Hearing loss, or hearing impairment, occurs when a person is unable to hear sounds within the normal threshold of 0 – 20 decibels (dB). This condition is known to be ‘disabling’ when the loss is greater than 35 dB, and can be categorised into partial hearing loss or complete deafness.
Throughout history, numerous deaf or hard-of-hearing people have overcome obstacles in their lives, including their hearing disabilities, to achieve remarkable success. Their accomplishments serve as an inspiration to many others, even today!
From athletes to scientists to celebrities, here’s a list of famous deaf and hard-of-hearing people who’ll remind you that anything is possible with hard work, passion, and determination!
- Difference Between Deafness and Hearing Loss
- Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Athletes
- Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Celebrities
- Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Musicians
- Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Politicians
- Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Inventors and Scientists
- Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Dancers
- Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Authors
- How Hearing Aids Can Help People With Hearing Loss
- FAQs About Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing People
Difference Between Deafness and Hearing Loss
- Mild (26 – 40 dB HL)
- Moderate (41 – 55 dB HL)
- Moderately severe (56 – 70 dB HL)
- Severe (71 – 90 dB HL)
- Profound (>91 dB HL)
Some of them have partial (mild to severe) hearing loss while some are deaf (profound). It’s important to note that there’s a difference between the two.
Hearing aids can enhance the quality of life for individuals with mild to severe hearing loss by amplifying the sound waves in the surroundings to make them louder and clearer.
Famous Deaf and Hard of Hearing Athletes
1. Yao Ming
Despite his reduced hearing, he went on to have an illustrious career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and represented the Houston Rockets. He earned 8 All-Star selections and was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He’s an inspiration to many to never give up on their goals no matter the obstacles.
2. Laurentia Tan
Born with cerebral palsy and profound deafness, she took up horse riding at a young age as a form of physiotherapy. This helped her to gain confidence and improve her self-esteem.
She went on to represent Singapore in international competitions, including the Paralympic Games, where she won several medals.
Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Celebrities
3. Millie Bobby Brown
At 8 years old, she was determined to become an actress. Her family even moved to Los Angeles to support her ambition.
4. Halle Berry
However, that didn’t stop her from pursuing her passion for acting. She’s well known for her roles in Catwoman, Monster Ball and the X-Men film series.
5. Ayumi Hamasaki
In 2001, Hamasaki caught a cold that led to an ear infection. Despite warnings from doctors to avoid exposure to loud noises, she continued to hold concert tours. She suffered from tinnitus during one of her rehearsals but didn’t stop to take a break.
In 2017, she took several hearing tests and was informed that the hearing in her right ear was deteriorating. She also frequently experienced dizziness and vomiting because her semicircular canals (tubes located in the inner ear that helps to maintain balance) were damaged.
Despite the challenges faced, Hamasaki hasn’t shown signs of slowing down – she continues to hold concerts and produce new music.
6. Stephen Colbert
As a child, American actor and comedian Stephen Colbert had a tumour in his right ear. To remove it safely, doctors had to remove his eardrum as well. His childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist was shattered because his condition prevented him from engaging in scuba diving.
In 2020, he was diagnosed with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a condition that causes dizziness when the head moves in certain directions. That hasn’t stopped him from going to work and he continues to stay active in the entertainment industry.
Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Musicians
Today, she continues to create and produce music.
8. Eric Clapton
Despite his hearing difficulties (and struggles with nerve damage), Clapton remains active as a musician. He now wears hearing aids and practises good habits to protect his ears while performing. He has also advised others to wear earplugs to protect their ears from loud sounds.
9. Ludwig van Beethoven
When he was 44 years of age, he had become completely hard of hearing. In fact, he had to pass notes in order to converse with others. Despite his deafness, Beethoven continued to compose music and created some of his greatest works like the 9th Symphony.
Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Politicians
10. Ronald Reagan
In 1983, years after the incident, former President Reagan was publicly fitted with a custom hearing aid. This led to a decrease in the negative stigma associated with hearing aids at the time.
11. Bill Clinton
At 51 years old, former President Clinton was fitted with completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids. He took this opportunity to encourage citizens of a similar age to prioritise their hearing health. He also volunteered with his daughter to provide people in Africa with hearing aids.
Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Inventors and Scientists
12. Thomas Edison
Though he developed hearing loss in one ear and deafness in the other at the age of 12, he didn’t let his reduced hearing hinder him. Rather, he considered it a blessing as he could focus on his research and inventions without any distractions.
During his lifetime, he held over 1,000 patents and invented the incandescent light bulb, motion picture camera and alkaline storage battery, among many others.
13. Robert Grant Aitken
Robert Grant Aitken was an American astronomer who made significant contributions to the field of astronomy, particularly in the study of double stars.
As he was frequently sick, Aitken only started school when he was 9 years old. Following a middle ear infection, he became partially deaf. Gradually, his hearing deteriorated and he had to rely on hearing aids and lip reading.
During the time of his career, he discovered more than 3,100 binary stars and was awarded the prestigious Bruce Medal for his work.
14. Tilly Edinger
During her teenage years, she was diagnosed with otosclerosis. She began losing her hearing and had to rely heavily on hearing aids. Regardless of her reduced hearing, she went on to obtain her PhD and worked in the Senckenberg Museum.
She was later forced to flee her country after the Nazis came into power. She settled down in the United States of America (USA) and worked in the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) at Harvard University.
Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Dancers
15. Lin Ching Lan
Time and time again she was told that her hearing impairment made it impossible for her to be a dancer. She refused to give up even when dance schools rejected her.
16. Lark Detweiler
Her life changed after she had a bad fever at 18 months old and lost her hearing. When she was 3 years old, her parents enrolled her in ballet class without realising that she was deaf. But soon, they noticed that her speech abilities were weaker than her younger brother’s and brought her to an audiologist who diagnosed her with profound hearing loss.
Through dancing, she’s also able to tap into her emotions and express them in a way that words often cannot.
17. Shaheem Sanchez
Using his talents, Sanchez aims to show others in the deaf community that they can accomplish any dream despite being unable to hear well.
Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Authors
18. Helen Keller
Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, and the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Harvard University.
Her legacy continues to inspire generations, serving as a reminder that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.
19. Cece Bell
Best known for her autobiographical graphic novel El Deafo, she began writing the book to help individuals improve their understanding of and communication with people who have hearing loss. Her book won the Newbery Honor Award from the American Library Association and is a New York Times best seller.
20. Megan Rix
Rix learnt to cope with hearing loss by using hearing aids and studying sign language. She overcame her listening challenges to become an award-winning and Sunday Times Best Selling Author.
How Hearing Aids Can Benefit People With Hearing Loss
Additionally, negative emotions experienced among caretakers are reduced. This includes frustration and worry, which stem from communication breakdowns and concerns about their loved one’s well-being.
Reduces the risk of dementia
FAQs About Famous Deaf and Hard-of-hearing People
When is Deaf Awareness Month?
Has a deaf person won an Oscar?
Has there been a deaf Olympian?
- Diksha Dagar: Olympics
Born with profound hearing loss, Diksha Dagar is a golf player who represented India in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She has also participated in the Deaflympics, where she won 2 medals.
- Becca Meyers: Paralympics
Becca Meyers is a Paralympic swimmer representing the USA and a multiple world record holder. Due to Usher syndrome, she’s both deaf and blind. Yet, she has gone on to win numerous medals in the Paralympics and World Championships!