Marvel Tries, but Fails Again


This really falls into the category of “Their Heart is in the Right Place, but They’re Just Missing the Point.” Back in 2012, Marvel developed a Super Hero named “The Blue Ear” who was an individual with a hearing loss, but he overcame the “disability” to fight evil by relying on his listening device, which helped him to hear when someone was in trouble. This was a cool story, and here’s why: It was done in response to a parent contacting Marvel about their 4-year-old son who would not wear his hearing aids. The Blue Ear was created just for that little boy, and that is awesome. Along with everyone’s new favorite superhero, The Blue Ear, there have been many technological advancements that can now help people who suffer from hearing loss to feel better and have the opportunity to live their life to the full. Some of these advancements in technology have included making phones for hearing impaired people so they are able to make any necessary calls with near to no trouble at all. Additionally, there is also the emergence of HIFI systems and amplifiers that could benefit someone struggling to hear. These devices help the sound to be much louder, hopefully helping the hearing impaired to hear more films, music, and TV. Those hard of hearing shouldn’t be deprived of this sort of entertainment, so it might be worth them visiting Https://, for example, to get their hands on an amplifier. Hopefully, The Blue Ear can continue to bring happiness to those who suffer from the same impairment, as it may help them with their confidence.

Now, in 2014, Marvel is again encouraging children with a hearing loss to take good care of their hearing equipment with a brand new heroine, Sapheara. The idea for Sapheara was developed by a doctor in New York as a way to aid and encourage kids with hearing loss to “receive the evaluations and care they need to lead active and engaged lives.” On the surface, everything about this story just warms the heart. Then why am I writing an article with such a negative title about it?

First of all, this will only encourage children to take good care of their hearing equipment. But what about the children who can’t afford it in the first place? If you aren’t aware of the cost of this sort of equipment, just take a look online – I bet you will be shocked. I’m not saying that Marvel should be covering the cost of all hearing equipment from hereon in, but surely there is something else that they could be doing to stop many people who are hard of hearing ending up relying on crowdfunding to cover the costs of their equipment?

Secondly, the article I quoted above and have a link to, is just wrong. I tried to find other articles that were better, but I couldn’t find any. In our efforts to continually be politically correct all the time, we end up thinking we are using the right terms, but in reality, we have chosen terms that are more offensive to the people they represent. Hearing disabled is absolutely wrong. Would you call someone who utilizes a wheelchair “walking disabled”? Or someone with dyslexia “reading disabled”? I thought the whole idea nowadays was to focus more on what people can do, than what they can’t. Yet this article with over 100,000 reads uses the term hearing disabled, and people think it is ok. Other articles I found on the web used the term as well. Not the right term. Also, Hearing-impaired is not the preferred term either. If you conversed with an individual who was deaf or hard of hearing, they would tell you they do not like the term Hearing Impaired. It was a term developed by hearing people to label those who cannot hear. If you are wondering what the right terms are, let me tell you. Deaf, Hard of Hearing are appropriate. If you want to discuss someone’s “hearing disability”, you could refer to it as their hearing loss. When I read terms like these in an article, I know it is pandering to folks who just don’t know better, and surprise, it is pushing the idea that hearing loss needs to be fixed with the miracle cure that is cochlear implants.

Full disclosure here, this obviously hits close to home for me. I have 3 children who are deaf or hard of hearing. If it seems like I am getting a little fired up, please understand where I am coming from. If you feel like I am way off base, that is your opinion. You have not walked in my shoes, and I’ve never even smelled yours.

So all of that has to do with the article written about the comic, which was not written by Marvel, so my beef is not with them, you might think, and if that was my only beef, then you would be right. Again, please remember, I do recognize that Marvel had their heart in the right place, I just want to help people to understand another side here. My big issue is with the heroine herself. Sapheara. She has bilateral cochlear implants. This means she has had a surgery done where a device is implanted on both sides of her head, that, with the help of exterior equipment, helps her to hear. With a cochlear implant, sound waves are turned into a digital signal and transmitted to the device which then turns those digital signals into pulses along a coil with multiple electrodes that stimulates the cochlea creating sound. That is my basic understanding, I am not a doctor or audiologist, so the technical stuff may be off. Many medical professionals and audiologists look at cochlear implants as a “cure” for hearing loss. They believe that with an implant and lots of hard work, a child can learn to speak and listen just like a child with no hearing loss. The truth is, they are right. There are plenty of examples of that happening. Kids with a hearing loss growing up totally oral. Well, I mean they are partially right.

