Having hearing loss makes a lot of things difficult for many people. However, there are some amazing athletes who have made it all the way to the big leagues by not letting their hearing loss hold them back. Many are enhancing the sports they are in as well – after all, it was a deaf football player who invented the modern huddle way back in 1894, as the story goes.
One of the most well-known professional athletes with hearing loss today is Derrick Coleman, who played college football at UCLA before being signed to the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 as a fullback. Coleman began to lose his hearing when he was three years old, though no one really knew why. He’s not completely deaf, but he uses hearing aids. To keep them in his ears on the field, Coleman wears two skullcaps, and he always checks or changes his hearing aid batteries before a game.
In a recent Seattle Times interview, Coleman was nonchalant about his hearing loss, and said it can even be a benefit on the field many times:
“I don’t ever use it as an excuse,” Coleman said. “When it gets loud I feel like I have the advantage. I can tune that out.”
Growing up with hearing loss has allowed Coleman to become an expert speechreader, which he uses both on and off the field. In a 2012 Scout.com article, Coleman said that his hearing loss doesn’t make things much more difficult for him or his teammates and coaches:
“It doesn’t affect me that much anymore,” he said. “I sat down with the coaches and players in the quarterback room and let them know, ‘Whenever we change the play, you already say it twice, just turn around one time and say it one more time. It don’t hurt nobody.'”
Coach Sherman Smith told the Times that he often forgets about Coleman’s hearing loss and doesn’t have to make many adjustments to accommodate him.
Other athletes with hearing loss
Coleman is only the third in the NFL to be deaf or hard of hearing. Other sports have recently seen a few athletes with hearing loss, including:
- Lance Allred, a one-time Cleveland Cavaliers NBA player who is currently playing in professional leagues abroad and has written an autobiography on his life growing up deaf and as a Mormon
- The Silent Warrior, a professional wrestler in the U.S. who founded the Deaf Wrestling Alliance
- Ashley Fiolek, a profoundly deaf motocross racer who uses ASL and uses the vibrations in her bike to help her know when to switch gears
- Jim Kyte, the first and – so far – only legally deaf hockey player in the NHL, who played until 1997