Thursday, December 20, 2012

American Girl Dolls get Hearing Aids - at Last!

My first introduction to American Girl Dolls came over 15 years ago. Back then there were just five dolls: Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly. No American Girl of Today, no Best Friends, no tie in books, no self-help books, no magazine. Just those original five dolls and their books in a well-loved catalog. Because of my strong Swedish heritage, my first doll was Kirsten and I absolutely adored her. Later on Felicity and Josefina would join her, as would one American Girl of Today doll. Like most girls of that time, I picked out the "Today" doll that looked most like me (and there were not nearly as many options back then!). Brown hair, blue eyes... and a pair of glasses. She was totally me.

Except she didn't have hearing aids.

By the time I got my "Elizabeth" doll, I'd been wearing hearing aids for about five years, and knew I would wear them for the rest of my life. Although I lived in the hearing community, my deafness was never very far from our minds. One year for Halloween we even carved my pumpkin with hearing aids! So, understandably, I was sad that I couldn't have aids for my doll.

If you've never looked closely at an American Girl Doll's ears, you're going to have to take my word for it that there is no way to easily make an aid that will sit on the ear... there just isn't enough 'lip' on the lobe or 'depth' in the ear canal to keep it on, especially as played with by a child. So even though I've always wanted aids, I understood that there was not an 'easy fix.'

Imagine my delight and surprise when this appeared in my facebook page yesterday!

You have to send your doll in to receive a special piercing behind her earlobe to hold the aid on. This doesn't surprise me in the least, and I'm thrilled that girls today will have the option of getting an aid (or two) for their dolls! I do hope they offer more colors, however, as I'm sure there are many girls that would prefer blue, purple or green! (I'd go ahead and get them myself if they came in a skin color). 

I've always been impressed by AG's doll hospital, which is a must when a single doll costs over $100. They do truly mean for their dolls to be heirloom keepsakes after a childhood of hard play and have gone through a lot of work to make this feasible. My three dolls (Kirsten became my sister's - long story) still are displayed in my room, and once in a while I'll still make new clothes for them (Felicity became Jean Grey this year).

Anyhow, long story short, I am delighted by this new option, as well as another new disability sensitive offering - dolls without hair

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree there's something magical about these dolls, but the company is as exploitative as any other. Just like the AG earrings, the hearing aids are placed by a drilling process that makes them both steady and removable. Imagine the gasps from my 5-year-old with special needs, who also wears behind-the-ear units and happened to spot a doll wearing them in an (unrequested) catalog. Unfortunately, the little pink hearing aids are only sold with AG dolls, even though the AG earrings are sold separately right in the store. This means that a parent can install AG earrings on any (affordable) 18" or similar doll, but no luck on the hearing aids. Many families - and those who pay for disability services especially - can't afford $120 for a doll with hearing aids. What's more, the AG dolls are recommended for ages 8+, so I was hardly inclined to buy one for a younger child with physical modulation problems (read: destructive tendencies). No matter how much I pleaded with various AG employees and explained the absurdity of selling earrings separately while denying an analogous but much more meaningful product to thousands of children with disabilities, they refused to help. I think the company realizes full well the desperation of special-needs parents to make their children feel like they fit in, and they capitalize on it. Selling every single other accessory except the hearing aids separately is just crass.