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Famous Well Known People with Hearing Impairments and Deafness

List of famous and well known people who are or were deaf and have or had hearing impairments. A hearing impairment or hearing loss is a full or partial decrease in the ability to detect or understand sounds.

A hearing impairment exists when an individual is not sensitive to the sounds normally heard by its kind. In human beings, the term hearing impairment is usually reserved for people who have relative insensitivity to sound in the speech frequencies.

Hearing loss can be inherited. Both dominant and recessive genes exist which can cause mild to profound impairment. If a family has a dominant gene for deafness it will persist across generations because it will manifest itself in the offspring even if it is inherited from only one parent.

People who are hard of hearing have varying amounts of hearing loss but usually not enough to be considered deaf. Many people who are deaf consider spoken language their primary language and consider themselves "hard of hearing".

People with unilateral hearing loss (single sided deafness/SSD) can hear normally in one ear, but have trouble hearing out of the other ear. Problems with this type of deficit is inability to localize sounds.

Those who lose their hearing later in life, such as in late adolescence or adulthood, face their own challenges. For example, they must adjust to living with the adaptations that make it possible for them to live independently. They may have to adapt to using hearing aids or a cochlear implant, develop speech-reading skills, and/or learn sign language.

List of Famous and Well Known People who are/were deaf and have hearing impairments.
Pete Townshend - (born Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend on 19 May 1945 in Chiswick, London), is an award-winning English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, and writer. The Who rocker Pete Townshend is losing his hearing, and fears the disability will end his songwriting career. Pete Townshend blames his hearing loss on a lifetime spent using headphones, experts say today's iPod Generation is storing up trouble for the future by listening to music at high volumes.
Helen Keller - (1880 - 1968) - Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 - June 1, 1968) was an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. She was not born blind and deaf; it was not until nineteen months of age that she came down with an illness described by doctors as "an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain", which could have possibly been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not last for a particularly long time, but it left her deaf and blind. Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities amid numerous other causes.
Thomas Edison - Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 - October 18, 1931) was an American inventor of Dutch origin and businessman who developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph and a long lasting light bulb. In school, the young Edison's mind often wandered. He was noted to be terrible at mathematics, unable to focus, and had difficulty with words and speech. This ended Edison's three months of official schooling. The cause of Edison's deafness has been attributed to a bout of scarlet fever during childhood and recurring untreated middle ear infections.
Ludwig Van Beethoven - Beethoven was as we know a great source of confidence for himself and for others, being able to create music and play music even after being completely deaf is by itself quite a miracle. Although it was clear to everyone that beethoven was but a man, he conquered his disability and led himself to being one of the greatest musicians of all time. If there was one thing that was affecting his struggle to succeed it was not only being deaf, but having to fight all the emotions that he felt inside when he had to turn around to look at the audience applause because he could not hear.
Linda Bove - (born November 30, 1945) is a deaf American actress who played the part of Linda the Librarian on the children's television program Sesame Street from 1971 to 2003. Bove has introduced thousands of children to sign language and issues surrounding the Deaf Community. Her role as Linda on Sesame Street is currently the longest recurring role in television history for a deaf person. Bove attended Gallaudet University. She has been married to Ed Waterstreet since 1970. Like Bove, Waterstreet is also deaf. He also performed with the National Theater of the Deaf.
Johnnie Ray - John Alvin Ray (January 10, 1927-February 24, 1990) was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Ray developed a unique rhythm based style, described as alternating between pre-rock R&B and a more conventional classic pop approach. He was partially deaf because of an injury sustained at the age of 13. He became deaf in his right ear at age 13 after an accident during a Boy Scout event. He later performed his music wearing a hearing aid. Surgery performed in New York in 1958, left him almost completely deaf in both ears, although hearing aids helped his condition.
