What would any 6-year-old boy say about being featured in a comic book? “It’s awesome,” said Anthony Smith about being the inspiration for the Marvel superhero “Blue Ear.”
Anthony has been through a winding journey in the quest to help him hear. As part of that journey, Anthony’s mother, Christina D’Allesandro, even helped him become a comic book superhero.
Early on, Anthony realized that other kids his age, and more importantly, superheroes in comic books and on television, didn’t wear “Blue Ears,” the nickname his family gave his hearing device. This made Anthony feel different than other children. His mother, Christina, assured him that superheroes did wear hearing devices too. Although she didn’t know for sure if she could find such superheroes, Christina didn’t stop at just saying they exist.
Christina contacted Marvel and got in touch with editor Bill Rosemann. Rosemann sent Christina and Anthony the cover of a 1980s comic book with the Avenger character Hawkeye wearing a hearing aid. The Marvel team shared Anthony’s story among the staff, and they created a poster of Anthony as a superhero named Blue Ear. Blue Ear helps people who are in trouble thanks to his special listening device.
Marvel then contacted The Children’s Hearing Institute to design a comic to help teach children about hearing loss and why bullying is intolerable, stated Melissa Willis, the institute’s executive director. Anthony’s story and the realization that close to 3% (30 out of every 1,000) of school-aged children experience hearing loss, also led to the creation of a brand new superhero – Sapheara, who has cochlear implants.
“When Anthony became the Blue Ear, he was aided with a BP100 – which he refused to wear. We were desperate to have him wear some amplification so we fought for the Blue Ear (the BTE aid) which he felt was more comfortable. He then wore the Blue Ear regularly and the band not at all. We quickly realized that while the BTE aid helped, he needed more,” Christina said. “That’s when we discovered the Ponto. We changed hospitals in our quest to get access to one, because we knew the challenges of other products and our research led us to believe the Ponto would be better.”
Anthony now wears his Ponto all the time with great results – and, he has inspired children and adults around the world through the persistence of Christina and his lively spirit. Anthony wears his Blue Ear costume and Ponto with pride. In fact, he will soon be wearing his Bone Anchored Hearing System on an abutment rather than a softband. He’ll have surgery to have his abutment placed for a brand new Ponto Plus.
“When we finally got our hands on one [Ponto softband] he wore it for 5 minutes and said, ‘OK lets take it home.’ We were stunned,” Christina said. “Now he wears his Ponto without complaint, and we are proceeding with placing his post next week at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. We fully believe that the Oticon Ponto is the best solution for him and his feedback and his success in school are the best evidence we have of this.”
“Anthony Smith is more than a 6-year-old boy who loves video games and superheroes. He’s an inspiration to thousands of children around the world who, like Anthony, have a hearing impairment. The young boy with a big smile has endured numerous operations. He’s also inspired a division of Marvel Comics to create a new comic book and two hearing-impaired superheroes in recognition of Anthony and his courageous battle with a rare genetic disorder.” –Eagle-Tribune
Thank you for being an inspiration to us all Anthony!