Ashley Fiolek

Ashley Fiolek (born 1990)

American motocross racer who was the 2008 Women’s Motocross Association Pro National champion. Deaf since birth, Fiolek began racing at age 7. She won her first X-Games gold medal in Women’s Moto X Super X in 2009. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Bedrich Smetana

Bedrich Smetana (1824–1884)

Czech composer widely regarded in his own country as the father of Czech music. Internationally, Smetana is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride and his symphonic cycle Má vlast (“My Fatherland”). He began writing nationalistic music during the 1848 Prague uprising, and later became principal conductor at Prague’s Provisional Theatre. By the end of 1874, Smetana had lost his hearing. It was around this time that he embarked on a period of sustained composition that continued until his death a decade later. Learn more

  • musicians
Bernard Bragg

Bernard Bragg (born 1928)

American performer, writer, director, and artist. Bragg studied theater at Gallaudet College (now University) and the art of mime under Marcel Marceau in France. In 1967, he co-founded the National Theatre for the Deaf (NTD). That same year, NBC offered the NTD a one-hour time slot for a show with all Deaf performers. As a result, Bragg and other members of the group made history by having the first show ever to air on television using signed language. Learn more

  • actors
  • artists
  • writers
Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton (born 1946)

Former president Bill Clinton was diagnosed with high-frequency hearing loss when young, likely due to the gunfire in his hobby of duck hunting. Bill Clinton has difficulty hearing in crowded rooms and general noisy, crowded situations. He ignored the symptoms for years until his hearing loss was formally diagnosed in 1997, specifically being high frequency hearing loss, the most common form of hearing loss. He now wears two in-canal hearing aids to counteract his hearing loss. Learn more

  • politicians
Casar Jacobson

Casar Jacobson (born 1985)

The first deaf person in North America to earn the titles of Miss Universe Canada, Miss Canada, and Miss Globe Peace, Jacobson is a Canadian/Norwegian gender and disability equality activist. She was born hard of hearing in both of her ears, and the condition progressed to being bilaterally profoundly deaf when she was in her 20s. Known for multiple TV series, her acting career and working with the United Nations, Casar is incredibly successful at even her young age, working at MCAT for her neuroscience degree. When she lost most of her hearing as well as part of her left ear, it was suggested that she recieve a cochlear implant – as a result, she uses both ASL and her high-res cochlear implant to communicate in her daily life. Learn more

  • actors
  • other
Chuck Baird

Chuck Baird (1947–2012)

American artist and a founder of the De’VIA (Deaf View Image Art) genre, which seeks to express the Deaf experience. Baird was born Deaf. Many of his works are images of his own hands using American Sign Language (ASL). He established the Chuck Baird Foundation to support emerging Deaf artists. Learn more

  • artists
Clayton Valli

Clayton Valli (1951–2003)

American linguist and American Sign Language (ASL) poet who raised awareness of and appreciation for the richness of ASL literature. Valli used sophisticated handshape, movement, space, repetition, and facial expression in his work, often choosing nature imagery to provide insight into the Deaf experience. He taught in the Linguistics Department at Gallaudet University and gave workshops and presentations across the country. Learn more

  • writers
  • storytellers
Colin Dexter

Colin Dexter (born 1930)

English crime writer known for his Inspector Morse novels, written from 1975 to 1999 and adapted for television from 1987 to 2000. Late-deafened, Dexter lost his hearing in 1966. He began writing mysteries in 1973. Two years later, Last Bus to Woodstock was published, introducing the world to the fictional Inspector Morse, many of whose passions mirror Dexter’s own. Over the years, Dexter has received several Crime Writers’ Association awards. In 2000, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to literature Learn more

  • writers
David Hockney

David Hockney (born 1937)

Painter considered one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century. Hockney was an important contributor to the Pop art movement of the 1960s. He is best known for his photo collages and swimming pool paintings. Hockney began going deaf in his early 40s. Learn more

  • artists
Derrick Coleman

Derrick Coleman (born 1988)

The first legally Deaf offensive player in the NFL, Derrick currently plays for the Arizona cardinals, using a combination of hand signals and lip reading to communicate with the players on the football field. As a result, many fans don’t even realize he’s deaf while he’s on the field. Derrick doesn’t ever remember having his hearing – he lost it when he was three years old due to genetics. When he first got to play football in middle school, he felt it was like he’d finally found where he belonged; it gave him a real understanding of where he stood in the world. While his parents were worried that the sport would damage his hearing aids, Derrick knew that it was his passion – and as a result, managed to find his place in the NFL, among other famous athletes. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Dorothy ‘Dot’ Miles