Foxy Brown - Inga Marchand, born September 6, 1978, in Brooklyn, New York City, better known as Foxy Brown, is an American rapper of Afro-Trinidadian and Asian descent. She is known for her solo work and her brief stint as part of hip-hop music group The Firm. Foxy Brown has revealed that she is slowly losing her hearing after being diagnosed with a rare condition that only affects 1 in 10,000. On December 5, 2005, outside of Manhattan criminal court, Brown's attorney Joseph Tacopina stated he wanted to confirm rumors that Brown was almost totally deaf and claimed that he could no longer communicate with her verbally. Brown told reporters on December 15 that she was diagnosed with sudden hearing loss in May while she was recording her upcoming album. Shortly after Tacopina spoke to the public about her hearing condition, news spread that Brown had fired him. According to reports, Tacopina was never given permission by Brown or her agent to discuss her medical condition to reporters.
William Elsworth - Dummy Hoy - (May 23, 1862 - December 15, 1961) was an American center fielder in Major League Baseball who played for several teams from 1888 to 1902, most notably the Cincinnati Reds and two Washington, D.C. franchises. He is noted for being the most accomplished deaf player in major league history, and is credited by some sources with causing the establishment of signals for safe and out calls. Hoy became deaf after suffering from meningitis at age three, and went on to graduate from the Ohio State School for the Deaf in Columbus as class valedictorian. Hoy became the third deaf player in the major leagues, after pitcher Ed Dundon and catcher Tom Lynch. Hoy also worked as an executive with Goodyear after supervising hundreds of deaf workers during World War I. In 1951 he was the first deaf athlete elected to membership in the American Athletic Association of the Deaf Hall of Fame.
Harold MacGrath - American author, (September 4, 1871 - October 30, 1932) was a bestselling American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. In an article in the April 23, 1932 issue of The Saturday Evening Post written under the title "The Short Autobiography of a Deaf Man," MacGrath told the public how he had struggled early in life as a result of a hearing impairment. At a time in history when deaf people were almost automatically considered as lacking intellectual acuity, he had hid this from his employer and others. Harold MacGrath's success made him a very wealthy man and although he traveled the world extensively.
 Marneen Fields - (Born August 16, 1955) - Marneen Lynne Fields is an award winning and chart topping pop-rock alternative artist and ASCAP composer. Fields has appeared in 150 film, TV shows, web series and music videos since 1976. Marneen Fields was the girl Clint Eastwood punched off the moving train in "The Gauntlet" in 1977. She went on to performed death defying feats on film and TV shows doing stunts for over 100 of Hollywood's leading ladies and herself while being 75% deaf, completely deaf in her left ear and half deaf in the right ear. Marneen told Disabled World, "It's time for me to stop hiding deafness, and bring it before the world to inspire others to achieve greatness no matter what disabilities they live with."
 Lou Ferrigno - Louis Jude "Lou" Ferrigno (Nov. 9, 1951) is an American actor, fitness trainer and consultant, and retired professional bodybuilder. Soon after he was born, Ferrigno says he believes he suffered a series of ear infections and lost 75 to 80% of his hearing, though his condition was not diagnosed until he was three years old. Ferrigno says his hearing loss hasn't held him back in his career. "I think that if I wasn't hard of hearing I wouldn't be where I am now. It takes time to overcome a handicap. There are ups and downs and you can never be a quitter. I believe the maxim that you only get out of life what you put into it", Ferrigno says.
 Nanette Fabray - (born October 27, 1920) - is an American actress, dancer and singer. She began her career performing in vaudeville as a child and became a musical theatre actress during the 1940s and 1950s, winning a Tony Award in 1949 for her performance in Love Life. In the mid-1950s, she served as Sid Caesar's comedic partner on Caesar's Hour, for which she won three Emmy Awards. From 1979 to 1984, she appeared as Grandma Katherine Romano on One Day at a Time. Fabray overcame a significant hearing impairment and has been a long-time advocate for the rights of the deaf and hard of hearing. Her honors representing the handicapped include the President's Distinguished Service Award and the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award.
