Everyone needs a superhero – someone you makes you believe that you can be who you want to be. Until recently, most superheroes were male. I remember when Wonder Woman came out. Every girl I knew felt stronger. On Halloween, lots of girls dressed as Wonder Woman. While this was a big step forward for girls, there were still no superheroes who were disabled. Slowly, this too changed.
Two years ago, in response to a request from the mother of a little boy with hearing loss who refused to wear his hearing aids because “superheroes don’t wear hearing aids,” Marvel Comics Custom Solutions created a new superhero, Blue Ear. He was a little boy who wore hearing aids and with them he could “hear someone in trouble.” This little boy and others like him took this superhero to school and helped educate others about hearing loss.
On October 8, 2014, Marvel Comics, in collaboration with the Children’s Hearing Institute, released a new comic. Sound Effects, in which Comic Avenger Iron Man helps change the world with the assistance of Blue Ear and a new character, Sapheara, a young girl superhero who wears cochlear implants. The three work to save New York City and deal with critical issues facing children today, including awareness of hearing loss, prevention of hearing loss, and bullying.
Sound Effects portrays the hearing loss heroes in a very positive light. Sapheara visits a laboratory with her father where research is going on to use sound to fight enemies. The power goes off, but Sapheara’s cochlear implants allow her to hear. She had her father go to a fundraising event to raise money for the research and Sapheara asks the speaker to use the FM microphone. Some kids at an adjacent table try and bully Sapheara, but she can ignore it. The bullies get kidnapped by the bad guys, and the Superhero trio save the day. Sapheara says “I’ve never needed superpowers to know that being different is what makes me special.” Spoken like a true hero.
The Children’s Hearing Institute develop a teacher’s manual to go with the comic to teach about hearing loss. The curriculum of the guide relates to the common core standards. Topics include:
- Communicating with people with hearing loss in noisy environments
- Facts about hearing loss and hearing aids.
- Discussion about how to help a student with hearing loss in your class using Sapheara as an example
- Downloading a sound level meter app to measure sounds around us
- How the ear works
The Value of This Curriculum
This curriculum provides an opportunity to discuss hearing loss openly. It should provide an opportunity for all children to recognize this disability and to understand how they can communicate better with people with hearing loss and help peers with hearing loss manage better in school. It gives children with hearing loss a way to make their classmates understand more about their disability without calling attention to themselves. We can only hope that this contributes to a reduction in bullying for children with disabilities.