MADISON, Wis. — Underneath Barbie’s high pony comes a first: a pair of hot pink hearing aids.

“Yeah, I mean I grew up with Barbie,” education audiologist Dr. Jen Richardson said.

It’s why she was delighted to help the 63-year-old doll maker Mattel diversify Barbie’s design.

“I wanted to just make sure that it was as authentic as possible,” she said about her months’ long effort with the top toy manufacturer.

She said she believes kids with hearing loss deserve representation.

 “I was really excited to hear that. Finally, a Barbie with hearing aids was coming out,” Dr. Richardson’s patient, nine-year-old Addison Anderson said.

Just like this new Barbie, the little girl also needs hearing aids for profound hearing loss. Anderson said she loves the doll’s look.

“This one has hearing aids, brown hair, like a bunch of colors on the dress and not just a plain old Barbie,” Anderson said.

Richardson agreed this Barbie could turn head with her fashion forward hearing aids.

“There’s so many more things even being made now jewelry wise that you can add to your hearing aid and things like that,” Richardson said. “So you know it’s fun to be able to switch it up and try different colors as you’re going through life and trying to decide, you know, what it is that, that you like.”

She said diversifying the doll line was important for Mattel to do.

“Even a child who doesn’t have hearing loss can now see someone who does and realize, ‘Oh, there’s that out there. I didn’t even know it,’ so just the awareness,” Dr. Richardson said.

Adding awareness, what Dr. Richardson did when she partnered in 2020 with Mattel’s sister company, Middleton-based American Girl, for its first doll with hearing loss. She said continuing projects like this matter.

“Everyone has differences. You know, to me, there’s there’s no one that is, you know, truly normal,” Richardson said. “You know, and that’s really what makes us unique, and that’s what I’m really excited about that they’re embracing.”

Those interested can purchase the doll, here

Learn more about Dr. Richardson’s work on the American Girl doll, here.