 Henry Lawson - Henry Hertzberg Lawson (17 June 1867 - 2 September 1922) an Australian writer and poet, born on the goldfields at Grenfell, New South Wales, Australia. Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period and is often called Australia's "greatest writer". When he was nine years of age, Henry got an ear infection and went partly deaf. By the time he was fourteen years old he was totally deaf.
 Joachim du Bellay - (1522-1560) - a French poet and author with Pierre de Ronsard. They were part of an influential poetry group called Pleiade which helped modernized the French Language as it is known today. Prematurely aged and partially deaf after a lengthy serious illness (1550-2), Du Bellay discovered in poetry consolatory and therapeutic values. Certain poems published in collections of 1552-3 are more personal and less humanist in nature and distantly look forward to Les Regrets.
 Pinky Aiello - A traveling performer who lives in Portland, Oregon, specializes in juggling and unicycling. She is also the first Deaf Professional Juggler. Visit for more information.
 Andrew Foster - was the first African American to graduate from Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C.
 Angela Stratiy - is an actor and comedian. Her website,, provides workshops on ASL and Deaf culture, as well as solo comedy shows.
 Betty G. Miller - is both a professional visual artist, and a professional counselor working in the field of alcohol and drug abuse with deaf and hard of hearing people.
 Gertrude Ederle- (October 23, 1906 - November 30, 2003) Gertrude was an American competitive swimmer. In 1926, she became the first woman to swim across the English Channel. She trained at the Women's Swimming Association, which produced such competitors as Eleanor Holm and Esther Williams. She joined the club when she was only fifteen. From this time Gertrude began to break and establish more amateur records than any other woman in the world. Ederle had poor hearing since childhood due to measles, and by the 1940s she was completely deaf. She spent the rest of her life teaching swimming to deaf children.
 Julia Brace- (1807-1884) Julia Brace became deaf and blind at age five from typhus fever. During her childhood she was described as independent, inquisitive and feisty. Although she wasn't given much formal instruction, she did acquire tactile American Sign Language from the resident deaf students and staff at the Hartford school. Despite being the only blind person there, she became a part of the school community, forming friendships (and enmities). She began to be seen as something of a celebrity and received many curious visitors over time.
 Laurent Clerc- (26 December 1785 - 18 July 1869) Laurant Clerc was called "The Apostle of the deaf in America" and "The Father of the Deaf" by generations of American deaf people. With Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, he co-founded the first school for the deaf in North America, the Hartford Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb on April 15, 1817 in the old Bennet's City Hotel, Hartford, Connecticut. Clerc's name sign would become the best known and most recognizable name sign in American deaf history and Clerc became the most renowned deaf person in American history.
 Trix Bruce- Trix has been profoundly deaf since she was 6 months old. She went through oral, mainstreaming, deaf classes, and online educational programs. Through her performances, deaf and hearing audiences learn about the "deaf culture" in an entertaining way and somehow discover that the hearing and the deaf communities have more in common than what is commonly thought. "I am just proud to be who I am," says Trix Bruce. "I made the right decisions and have followed my heart... I am proud to be known as a deaf actor."
 Douglas Tilden- (May 1, 1861 to August 5, 1935) Douglas Tilden was a world-famous deaf sculptor who went to the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley, California. Many detect a certain homoeroticism in his works because they feature young athletic men who are often unclothed. In the Football Players, many people have noted that the scene of two young football players, one is injured and resting on the shoulder of another, and the other is tenderly bandaging the wounds, shows the intimate male bonding in sports as of interdependence between the players.
 Chuck Baird - Chuck Baird was born deaf in Kansas City and along with his three older sisters, went to the Kansas School for the Deaf. After an art residency at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, he moved to San Diego in 1992 to work for DawnSignPress as an in-house artist, and painted a number of new Deaf-related works, culminating in the book, "Chuck Baird, 35 Plates." He had his first major exhibition at the World Federation of the Deaf Conference in Washington DC in 1975.
