Earlier this year, popular children’s brand American Girl released their 2020 Doll of the Year. Joss is a cheerleader, a surfer, and she wears a hearing aid. Joss wears a hearing aid in her right ear because she was born with a unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear). The doll comes wearing a hearing aid, and her hair is styled back so that you can see her hearing aid.
American Girl is helping children who have hearing loss to see themselves represented in dolls and books. Joss’ hearing loss, and how she overcomes challenges associated with her hearing loss are a part of her stories. She wears a colorful blue hearing aid. Fun colors are very popular with children, and picking a color gives them ownership and choice in a situation where they lose some control. Joss’s story is told to highlight character traits outlined by American Girl: Free Thinking, Dedication, Respect, and Teamwork.
Joss comes with a hearing aid (and a backup in case one gets lost). Little details do show that American Girl did their research. They consulted with a professor from Gallaudet University and an Audiologist (as well as a surfer and cheerleading coach) to develop Joss’s story and make sure that it would be realistic. She has to take her hearing aids off in the water, just like everyone else does!
American Girl has made a donation to Hearing Loss Association of America, an association that advocates for people with hearing loss. They are also encouraging shoppers to add donations to HLAA during the year of Joss, 2020.
Someone you know may enjoy watching Joss videos, reading books about her, or even owning the doll. Prior to Joss’s introduction, American Girl sold hearing aids to fit on their other dolls, and they continue to offer that option. You can find other popular toys with a hearing aid option such as Build a Bear. Many children who get new hearing aids at Constance Brown Hearing Centers are able to take home a new plush toy that wears hearing aids. All of these are fun for children with hearing loss and could help any child be ready to encounter hearing aids on their peers or others in their family or community.
By Rachel Clayton, M.A., CCC-A, CBHC Audiologist