The first doll I made was a Hearing Aid doll back in 2017 for my youngest daughter, Matilda (Tilly) She had started playing with her older sister’s dollies (much to her annoyance!) so I thought I’d better get her one of her own.
Tilly was born Deaf and has worn hearing aids since she was 6 weeks old. I thought it would be kind of cool if I could buy her a doll with hearing aids just like her, but when I searched online I found nothing. No shops sold them and nobody was making them. This really upset me, because there was nothing out there that represented my little girl, it was like she didn’t matter, she didn’t conform to what society considers “normal” so why bother acknowledging her. These feelings of upset also enraged me at the same time and the Mama Bear inside me just came raging to the surface! I thought I will make her one myself and I did. As you can see from the photo it was a bit rough around the edges! but this little doll had the same hearing aids as Tilly and when Tilly saw her she was just completely enamoured with her.
Shortly afterwards a few of the other Mums I had met through the NDCS asked me if I could make dolls for their children as well and that is how BrightEars was born. The name BrightEars came about because Tilly and I “pimp” her hearing aids with a range funky stickers (from Unicorns to Dinosaurs!) she also has a vast array of retainers (made by me as well) to jazz up her hearing aids. Her hearing aids are purposefully designed to be colourful and noticeable, she essentially has “Bright Ears” They are a part of her and I never want her to be ashamed of them or be made to feel she has to hide them. She is Deaf and Proud.
Over time parents of children with other medical devices/conditions contacted me and asked if I could make a doll that represented their child. Yet again the Mama Bear in me was awoken with rage that there were not any dolls for these children and so I created them with the same amount of love, care and attention that I gave to making my daughters own one.
So as you can see BrightEars grew from one hearing aid doll to a range of inclusive dolls that not only empower children but also promote inclusiveness through play. Bullying often stems from ignorance and knowledge is the power to overcoming this.
BrightEars has and always will be run as a non- profit company (using the word company might be a long stretch as my “office” is the dining table!) because the purpose of BrightEars isn’t to make money but to instead shout loudly that we’re not going to hide away with our “differences” we’re here, we exist, we have the right to be acknowledged and we’re proud!
Clare and Tilly x