 Ryan Adams - (born November 5, 1974) Ryan Adams is an American alt-country/rock singer-songwriter from Jacksonville, North Carolina. Raised by his mother and grandmother, Adams dropped out of school at age 16 and performed with several local bands before moving to Raleigh and forming the band Whiskeytown. Adams made his solo debut in 2000, with Heartbreaker (also produced by Ethan Johns). Emmylou Harris, who was originally Gram Parsons' singing partner, sang backup on "Oh My Sweet Carolina." Other backing vocals and instruments were provided by Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and Kim Richey as Adams embraced a style more reminiscent of folk music. It was met with considerable critical success, but sales were slow.
 Heather Whitestone McCallum- (born February 24, 1973) Heather is a beauty queen who was the first deaf Miss America title holder, having lost her hearing at the age of eighteen months. Whitestone represented Alabama at the 1995 Miss America pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Despite being profoundly deaf, she performed ballet en pointe to the song "Via Dolorosa" as her talent, winning the preliminary talent competition, as well as the preliminary swimsuit competition.
 Oliver Heaviside - (May 18, 1850 - February 3, 1925) was a self-taught English electrical engineer, mathematician, and physicist who adapted complex numbers to the study of electrical circuits, invented mathematical techniques to the solution of differential equations (later found to be equivalent to Laplace transforms), reformulated Maxwell's field equations in terms of electric and magnetic forces and energy flux, and independently co-formulated vector analysis. Although at odds with the scientific establishment for most of his life, Heaviside changed the face of mathematics and science for years to come.
 Pierre Desloges - Born in 1747 in the Touraine region of France, Pierre Desloges moved to Paris as a young man, where he became a bookbinder and upholsterer. He was deafened at age seven from smallpox, but did not learn to sign until he was twenty-seven, when he was taught by a deaf Italian. Desloges also wrote a number of well-received political books around the time of the French Revolution. He was the first deaf person ever known to write a book of any kind.
 Rudi Carrell - (December 19, 1934 in Alkmaar, Netherlands - July 7, 2006 in Bremen, Germany) Rudi Carrell was a Dutch entertainer. His own show "The Rudi Carrell Show" was a huge success in Germany from the 1960s to the 1990s. The show included a similar concept to "Star Search" or "Pop Idol" and brought many well-known German pop stars and actors to prominence, such as Alexis or Mark Keller. It also featured comedy sketches. In 1987, he famously caused a diplomatic rift between Germany and Iran with a sketch in which veiled women threw their undergarments at someone dressed like Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The outraged Iranian government responded by expelling two German diplomats and closing the Goethe Institute in Tehran.
 Ferdinand Berthier- (September 28, 1803, July 12, 1886) Ferdinand was a deaf educator, intellectual and political organizer in nineteenth-century France, and is one of the earliest champions of Deaf identity and culture. In late 1837 Berthier petitioned the French government for permission to create the Societe Centrale des Sourds-muets, which was officially founded the following year as the first organisation to represent the interests of the deaf community. The organization aimed to bring together "all the deaf spread across the globe.Berthier played a delicate balancing act as a passionate defender of the deaf identity and sign language, while under a repressive social and political climate. Berthier also wrote books about deaf history and deaf culture, noting deaf artists and sign-language poets of his time.
 Juliette Gordon Low - Born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon in Savannah, Georgia, she became known as "Daisy" after her uncle saw her as a baby girl and said, "I'll bet she'll be a daisy!" Daisy was always jumping into new games, hobbies and ideas. Another one of her nicknames was "Little Ship". She acquired this nickname while living with her maternal grandparents in Chicago during the Civil War. Her grandfather, John Kinzie, was a Native American agent and young Juliette often played with Native American children. Juliette loved to hear the story about her great-grandmother, who was captured by Native Americans. A grain of rice thrown at the wedding became lodged in Juliette's bad ear. When it was removed, her ear drum was punctured and became infected, causing her to become completely deaf in that ear. Her hearing was severely limited for the rest of her life. Juliette is responsible for founding the first girl scout organization of America.
