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Newest American Girl Doll Doesn’t Let Hearing Loss Hold Her Back

Growing up, it can be a very special thing to find a toy that you relate to. That special toy that speaks to who you are. This can be especially true with dolls.
American Girl has long created dolls that reflect the children by whom they are loved. With stories, accessories, clothes, furniture and even physical features that speak to kids and parents alike. American Girl’s newest doll is doing it again, this time with kids with hearing loss in mind.
American Girl dolls
If you have kids in your life, chances are you’ve heard of the company American Girl. The company’s dolls are often a popular choice with backstories that help turn the dolls into almost living and breathing girls and so many options to customize the dolls that each one can become entirely unique. They are so popular that they even have entire stores across the country offering doll designs, salons, doll makeovers, dining and more.
It’s not hard to find a doll that’s seemingly made just for you. Joss Kendrick, the newest addition to the American Girl line, is making that especially true for kids with hearing loss.
Meet Joss Kendrick
In a recent announcement, American Girl introduced Joss Kendrick as the 2020 Girl of the Year. According to the announcement, Joss is “a fierce athlete born with hearing loss and a passion for surfing and competitive cheer.” While American Girl has long offered hearing aids as an accessory for their dolls, Joss is the first doll to include hearing loss as part of her story and identity.
American Girl did not take the creation of this newest character lightly. To create Joss, they teamed up with several experts including:

  • Crystal DaSilva—Women’s Deaf Shortboard champion and winner of national and world titles
  • Sara Jo Moen & Julie Peterson—Owners of Fury Athletics in Madison, WI, a training gym for competitive cheer teams
  • Sharon Pajka, Ph.D.—Professor of English at Gallaudet University and a specialist in portrayals of deaf characters in adolescent literature
  • Jennifer Richardson, Au.D.—Educational audiologist and founder of Hearing Milestones Foundation
  • Bianca Valenti—Professional big wave surfer and co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing

This inspirational new doll, the company believes, will help demonstrate to kids the importance of trying new things and going beyond stereotypes, among other things.
To help bring it all to life, the company is also working with 17-year-old surfer Caroline Marks, who is currently preparing to be part of the first-ever U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team next summer, on the launch of Joss.
“American Girl has a rich legacy of creating timeless characters who encourage girls to reach for new heights and discover who they’re meant to be,” said Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl. “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. Working with Olympic hopeful surfer Caroline Marks adds real-world inspiration about what can happen when you go ‘all in’ on your dreams.”
This newest doll from American Girl is a welcome addition to the line for families with hearing loss, bringing to life a child who doesn’t let hearing impairment hold her back in any way.

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How Hearing Loss in Children Affects School Attendance

Think back to your childhood school days. Did you love going to school, or did you attempt to manufacture excuses that would allow you to stay home from school?
Either way, it is likely that you attended school more days than not. And whether you enjoyed school or not, your early education played a big role in your future educational success and social life, as well as your success in a career.
Recently, researchers in Australia discovered one factor that can cause students to miss more school and thus affect their education: hearing loss. Researchers conducted the study in Northern Territory (NT) of Australia and specifically focused on the Year One school attendance of Aboriginal children.
In the study, researchers compared Year One attendance among Aboriginal children with normal hearing to that of the children with preventable hearing impairment. The study considered both unilateral hearing loss as well as bilateral hearing impairment. More than a third (36.3 percent) of the children surveyed had bilateral hearing loss, while over half (55.1 percent) had either unilateral or bilateral hearing loss.
Researchers found that no matter the type or severity of hearing loss, the children with impaired hearing attended fewer school days than their peers with normal hearing. As noted, this study focused on children with preventable hearing loss. The most common cause of hearing loss among these children is otitis media or an infection of the middle ear.
As part of their conclusions from the study, the researchers suggest “regular surveillance” of the children, both regarding the infection and their hearing ability. They recommend screening for hearing loss, and perhaps infection as well, during early childhood when the children enter preschool and their first year of full-time education. The study particularly recommended these measures for Aboriginal children who live in more remote areas, such as those studied in NT.
While this study was conducted in Australia and focused on the case of Aboriginal children, the findings and conclusions can be applied to children worldwide. Otitis media and other illnesses that result in preventable hearing loss are not isolated to NT. It can also be beneficial for children to be screened for hearing loss in early childhood and in school in order to identify hearing loss at an early stage and provide treatment at the earliest time possible.
By identifying and treating hearing loss, as well as preventing hearing loss when possible, these children will have a greater opportunity for success in school, education, their social lives, and their careers. As the study found that students with normal hearing were less likely to miss school days, they were present for more learning. School sets up a child for success, and even early education is important and formative.
If you believe that your child may be suffering from hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our hearing practice today. We are here to care for you and your family.