Dorothy ‘Dot’ Miles (1931–1993)

Welsh-born poet credited with laying the foundations of modern sign language poetry in the United States and the United Kingdom. Miles lost her hearing in 1939. In 1967, she joined the National Theatre of the Deaf and began to create poetry in English, British Sign Language, and American Sign Language. In 1977, after 20 years in the U.S., she returned to England, where she became involved in the television programs Open Door and See Hear, compiled the first teaching manual for BSL tutors, and helped set up the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP). Learn more

  • writers
Douglas Tilden

Douglas Tilden (1860–1935)

American sculptor best known for his works featuring young athletic men. Tilden studied in Paris under Paul Chopin, another deaf sculptor. Many of his statutes sit in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. Tilden lost his hearing during childhood. Learn more

  • artists
Evelyn Glennie

Evelyn Glennie (born 1965)

Scottish percussionist credited as the first full-time solo percussionist in 20th-century western society. Deaf since age 11, Glennie regularly plays barefoot to “feel” the music better. She was awarded the DBE in 2007 and inducted into the Percussive Art Society Hall of Fame in 2008. Learn more

  • musicians
Ferdinand Berthier

Ferdinand Berthier (1803–1886)

French educator and the first Deaf person to receive the French Legion of Honor. Born Deaf, Berthier became one of the earliest advocates for Deaf identity. In 1838, he founded the world’s first organization dedicated to representing the interests of the Deaf community, Société Centrale des Sourds-muets. Learn more

  • other
Frances Woods

Frances Woods (1907–2000)

American dancer who performed all across the nation with her dance partner, Billy Bray. Woods and Bray were famously called “The Wonder Dancers” by Robert L. Ripley of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!” and received the Governor’s Award. Throughout her dance career, Woods designed and created her own costumes. She was born deaf. Learn more

  • other
Francisco de Goya

Francisco de Goya (1746–1828)

Spanish romantic painter and printmaker considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1789, Goya was promoted to court painter under Charles IV. After losing his hearing in 1792, his style became bolder and freer. He is known for creating works that criticized the social and political problems of his day. Learn more

  • artists
George Veditz

George Veditz (1861–1937)

American teacher elected president of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in 1904 and again in 1907. During his time as President, sign language was being threatened by oralist proposals. Veditz therefore dedicated NAD to financing cinematic recordings of speeches in sign language. The project began in 1910 and the resulting 1913 film, The Preservation of Sign Language, became the first registry done of sign languages in the world and has since been selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry. In the film, Veditz provides an enthusiastic defense of sign language. He lost his hearing at age 8 Learn more

  • other
Gertrude Ederle

Gertrude Ederle (1905–2003)

American swimmer who at age 20 became the first woman to swim across the English Channel, accomplished in a record-breaking 14 hours and 39 minutes. In 1924, Ederle won an Olympic gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay. Hard of hearing since childhood, Ederle became almost completely Deaf by the 1940s. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Granville Redmond

Granville Redmond (1871–1935)

American painter considered one of California’s most notable Impressionists. Redmont is known for his floral landscapes and Tonalist style. He studied at the California School of Design, received the W.E. Brown Medal of Excellence, and won a scholarship to study in Paris at the Académie Julian. One of his paintings was accepted for the Paris Salon in 1895. Redmont lost his hearing around age 3. Learn more

  • artists
Guillaume Amontons

Guillaume Amontons (1663–1705)

French physicist and inventor of scientific instruments. Amontons improved the barometer, hygrometer, and thermometer, and he is credited as the first researcher to discuss the concept of an absolute zero of temperature. Amontons lost his hearing at a young age. Learn more

  • scientists
  • inventors
Halle Berry

Halle Berry (born 1966)

Actress Halle Berry is almost completely deaf in her right ear, a result from domestic abuse of a former partner. Her career began as a model in 1985, and though she became diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1989, a condition which made it approximately twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, she still went on to have a long and storied career. In 2004 she revealed that several of her former partners had abused her, one so badly that it resulted in roughly 80% hearing loss in her right ear. She now stands as a champion of women’s advocacy, urging other women to break the cycle of abuse and stand up for themselves. Learn more