 Evelyn Glennie - (born July 19, 1965) is a Scottish virtuoso percussionist. She was the first full-time solo professional percussionist in 20th century western society. Glennie tours extensively in the northern hemisphere, spending up to four months each year in the United States, and performs with an extraordinarily wide variety of orchestras and contemporary musicians, giving over 100 concerts a year as well as master classes and 'music in schools' performances. She frequently commissions percussion works from composers and performs them in her concert repertoire. To date, these original works include 53 concertos, 56 recital pieces, 18 concert pieces and 2 works for percussion ensemble. Glennie has been profoundly deaf since age 12. This does not inhibit her ability to perform at the international level. She regularly plays barefoot for both live performances and studio recordings, to better "feel" the music.
 Miha Zupan - Slovenian basketball player. First deaf/hearing-impaired person ever to play in the Euroleague - (born 13 September, 1982) Miha is a Slovenian basketball player. Despite being deaf since birth, he plays among hearing players at the highest level in Europe. A 2.04 m (6 ft 81/2 in) power forward who can also play center when needed, he currently plays for his country's best-known club, regular Euroleague participant Union Olimpija. During his teenage years, he grew 20 cm (8 inches) in an 18-month period, leading to knee problems that sidelined him for several months early in his pro career. At Slovan, he developed into a promising big man, soon making the (regular) Slovenia junior and under-20 national teams. On 24 October 2007, Zupan finally became the first deaf player in the Euroleague.
 Ayumi Hamasaki - Japanese popular singer and songwriter.
 Signmark - (born Marko Vuoriheimo on June 26, 1978 in Helsinki) is a deaf Finnish rap artist. He describes his music as being party hip hop that takes a stand. Born into a signing family, Vuoriheimo feels that society should not treat the deaf as disabled people but as a linguistic minority with their own culture and history.
 Louis Long - (The Silent Warrior) - (born March 20, 1976) - An American professional wrestler and founder of the Deaf Wrestling Alliance. Silent Warrior made his professional debut in November 2010. His career as a masked wrestler, The Silent Warrior, began in 2011 in Ontario, California. He used powerbomb on his way to MATA Championship Wrestling on November 12, 2011 in a win over Kawambura Yosiya and Sawaterio. Silent Warrior went on to defend the Dragon Max title for 12 months.
 Bernard Bragg - An accomplished actor, director, playwright and lecturer
 Christy Smith - Deaf contestant on "Survivor"
 Clayton Valli - Dr. Valli's Ph.D. in Linguistics and ASL Poetics
 Cliff Bastin - British footballer
 Francisco Goya - Spanish painter
 Gabriel Faure - French composer.
 Georgia Horsley - Miss England 2007. Also a contestant in Miss World 2007.
 Granville Redmond - American painter.
 Guillaume Amontons - French inventor and physicist.
 I. King Jordan - was the first president of Gallaudet University with a profound hearing loss.
 John Brewster Jr. (1766-1854) - American, itinerant artist of the Federalist Period in America.
 Laura Bridgman (1829-1889) - American, first deaf-blind student of Dr. Samuel Howe at the Perkins School for the Blind.
 Lon Chaney, Sr. - American actor raised by deaf parents, his upbringing allowed him to better communicate in silent film.
 Luis Bunuel - Spanish surrealist filmmaker and poet.
 Marlee Matlin - became the first Deaf woman to win an Academy Award for her role in Children of a Lesser God. She won for Best Actress.
 Phyllis Frelich - won the Tony Award for her role in the stage production of Children of a Lesser God.
 Pierre de Ronsard - French poet.
 Alan T. Hurwitz - Current president of Gallaudet University.
 Robert R. Davila - Former president of Gallaudet University.
 Sir William McMahon - Australian politician and former Prime Minister.
 Terrylene Sachetti - Deaf actress, poet, storyteller, mime, and dancer
 Walter Geikie - Scottish painter.


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