Hearing loss is something that affects tens of millions of people in the western world. Age related hearing loss is common, and many people lose their hearing in middle age, or early, because of genetic factors, or because their ear drums are damaged by years of exposure to noisy environments. While hearing impairments can be frustrating to deal with, there are many people who manage to go on to be successful in spite of their poor hearing, even in fields where one would expect good hearing would be a massive advantage. Here are a few examples of truly inspirational hard of hearing celebrities.
US President Ronald Reagan lost hearing in his right ear when someone fired a gun while he was standing nearby on the set of a movie. He had a hearing aid fitted in his left ear in 1987. At the time, hearing aids were a rare sight, at least on famous people, and his willingness to wear one in public did a lot to improve awareness of the devices, and increase acceptance of them. The hearing aids that were available in the 1980s were much bigger and bulkier than the ones that are available today, and Regan’s willingness to talk about his hearing impairment was an inspiration to many hard of hearing people around the world.
Bill Cosby is well-known actor and comedian who has done a lot to promote awareness of hearing problems. He promoted childhood hearing impairment treatment, and the prevention of hearing loss, via the Fat Albert cartoons, and he has worked with the Better Hearing Institute to promote hearing aids and the treatment of hearing loss.
Foxy Brown is an American Rapper who was, briefly, a member of The Firm but who now has her own solo career. Brown has a rare condition which affects just one in ten thousand people, and causes gradual hearing loss. In December 2005, Brown told the media that she had been diagnosed with sudden hearing loss several months previously, while working on her upcoming album. Since then she has continued her music career, releasing another album, and announcing a collaboration with Nicki Minaj.
Marko Vuoriheimo, or Signmark, is a Finnish rap artist who was born into a signing family. He writes “hip hop that takes a stand” and considers that society should not consider those with hearing impairments to be disabled, but rather treat them as a linguistic minority which has their own history and culture.
Matt Hamill is an American wrestler and mixed martial artist who made it all the way to the UFC, the most well-known professional mixed martial arts promotion. Being hard of hearing poses several challenges for competitive martial artists because it means that they miss out on the instructions being given by the coaches in the corner, and the time signals being given during the match. However, Hamill overcame those difficulties and became the only person in the UFC to defeat Jon Jones, who is ranked as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Halle Berry, the actress and fashion model, lost eighty percent of her hearing after she was beaten by a former boyfriend while filming The Last Boy Scout in 1991, while she was still just beginning her acting career. The attack punctured her eardrum, leaving her with permanent hearing loss. She has never named the person who attacked her, but says that they are someone who is well-known in Hollywood. She continued to act and went on to have a prolific and highly successful career, appearing in Catwoman, several X Men movies and many TV shows, including Knots Landing and Frasier.
Hearing loss can be quite debilitating, but there are many options. Some people, such as Andrew Phillips, a lawyer with severe hearing difficulties, are able to work around the limitations that hearing loss causes. Some people opt to use hearing aids, or even cochlear implants. The best treatment options depend on the age at which the hearing loss occurred, the reason for the hearing loss, and how severe it is. Someone who has had hearing difficulties from a very early age may have developed coping strategies which mean their hearing difficulties do not impair their day-to-day life all that much, while someone who lost their hearing when they were older is more likely to find it hard to adapt. However, as these celebrities have shown, it is possible to achieve success in almost any field.