 to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to support community education and awareness programs, as well as its 2020 Walk4Hearing campaign.
A wider trend
American girl is not the only one who is hyperaware of the influence that toys have on the mindsets of young children. In fact, the doll maker Barbie is currently working with New York University’s associate professor Andrei Cimpian to finance a two-year doctoral fellowship on this very topic. Although their main focus is on positive female role models in toys, Cimpian’s words also have resonance for young children with hearing loss:
“Children are very sensitive to information in their social environments. As a result, even young children are likely to pick up on cultural stereotypes… These stereotypes can be perpetuated by the media and grown-ups who subtly reinforce them.”
The insidious beliefs that these stereotypes create can build to potentially impact the future path of a child, as well as their career choices. That’s why it is important to have role models like American Girl’s Joss to show that our young people need not be limited by hearing loss.
Hearing loss in children
The arrival of the first doll with hearing loss is a big win for parents of kids with hearing impairments. Around 30 percent of children in the U.S. experience a disability, and hearing loss is the most common of them.
About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States enter the world with hearing loss in one or both ears. For about half of all hearing loss cases, children have inherited it from a parent, who themselves may or may not have hearing loss. Acquired hearing loss can also afflict children and can strike at any point after birth.
The sooner a child develops hearing loss, the more severe the impacts on the development of the child. Likewise, the sooner the issue is detected, the less severe the eventual effect.
There are several ways in which hearing loss affects a child’s development but one of the more insidious is psychological. Children with moderate to profound hearing loss often describe feeling isolated, with no friends, and miserable at school, particularly when their human interaction with other children is restricted.
Cultural markers like Joss can therefore go a long way towards normalizing hearing loss for those without the condition, helping them be more informed and open to their peers. It can also help children with hearing loss foster a sense of self and not define themselves by their condition. It’s a small step, but this surf-loving Southern Californian doll is certainly a step in the right direction.
Desert Valley Audiology
If you think your child may have hearing loss, please feel free to contact us today. Whatever the age, we will accurately assess the hearing ability of your child and evaluate if there is a hearing loss.