Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Ah, award season. A time where our favorite celebrities dress in designer fashions, walk the red carpet and accept recognition for the hard work they’ve put into entertaining us all. In celebration, Healthy Hearing would like to recognize a few others we believe deserve acclaim. In a world where image is everything and communication is a necessary skill, these celebrities with hearing loss are definitely award worthy. And the winners are…
Medical professionals aren’t sure if a malformed cochlea or childhood infection caused Marlee Matlin’s deafness at the age of 18 months, but one thing is for sure — it didn’t stop her from a becoming a prolific actor. At the age of seven, she played Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” in a children’s theater company. Fifteen years later, in 1986, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in “Children of a Lesser God.” In all, she’s been nominated 14 times for her acting talents and taken home three wins.
Additionally, Matlin is a published author, having written a children’s book series called Deaf Child Crossing as well as the memoir “I’ll Scream Later.” She also serves as the spokeswoman for the largest provider of TV closed captioning.
Although Halle Berry is a Type 1 diabetic, a condition that makes her twice as likely to have hearing loss, that’s not why she lost 80% of the hearing in her right ear. In 2004 she revealed she lost her hearing when a former boyfriend hit her in the head. People who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion, may experience damage to the ear and the auditory pathways that lead to the brain.
Berry, a Cleveland native and former pageant queen, parlayed her work as a model into a successful career as an actress on television and in the movies. Among her 44 wins include an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role as a grieving mother in “Monster’s Ball” (2002) and a Primetime Emmy as the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for portraying Dorothy Dandridge in “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” (2000).
According to the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), as many as 40 million Americans suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and this award-winning comedian and actress is among them. Goldberg, who wears hearing aids, said her hearing loss is the result of “years and years of listening to music so loudly and so close to the eardrum.”
Before becoming an actress and comedian, Goldberg worked in a funeral parlor and as a bricklayer. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in “Ghost” (1991) and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role for “The Color Purple” (1986).
Hearing loss can be caused by a number of factors, including disease. For Holly Hunter, a case of the mumps when she was a child caused deafness in her left ear. The disability didn’t prevent her from learning to play the piano when she was 9, a skill she used for her role as a mute woman living in the 1850s in “The Piano.” The effort won her an Oscar for Best Actress (1993).
Hunter is known for her keen attention to detail, an attribute she says she honed as a result of having to listen intently to what people were saying. Throughout her notable acting career, she has received 91 award nominations and 44 wins.
While most ear infections clear on their own without permanent hearing loss, untreated ear infections can cause permanent damage. That’s what happened to Robert Redford in 2013 while filming “All is Lost.” His role as a stranded sailor in the Indian Ocean required him to be submerged in a water tank and blasted with a water hose each day. The resulting ear infection caused a 60% loss of hearing in his left ear.
Redford won an Oscar for Best Director for “Ordinary People” (1981). The 1994 Cecil B DeMille Award winner also starred in other memorable movies, such as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), “The Way We Were” (1973) and “The Sting” (1973), roles that made him a box office star and acting legend.
American dance and talent show award winners
While we’re handing out accolades, we’d also like to tip our hat to two recent American dance and talent show contestants who showed us deafness doesn’t prevent someone from winning top honors when competing against others who hear normally.
Nyle DiMarco, a former “America’s Next Top Model” contestant and the fourth generation in a deaf family, won Season 22 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” The model, actor and philanthropist said he was dancing to “change the perception of Deaf people that hearing people have.” The Nyle DiMarco Foundation advocates for “full and early access to American Sign Language (ASL) and English for Deaf and hard of hearing children in the United States.”
Mandy Harvey didn’t win the 12th Season of “America’s Got Talent,” but she definitely inspired America with her beautiful voice and message. The deaf jazz and pop singer lost her hearing to a connective tissue disorder when she was a college student studying vocal music education. Now an accomplished musician and motivational speaker, Harvey shares how to overcome personal barriers during performances and speaking engagements.
Musicians with hearing loss
Many famous musicians have hearing loss and tinnitus, mainly due to noise-related damage to the auditory system.
Huey Lewis is one of the latest musicians to stop touring due to Meniere’s disease, saying that the affliction makes it impossible to find pitch. Meniere’s disease affects the inner ear and vestibular (balance) system. While he has slowed down some, he still sings, telling the San Francisco Chronicle in 2019 that “I haven’t given up.” Those afflicted with the disease often experience hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the affected ear.
Roger Daltrey, of The Who, recently told an audience that he was “very, very deaf” from years of exposure to music at high volumes and recommended fans wear ear protection at concerts.
Ready… and action!
You may not be walking the red carpet anytime soon, but you can begin the journey to better hearing by scheduling a hearing evaluation with a hearing care professional. Untreated hearing loss is linked to other medical conditions such as diabetes, social anxiety, depression and dementia. If you don’t have a hearing care professional, visit our directory to find one in your community. When you make hearing health a priority, you increase the likelihood you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite entertainers for years to come.