Hearing loss isn’t always obvious. After all, with hearing aids smaller and more discreet than ever, it’s pretty hard to spot someone with a hearing impairment.
But given 466 million people around the world have some degree of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that some of our most familiar celebrities are among them.
Here are some household names who’ve never let their hearing loss stand in the way of some pretty incredible achievements.
The 42nd president of the United States, like many of us, tried to ignore his hearing loss – probably the legacy of too-loud band practice as a teenager – for many years. Finally, at the age of 51 (during his second presidency term), he bit the bullet, saw an audiologist, and got fitted with two in-ear hearing aids. He’s now a major advocate of hearing aid technology, and has even travelled to Africa to promote hearing health in the developing world.
The two-time Oscar winner has worn an in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid for years, but also admits that she’s not always great about keeping on top of ‘this hearing loss thing,’ as she calls it. She suffers from vertigo, too – a condition that can be related to one root cause of hearing loss. But neither condition has held her back from an inarguably stellar career.
Halle Berry’s hearing loss story is tragic – but her success despite the odds is a tale of triumph. Physically abused by a former boyfriend, she lost 80% of her hearing in her right ear. She now advocates for family justice centres and raises awareness for victims of domestic violence, while maintaining an impressive performing career.
The Who front man hasn’t let hearing loss slow him down. After decades of exposure to amplified music – including a wince-inducing, world-record-setting 126dB in 1976 – he’s been fitted with hearing aids in both ears. He also suffers from tinnitus, which he blames on his heavy use of studio headphones. But he’s still active as a performer and songwriter.
It’s impossible to tell from her stellar performances on The West Wing, Law and Order, ER and more, but Matlin has been deaf since she was 18 months old. A severe illness destroyed her hearing in her right ear and left her with just 20% of her hearing in the other. Today, she uses a combination of hearing aids, lip-reading and sign language to get by in daily life – oh, and wins the odd Oscar, too.
A bad case of the mumps at the age of nine left actress and producer Hunter totally deaf in her left ear. But she says it’s actually helped her career. ‘I have a natural intensity that is just a part of who I am,’ she explains. ‘And I think that my intensity comes from being profoundly deaf… acutely tuned into what people are saying.’
That’s right – the scientist, tinkerer and TV star proudly wears a hearing aid, and it hasn’t held him back from busting any myths. The congenital condition otosclerosis means he has limited hearing in his left ear – so he wears what he calls ‘titanium ear bones.’ Which sounds appropriately cool.
Closer to home, did you know Australia’s second-longest-serving Prime Minister wears hearing aids? In fact, he’s relied on the devices since the age of nineteen. And like so many others, he actually credits his hearing impairment with his political success. ‘It probably resulted in me having a slightly louder voice because when you are a bit deaf you over compensate,’ he points out. Today, he’s Patron of the advocacy group Deafness Forum.
To find out more about your hearing health, book a free hearing test.
National Hearing Care blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.