Mattel, maker of Barbie, has unveiled its first doll that uses hearing aids so that more children can “see themselves reflected in the product,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.
The doll is part of the toy company’s diverse 2022 Fashionistas line, and will be available to the public beginning in June.
The Barbie doll, first unveiled in March 1959, now comes in more than 175 looks, or styles, featuring different body types, skin tones, hairstyles and textures, and disabilities.
Other dolls in the new Fashionistas collection include a Ken doll with vitiligo, a condition in which the skin loses its pigment cells, causing it to appear blotchy. The line also includes a doll with a prosthetic leg, a Barbie who uses a wheelchair, and male dolls that are less muscular than the original Ken doll.
The new batch of dolls is the company’s “most diverse and inclusive yet,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
“It’s important for kids to see themselves reflected in the product and to encourage play with dolls that don’t resemble them to help them understand and celebrate the importance of inclusion,” said Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s global head of Barbie Dolls.
Mattel consulted with medical experts to ensure it accurately represented the doll’s behind-the-ear hearing devices.
It enlisted support from Dr. Jen Richardson, an expert in the field of educational audiology.
“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,” Richardson said. “I’m beyond thrilled for my young patients to see and play with a doll who looks like them.”
In 2021, Barbie debuted a doll in the likeness of one of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine creators, Professor Sarah Gilbert.