We all know how important it is for children to be able to read, see, and hear media with characters who not only look like themselves, but also show a positive depiction of diversity. For our audiology patients, it can be hard to find popular culture that includes children with hearing loss. One of the most asked questions by parents in our clinic is for book or movie recommendations that depict hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other assistive listening devices to show their children.
While not a comprehensive list, here are some positive media recommendations you can suggest to your pediatric patients and their families:
- Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing! by Ruth Spiro (0-2 years)
This board book shows the mechanisms of hearing in a way a young child can understand. It also depicts children with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and sign language users.
- Gracie’s Ears by Debbie Blackington (3-5 years)
Told in rhyme, this story is based on a real little girl’s journey of hearing loss diagnosis to living with her new hearing aids.
- Let’s Hear It for Almigal by Wendy Kupfer (5-7 years)
A fun, colorful picture book about a little girl with pink cochlear implants who wants to hear “every single sound in the universe.”
- El Deafo by Cece Bell (8-12 years)
A favorite among parents, El Deafo is a graphic novel/memoir of a deaf childhood (Newbery Honor 2015, Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids 2015) and features a protagonist who utilizes a body-aid.
- Wonder by R. J. Palacio (8-12 years)
A little boy with Treacher Collins syndrome navigates school, family, and friends. The main character, Auggie, is hard of hearing and two chapters of the book (“Lobot” and “Hearing Brightly”) deal with him failing a hearing screening and getting hearing aids from his audiologist. Note: When Wonder was adapted into a feature film in 2017, the filmmakers chose not to incorporate Auggie’s hearing loss into the plot.
- Diary of a Hard of Hearing Kid by Isaiah John Baier (8-12 years)
A hilarious memoir written by 11-year-old Isaiah, who wears a hearing aid on one ear and a cochlear implant on the other after losing his hearing as a baby due to meningitis.
- Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (YA Reader)
Two children in separate time periods (1927 and 1977) are deaf but use different methods to communicate. Ben’s story (speech) is told in words, while Rose’s (ASL) is told in pictures. This book won the Schneider Family Book Award in 2012 and was made into a film in 2017.
And Coming Soon…
- A Sound Adventure by Dr. Jocelyn Tubbs, AuD (3-5 years)
You may have seen this project presented at last year’s AAA Conference. Written by one of our own and available now for pre-order is a story that helps children learn about how sound travels through the ear by following music notes.
- Iron Man: Sound Effects #1 (2014) by Marvel Comics (8-11 years)
This comic was created in partnership with the Children’s Hearing Institute, and features “Sapheara”, a superhero with bilateral pink cochlear implants, and “Blue Ear”, a superhero with blue hearing aids. Unfortunately, this is the only appearance of these two heroes. Read about how Blue Ear was created for a deaf boy named Anthony Smith here.
- Hawkeye #19-22 (2012) by Marvel Comics (YA Reader)
The superhero Hawkeye, who has been hard of hearing since childhood, is suddenly deafened after an injury. He and his brother communicate in sign language. Note: While Hawkeye has been seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the “Avengers” movies, the filmmakers chose not to incorporate his hearing loss into his appearances.
Movies & TV
- The Silent Child (20 minutes)
A short film about a deaf child born into a hearing family and her journey learning British-Sign-Language (BSL) and communicating with her loved ones. The film won an Academy Award for “Best Live Action Short” in 2018.
- Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Rated G)
As the final installment in the popular “Spy Kids” franchise, the original child actors have been re-cast and one of the new protagonists has visible hearing aids. The siblings also sign to one another in ASL during one scene when a villain removes the brother’s hearing aids.
- See What I’m Saying (English Subtitled) (Rated PG-13)
This award-winning documentary follows four Deaf entertainers – an actor, comic, drummer and singer – over the course of one year of performances. An interesting look into the Deaf community and the spectrum of communication.
- The Hammer (Rated PG-13)
Based on the true story of Matt Hamill, the first deaf wrestler to win a National Wrestling Championship. Russell Harvard, a deaf actor, plays Hamill in the film. Note: For patients interested in sports, Derrick Coleman – former fullback for the Seattle Seahawks and first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL – was featured in a short commercial for Duracell batteries that narrates his journey as a deaf football player. Read how it led two sisters with hearing aids to the Superbowl here.
- A Quiet Place (Rated PG-13)
A horror film released in 2018 in which the family utilizes sign language as a “survival tactic” and features deaf actress Millicent Simmonds as the daughter with a cochlear implant.
Switched at Birth (TV Series on ABC Family)
This drama revolves around two teenage girls who were switched at birth and grew up in very different environments. One of the girls is deaf due to contracting meningitis as an infant, played by a hard-of-hearing actress. According to ABC Family, it is “the first mainstream television series to have multiple deaf and hard-of-hearing series regulars and scenes shot entirely in American Sign Language.”
It’s an amazing moment when our patients can see people like themselves in stories, and media is one of the many ways family and friends can also better understand deafness and hearing loss. Find a few books or movies that you would personally recommend and keep them on hand for when our pediatric patients need a superHEARo for inspiration!
Kendall Carroll is a second-year audiology student at Vanderbilt University. She is serving as the SAA State Ambassador for Tennessee, in addition to being Fundraising Chair of her local SAA chapter. Kendall’s audiology interests include cochlear implantation, pediatric early identification and intervention, and newborn hearing screening protocols.
Bell C. (2014) El Deafo. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/El-Deafo-Cece-Bell/dp/1419712179 (accessed February 18, 2020).
Dimension Films. (2011) Spy Kids 4 (11/11) Movie CLIP – Hammer Hands and Jet Packs (2011) HD. Dimension Films. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCbte6Zhaqc (accessed February 18, 2020).
Fifth year Productions. (2012) The Hammer. Arc Entertainment. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Hammer-Russell-Harvard/dp/B005TTEFXK (accessed February 18, 2020).
Fraction M, Aja D. (2014) Rio Bravo: Hawkeye #19. Marvel Comics.
Freeform. (2020) Switched at Birth. Freeform. https://freeform.go.com/shows/switched-at-birth (accessed February 18, 2020).
Kupfer W. (2012) Let’s Hear It for Almigal. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Lets-Hear-Almigal-Wendy-Kupfer/dp/0983829403/ (accessed February 18, 2020).
Selznick B. (2011) Wonderstruck. Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Wonderstruck-Schneider-Family-Book-Award/dp/0545027896 (accessed February 18, 2020).
Stevens T. (2014) Iron Man Introduces Blue Ear. How’s Your Hearing? Marvel Comics. https://www.marvel.com/articles/comics/iron-man-introduces-blue-ear (accessed February 18, 2020).
Tubbs J. (2020) A Sound Adventure. Jocelyn Tubbs, AuD. https://www.docjocaud.com/asa-book (accessed February 18, 2020).
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