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Hearing Aids A Nice Fit for American Girl

July 17 2012 | by

American Girl doll with a hearing aid

American Girl has taken a courageous step towards diversity with the launch of dolls with hearing aids, well as dolls without hair, signaling to the disability community that little girls who are differently-abled are important enough to have their own personalized doll experience.

Any 18-inch My American Girl doll can be fitted with one or two hearing aids to make her hard of hearing or deaf, whichever her owner desires. All it takes is a visit to the doll hospital, where a doctor will perform a permanent piercing behind one or both ears for a $14 fee. New dolls also can be ordered with hearing aids already installed. The hearing aids are removable and sell at all American Girl stores, and online, for $14 each.

The company also released an adorable service dog-in-training set for dolls who are blind or in need of assistance. The dog, Chocolate Chip, wears a service vest with a handle that a girl’s doll can hold. The set comes with a selection of faux treats, and costs $34. Chocolate Chip is receiving strong feedback from customers. On the American Girl website, a service dog handler says “the harness handle is the right length and the pockets of the vest are a nice touch.”

American Girl isn’t the first doll maker of its kind to cater to tween girls with disabilities. MyTwinn has long offered its dolls with removable hearing aids, and an online company named Sew Dolling has created Sew-Able, a line of Special Needs Dolls with a variety of impairments and disabilities. Sew-Able dolls have attachable above- and below-the-knee prosthetics, bald heads that come with wigs and hats to represent chemotherapy treatments, and dolls with walking braces, which are more realistic than crutches for kids with mobility impairments.

Dolls without hair are another customization American Girl now offers, making the doll-owning experience even more special for girls who have cancer or alopecia. The dolls must be ordered by phone, and can have light, medium, or dark skin tone. You can also choose your doll’s eye color. Alternatively, a new head without hair can be created on your current doll, for a $44 fee, at the doll hospital.

As a bonus, “American Girl will offer one free doll head replacement should a girl’s need for a doll without hair ever change,” says Julie Parks, Director of Public Relations for American Girl, “because we know that not all hair loss conditions are permanent.” A new free head is a nice touch, and shows that American Girl is being sensitive to the needs of kids with disabilities. If a child’s life or hair situation changes, so should their doll’s.

Indeed, American Girl wants to make its dolls attractive to a larger number of girls. Each doll costs $105, but the company also makes money from sales of its accessories and visits to the doll hospital and hair salon. Mattel, which purchased the Middleton, Wis., company in 1998, recorded American Girl sales of $510.9 million last year and is jockeying for little girls’ hearts after Walt Disney Co. (Disney Princess) and MGA Entertainment (Moxie Girlz) entered the life-like doll market at lower price points.

American Girl first ventured into disability-themed doll accessories in 1997 by experimenting with a wheelchair accessory, which is still sold in stores. It branched out into dolls with temporary injuries and less visible disabilities. They also sell eyeglasses and orthodontics kits. The company’s big breakout this year is McKenna, the American Girl of the Year, who struggles with reading comprehension, or dyslexia. A gymnast, McKenna broke her leg at a gymnastics meet and — no surprise — McKenna’s cast and crutches set are a popular buy for $30.

As for 2013, the doll world is lit up with wonder about the next American Girl of the Year, known as GOTY. On Doll Diaries, a website for tween girls, a reviewer named Lauren says GOTY should have a behavioral disorder, like autism. “I think high-functioning autism would be the best one they can choose, because people with high-functioning autism (like me) tend to be VERY smart…Did you know that Bill Gates has this form of autism? That — and I REALLY want an autistic American Girl doll like me.”

With American Girl looking for ways to include more girls, Lauren may get her wish. The new 2013 GOTY doll will be announced at the end of the year. Until then, to order a new doll with a hearing aid or without hair, contact American Girl’s contact center at (800) 628-5145.

  • Mooncalfster

    Just to nit pick – Autism isn’t a mental ‘disorder’, but a neurological one. And way harder to represent than the others chosen thus far.

  • Hurleywil1

    my little girl loves the doll with hearing aids like hers,but can’t afford one.wish they were more affordable

  • Jmp

    My daughter loves the American Girl doll and as her mother who I am hard of hearing is proud to see “real girls” with disablities such as wearing glasses, girls with no hair etc. Thank you!

  • Dougnutfun

    i read that the new 2013 goty will be artsy and have brown hair medium skin and freckles

  • Jo Walter05

    Autism isn’t a “mental” disorder, it’s a neurologically based learning disability. It would be very difficult to portray a doll this way since Autism often presents without an physical symptoms other than the stimming the child or adult exhibits. Any doll could have Autism. The difference is in the story of the dolls. Their life stories are what solidify their disability and make the girl relate to their dolls. I would love it if they had an autistic doll, as I’m sure my daughter would love to have a doll like her, smart, but social awkward with sensory issues. A book about a girl like that would help a lot of little girls as they are seriously under-diagnosed compared to their male peers.

  • Suzanne Robitaille

    Hi Jo,

    That was an error on my part and I fixed it. Thanks for flagging. I do know that autism isn’t a mental disorder and that it would be hard to portray a doll with autism. Like you say, Lauren is talking about the life story of the doll — each Girl of the Year has a unique life story and that’s how it would allow a doll to “show” a behavioral condition. I also know that American Girl magazine featured a girl with autism in 2011, which the company says was very well-received, and in their Oct/Nov issue this year, they will feature a girl with Down syndrome. Thanks for reading!

  • Vanessa

    You said absolutely everything I was trying to form into a comment!

  • SuzanneRobitaille

    Hi Jo,

    That was an error on my part and I fixed it. Thanks for flagging. I do know that autism isn’t a mental disorder and that it would be hard to portray a doll with autism. Like you say, Lauren is talking about the life story of the doll — each Girl of the Year has a unique life story and that’s how it would allow a doll to “show” a behavioral condition. I also know that American Girl magazine featured a girl with autism in 2011, which the company says was very well-received, and in their Oct/Nov issue this year, they will feature a girl with Down syndrome. Thanks for reading!

  • Ritak256-I8ab2

    A bald American Girl Doll would be the perfect gift to give any girl who is suffering with hair loss, whether due to cancer or alopecia, or for whatever reason. I wonder if Mattel will follow suite and start producing dolls with LESS than perfect bodies/features? It would be nice if companies that produce toys for children would address the needs of those children are are not your “average” consumer. Thank you, American Girl!

  • Debbie

    Thank you so much for sharing about the American Girl doll with hearing aids. I speak and teach communication skills with a special focus on those with hearing loss and still active in the workplace. It still amazes me how many people think hearing loss is only a “senior” condition. The next generation will be better informed thanks to education efforts like this.

  • http://www.nathangluckhearingcare.co.uk/ hearing aids Hertfordshire

    Hearing aid technology is constantly evolving, such as the use of directional microphones, to help you better understand speech in noisy environments. Hearing aid is made for customers with a medium level of hearing disability. In case of a severe hearing damage one could order the PLUG which contents a more powerful system. Hearing aids that are in-the-canal and custom molded, fitting party in a person’s ear canal yet not as deeply as a completely in-the-canal hearing aid, can improve mild to moderate hearing loss in an adult.

  • Leximcduffins

    So cool, thanks american girl!

  • http://healthbenefitsoff.com/ Health Benefits of

    I love american dolls and enjoy this article. thanks a lot for such a nice and useful article.

  • Regan

    They should make a doll that has epilepsy

  • Sherean

    I think the doll accessories are cute… but they might offend some people in some ways.

  • CarlyRaeJepsenFan

    Yes… have you seen her yet?

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