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How Hearing Loss Can Change a Child’s Brain

Did you know that approximately 1.4 babies out of every 1000 have hearing loss, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14.9% of children age 6 to 19 years have at least some hearing loss?  Whether it’s due to noise exposure, genetics and injury, or something else, early detection of hearing loss is critical.
Up until now, the focus has been on those children with deafness, but new research indicates that any level of hearing loss can affect a child’s brain and development.
The risk of hearing loss
Hearing loss in children can be a whole different ball game than hearing loss in adults. This is because children’s language and social development are so deeply rooted in hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been shown to impact social interaction and development, delay language and speech, and even leave children struggling academically. Early intervention is critical in avoiding these concerns.
But, do children with mild to moderate hearing loss face the same risks or just those with severe or profound hearing loss?
The research
New research led by Dr. Lorna Halliday, now at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, suggests that any level of hearing loss could lead to changes in how the brain processes sound. This, in turn, could pose developmental risks for the child.
The research team worked with 46 children diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss. An electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to measure their brain responses while they were listening to sounds. Dividing the children into two age groups (8-12 years old and 12-16 years old), researchers compared their results with those of children with normal hearing.
The results were not surprising. Those in the younger age group showed results similar to normal-hearing children their age, but those in the older group showed less response to sounds than those of normal-hearing children their age. The team repeated the test with the younger group several years later, finding consistent results. Their brain responses changed and were less than those of normal-hearing peers.
The team believes this is not due to a change in hearing loss but a change in how the brain works to hear sound with existing hearing loss.
“We know that children’s brains develop in response to exposure to sounds, so it should not be too surprising that even mild-to-moderate levels of hearing loss can lead to changes in the brain,” says Dr. Axelle Calcus, lead author of the paper, from PSL University, Paris. “However, this does suggest that we need to identify these problems at an earlier stage than is currently the case.”
The team believes that findings like these could help change how we diagnose children with hearing loss, and when hearing loss of any level is present, how we can better support them to foster strong language and social development.
If you believe your child has a hearing loss, contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation today.
 
 

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Is the Media’s Portrayal of Hearing Loss Accurate?

“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
Tom Stoppard
Every day we are bombarded with information from the media. World events, politics, human interest stories and more flood our newspapers, televisions, radios, Internet browsers and email boxes. The media tells the stories of the day, and it’s hard to argue that they are top influencers in this day and age.
One of the stories the media has begun to tell more and more often is that of hearing loss. With an estimated 48 million Americans of all ages now reporting trouble hearing, it is a topic that is becoming more and more relevant to audiences. But, is the media’s portrayal of hearing loss accurate?
Researchers recently dug in to find the answer, at least in print media, studying how the media portrays hearing loss. The findings offered insight into how that portrayal affects people with hearing loss and their decisions about their hearing health.  It also highlighted what the information could mean for hearing healthcare providers as they adapt to serve an ever-growing and more educated group of patients better.
Hearing loss in the media
There is no question that the media educates and influences us every day through their stories, but what does that look like when we’re talking about hearing loss and hearing aids?
In a recent study out of Lamar University in Texas, researchers looked at the themes in how newspapers portrayed hearing loss and hearing aids. The team focused on U.S. publications between 1990 and 2017 and how topics around hearing health changed over time.
Researchers found that overall, newspapers “provide a wide and realistic portrayal of hearing loss and hearing aids.” Household name publications such as The Washington Post, U.S. Federal News Service, the Chicago Tribune, Targeted News Service, and the U.S. Federal News Service led the pack on the total number of articles on hearing loss and hearing aids. Several associated topics that came up frequently in the more recent reporting such as “cognitive hearing science” and “signal processing,” surprised the team.
Researchers also noted that between the years of 1990 and 2017, the number of articles on these topics increased. Not surprising considering the rising number of people diagnosed with hearing loss eager for more information.
The implications
These findings aren’t just interesting to consider. They offer hearing healthcare providers valuable information on what consumers with hearing loss may be looking for.  The results can help guide these providers on how to better serve these individuals to diagnose and treat their hearing loss.
Without a doubt, providers have an opportunity to educate people on hearing loss, picking up the conversation where media leaves off. This conversation includes in-depth and usable information on what hearing loss is, how to manage it and the importance of treating it for overall health.
If you believe you have hearing loss and are looking for more information, contact our office to schedule an appointment. We can help you diagnose and treat your hearing loss, discuss hearing aid options and answer your questions.