The decision to give Barbie hearing aids is a long time coming. Other dolls have come and gone depending on the whims of the marketplace and the natural organic growth of the toy industry. However, Mattel has adapted to the times and has remained sensitive to both the needs and wishes of its intended audience. They have done this while opening new avenues of change and self-expression within the industry.
Indeed, since her creation, Barbie has had over 200 inspirational careers. These include a journalist, firefighter, entrepreneur, and pilot. She was even an astronaut, blasting into space four years before the moon landing.
Recent years have seen new Barbies — as part of the Fashionista line — reflecting a truer version of our societal beauty of diversity. In 2019, a blonde, blue-eyed Barbie in a wheelchair was released, along with a brunette doll with a prosthetic leg. In 2020, a Black Barbie with vitiligo was introduced into the line. It was one of the top five Fashionistas best sellers in the U.S. that year, according to Mattel. Now there’s a Ken doll with vitiligo. A Black doll with an afro hairstyle released in 2021 became one of the top five most popular models worldwide.
And now the Fashionistas line has expanded to reflect more disabilities, thanks to Barbie and her hearing aids.
“Barbie wholeheartedly believes in the power of representation, and as the most diverse doll line on the market, we are committed to continuing to introduce dolls featuring a range of skin tones, body types and disabilities to reflect the diversity kids see in the world around them,” Lisa McNight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel, said in a press release. “It’s important for kids to see themselves reflected in product and to encourage play with dolls that don’t resemble them to help them understand and celebrate the importance of inclusion.”
“Barbie wholeheartedly believes in the power of representation.”
The idea of creating a version of the iconic doll where Barbie has hearing aids was no whim. The company consulted a leading audiologist on the idea and execution. “I’m honored to have worked with Barbie to create an accurate reflection of a doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids,” said Dr. Jen Richardson in the Mattel press release. “As an educational audiologist with over 18 years of experience working in hearing loss advocacy, it’s inspiring to see those who experience hearing loss reflected in a doll. I’m beyond thrilled for my young patients to see and play with a doll who looks like them.”
So Mattel has done it again. Barbie finally has hearing aids. The doll will never be the same for all of those children with hearing loss who seek a doll that looks like them.
Look for the Barbie with hearing aids at Walmart, Target, and Amazon in June.