Stars with Hearing Loss: 10 Celebrities Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
August 4, 2021 BY KELLY MAHONEY Updated: October 20, 2021
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million people in the United States alone report some degree of hearing loss – almost 20% of our population! Statistically, this means there are quite a few celebrities who identify as deaf or hard of hearing. Take a look at our compilation of 10 celebrities you didn’t realize have hearing loss:
At the age of 51, former President Bill Clinton was fitted with completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids while still in office in 1997. His hearing had progressively worsened throughout his adult life, and he often complained of not being able to hear in crowded rooms. According to the former president’s hearing specialist, his hearing loss is likely the result of Clinton’s age coupled with too much exposure to loud music during the band-playing days of his youth.
2 – Derrick Coleman
Derrick Coleman, Jr. is currently the only Deaf player in the National Football League (NFL), as well as the first Deaf offensive player in NFL history. Born with a genetic abnormality that caused complete hearing loss at 3 years old, Coleman started playing & fell in love with football in 6th grade. Throughout his school years, he fought against the odds in a sport that is traditionally inaccessible to Deaf people and Coleman continued on to play for UCLA. Although he was the last college player to be accepted in the 2012 NFL draft, Coleman became a Superbowl champion 2 years later with the Seattle Seahawks’ 2014 victory. Currently, Coleman is signed with the Arizona Cardinals.
3 – Grimes
In late 2012, at the age of just 24, Canadian electro-pop vocalist, Grimes, was forced to cancel a handful of shows and (ultimately) her entire European tour due to issues with tinnitus & hearing loss. The cancellations were the result of a recommendation the artist avoid loud music to prevent her inner ear problems from progressing, with Grimes even tweeting at the time that her tinnitus was so bad she couldn’t sleep. However, she seems to have since controlled her hearing issues and has resumed touring.
4 – Halle Berry
Halle Berry, the first black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress, lost nearly 80% of her hearing in her left resulting from a blow to the head during a domestic violence incident in a previous abusive relationship. Berry is now an outspoken advocate for raising awareness about domestic violence.
5 – Jane Lynch
Most likely the result of a high fever during infancy, Glee star and comedic actress Jane Lynch has been deaf in her right ear for almost all of her life. Up until the age of 7, she assumed that people just didn’t hear out of their left ear – until one day her brother told her he could hear out of both of his ears!
6 – Marlee Matlin
Marlee Matlin is probably one of the most well-known Deaf celebrities out there, but not everyone may know she is deaf. In 2008, Matlin participated in a season of Dancing with the Stars and said fans sent her hundreds of letters each week about how much they appreciate that she’s opened their eyes to the notion “that Deaf people can do anything except hear.”
7 – Nyle DiMarco
If you just saw him posing in a magazine, you wouldn’t know Nyle DiMarco has been deaf since birth and was born into a large, multigenerational Deaf family. He’s enjoyed a surging career in modeling & acting since his big break as the winner of America’s Next Top Model in 2015, and went on to be the second deaf contestant on Dancing with the Stars after none other than (you guessed it!) Marlee Matlin. Nyle ultimately became the first Deaf person ever to win the competition.
8 – Pete Townshend
Loud rock and roll took a toll on the ears of many, and most especially the musicians on stage. Unsurprisingly, this had a lasting impact on Townshend’s hearing as the lead guitarist for The Who (notoriously one of the loudest bands to play live), leaving him with partial deafness and tinnitus. Keith Moon, The Who’s original (and famously unpredictable) drummer once blew up his drum set with explosives on stage, which did significant damage to Townshend’s hearing.
9 – Stephen Colbert
Emmy-winning late night talk show host & political satirist Stephen Colbert has been deaf in his right ear since his youth. A surgery on his inner-ear when he was in elementary school caused him to lose all hearing on his right side and altered the shape of his ear. Since then, he has made light of his condition and turned his uniquely-shaped ear into a party trick.
10 – William Shatner
William Shatner, famous for his role as Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek in the late 1960s, suffers from tinnitus. He attributes his tinnitus to a small special effects explosion that occurred on the set of Star Trek one day while filming. He works with & has found help through the American Tinnitus Association, and is an advocate for research into finding a cure for the condition.
This blog post was originally published by Patrick Loftus on May 22, 2017 and has since been updated for accuracy, clarity, and freshness.