Fuller disclosure: Two of my kids have cochlear implants. My oldest has a unilateral implant on his right side. My second oldest has bilateral implants. Please understand, I am no expert on everyone’s experience with cochlear implants and growing up deaf, but I have a little experience here.

The full truth is this: There is no cure for deafness because deafness is not a disease. It doesn’t need to be fixed. I had a real issue with the doctor’s comments, his name was Doctor Ronald Hoffman of the Ear Institute at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at the Mount Sinai Hospital. His quote from above talks about kids with a hearing loss coming and getting the evaluations and treatment they need to lead full and active lives. This is the line that the medical world will sell parents of deaf children, and what they are trying to sell deaf children through these fantastic comics. They are trying to tell them that in order for a deaf child to have full and productive life, they need to have hearing aids or cochlear implants, they need to be oral (meaning they learn to communicate with their mouths. You and I call it talking), and they need to blend in and be as “normal” as possible. They will point to statistics that say that deaf children never make it past 4th grade reading level. If they learn to use only sign language, they will be cut off from the rest of the world. They will never be successful in life, either on a professional or personal level. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it. Again, there are examples of kids who have grown up this way and have been super successful. There are also examples of kids who grew up this way and are not.

Fullest Disclosure: My kids who are deaf or hard of hearing use American Sign Language as their primary mode of communication. My oldest doesn’t vocalize much. He is learning to vocalize more and more, but you should see the way he signs. It is a thing of beauty, and he has not trouble expressing himself. He wants to be an actor when he grows up. Or maybe a chef. My second oldest signs almost as beautifully as her older brother, but she also vocalizes, and talks a lot. She wakes up in the morning on some days and starts talking right away, and doesn’t shut up until she is asleep again that night. My second youngest only signs. She is a master of the facial expressions. The whole meaning of her sentence, question or whatever is all in her face.

The Deaf Community, meaning individuals who are deaf and use ASL as their main mode of communication, is a proud community. They have been through persecutions and struggles and continue to go through them. One of the toughest is when hearing people think they are less capable than hearing people simply because they can’t hear. A deaf person can do anything a hearing person can do, except hear. Where is Marvel’s representation of that, for the kids who use ASL, and don’t rely solely on their cochlear implant or hearing aid? A hero who is not super despite his lack of hearing, but because of it. Someone like Daredevil, only deaf instead of blind. He sees things differently, but that is what makes him special, what makes him stand out. I feel like the heroes represented here as the Blue Ear and Sapheara are hard of hearing as gimmick. I get that that is the whole point, but don’t the deaf and hard of hearing kids deserve a hero who is just like them, able to hang with the Avengers or the X-Men, do what ever they do, they just can’t hear. Think of the depth a character like that could have, if done right, and how awesome would that be for a little kids to read about that. They’re not trying to fit in or sell a hearing aid or cochlear implant, they are different, and proud, and that is part of where they get their strength. In our local community here, they call it a Deaf Identity. A way for a kid to be proud of who they are, instead of just focusing on what they aren’t. Again, Marvel has their heart in the right place, I just wish they would present the other side. The people who are deaf and not solely reliant on their hearing devices to perform their super hero duties. A hero or heroine who doesn’t have the word “Ear” in their name (believe it or not, deaf people are not particularly obsessed with ears). I would read that, and it would do a lot to bridge the gap of understanding between the hearing world and the deaf world, if done right. I think Marvel could do it, if anyone can, but this one shot isn’t it, and it’s not as awesome as some might think. That’s my two cents anyway, take it or leave it.

Jake Dietz
Jake Dietz is a humble bank employee by day, and super dad to 5 little monsters by night. He enjoys all things geeky. That's why he started this blog. He considers himself a member of many fandoms, and dreams of the day when all geeks, everywhere, can find a way to live together in harmony.