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Amanda McDonough

By Rachel Cain, staff writer

A life can change in any moment – and for Amanda McDonough, that moment came the day in college she woke up to discover her hearing was completely gone. This was a shock, and one she was unprepared for. She did not know sign language, could not lip read, and struggled to speak well without her hearing.

"I became isolated from the world and finally had to face my hearing loss," Amanda said.

She had been diagnosed with hearing loss at 4 years old. Her hearing loss deteriorated as she grew older, but she strove to hide that aspect of her life, even as she succeeded in academics and in a child acting career. As an adult, though, she had to confront her deafness in order to thrive.

"I had to accept that I was deaf, and find a way to finish college without being able to hear," Amanda said.

Today, she is an accomplished actor, author, and inspirational speaker. She has appeared in shows such as Freeform's "Switched at Birth," ABC's "Speechless," and Deaf West/Pasadena Playhouse's "Our Town."

Her experience on "Switched at Birth," a show known for featuring deaf and hard of hearing actors, was a particularly formative experience. Here, finally, were other deaf actors she could relate to.

"For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who understood my anxiety talking with a stranger, how lonely I often felt when surrounded by my hearing family during the holidays, and that panicked feeling I repeatedly had when my hearing aid batteries would die and I didn't have backup," Amanda said. "These were simple little everyday things that I never had felt comfortable opening up about before. But here, with other Deaf/HOH people, I felt I could expose that part of myself.

"The sense of belonging, understanding, comradery, and support I received from my Deaf and Hard of Hearing friends is what made Deaf culture appeal to me so much."

These actors offered a safe community. They taught her ASL and explained aspects of Deaf culture and customs.

Now, Amanda lives in Los Angeles with her rescue pups, Charlotte and Cali. She recently published her memoir, Ready to Be Heard: How I Lost My Hearing and Found My Voice. Her book discusses how she overcame the challenges of losing her hearing without knowledge of how to communicate without it, and how in this overcoming these obstacles she discovered a new community and strengthened her sense of identity.

Even with her busy schedule as an actor, writer, and speaker, she carves out time to advocate for and volunteer with organizations focused on two issues dear to her: animal rights and equal opportunity education. Her own experiences with hearing loss inform her beliefs on the latter concern.

"The profound difference I experienced in classrooms that were not accessible vs ones that were accessible opened my eyes to a huge problem within our education system and culture," Amanda said. "I strongly believe no one should ever be denied access to an education simply because they learn differently, they need some assistance, or they require accessibility options to keep up with the classroom material."

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