  • actors
Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau (1802–1876)

English social and economics theorist and writer sometimes credited as the first female sociologist. Martineau began to lose her hearing at a young age. Able to support herself entirely by her writing, she wrote 35 books and many essays during her lifetime. Learn more

  • writers
Heather Whitestone

Heather Whitestone (born 1973)

American beauty queen and the first Deaf person to hold the title of Miss America. Whitestone lost most of her hearing at the age of 18 months. After winning the title of Miss America in 1995, she wrote three books, made public service announcements, became a motivational speaker, and was appointed to the National Council on Disability and the National Institute of Health on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Learn more

  • other
Helen Keller

Helen Keller (1880–1968)

American author, political activist, lecturer, and the first Deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, which she received from Radcliffe College in 1904. Blind and Deaf since the age of 19 months, Keller became a prominent women’s suffragist, radical socialist, pacifist, and advocate for people with disabilities. She wrote 12 published books and helped found the ACLU. In 1964, Keller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor and, the following year, inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Learn more

  • writers
  • storytellers
Ildikó Újlaky-Rejto

Ildikó Újlaky-Rejto (born 1937)

Hungarian foil fencer considered one of the greatest female fencers in Olympic history. Újlaky-Rejto participated in every Olympics from 1960 to 1976, winning a total of 7 Olympic medals (2 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze). In 1995, she was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Still competing as late as 1999, Újlaky-Rejto won the women’s foil title at the World Veterans Championships. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Jeff Float

Jeff Float (born 1960)

American swimmer and the first legally Deaf athlete from the United States to win an Olympic gold medal. Float lost most of his hearing when he was 13 months old. During the 1984 Olympic Games, he shattered the world record while swimming the third leg for the American 4×200 freestyle relay. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Jim Kyte

Jim Kyte (born 1964)

Canadian professional ice hockey player and the first legally Deaf National Hockey League (NHL) player. From 1983 to his retirement in 1997, Kyte played defense for the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, and San Jose Sharks, for a total of 598 games played in the NHL. Legally Deaf since age 3, Kyte co-founded the Canadian Hearing Impaired Hockey Association. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
John Brewster, Jr.

John Brewster, Jr. (1766–1854)

American painter known for his portraits of New England families, especially their children. Brewster was a prolific itinerant portraitist, often traveling great distances for his clients. He was born Deaf and some critics suggest his deafness accounts for his ability to differentiate between subtle facial expressions and his emphasis on the gaze of his sitters. Learn more

  • artists
John Cornforth

John Cornforth (born 1917)

Australian scientist awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1975 for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Cornforth began experiencing signs of hearing loss around age 10 and became completed Deaf by age 20. Cornforth won a scholarship to work at Oxford University, where he studied steroid synthesis. During WWII, he joined the chemical effort on penicillin and helped write The Chemistry of Penicillin (Princeton University Press, 1949). Among his many awards are Australian of the Year (1977), British Knighthood (1977), and the Royal Society’s Copley Medal (1982). Learn more

  • scientists
John Louis Clarke

John Louis Clarke (1881–1970)

Blackfoot artist best known for his woodcarvings of Blackfoot themes and wildlife of East Glacier National Park in Montana. Clarke’s Blackfoot name was Cutapuis, meaning “man who talks not.” His work was exhibited in galleries across America and England and purchased by many notable people, including John D. Rockefeller. Clarke became deaf in early childhood. Learn more

  • artists
Johnnie Ray

Johnnie Ray (1927–1990)

American singer, songwriter, and pianist who had more than twenty hits from 1951 to 1958. Many consider Ray a major precursor to rock and roll. He sold over two million copies of his double-sided hit single “Cry” and “The Little White Cloud That Cried,” which prompted his swift rise to the status of teen idol. Ray lost his hearing in one ear at age 13 and later in life became almost completely Deaf in both ears. Learn more

  • musicians
Juliette Gordon Low

Juliette Gordon Low (1860–1927)

American youth leader and the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Low, nicknamed “Daisy,” lost most of her hearing in one ear at age 26 and experienced limited hearing for the rest of her life. She established the first troop of American Girl Guides (later renamed Girl Scouts) in 1912. Among her many posthumous honors are the designation of her childhood home as a registered National Historic Landmark (1965) and her induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1979). Learn more

  • other
Julius Wiggins

Julius Wiggins (1928–2001)

American beauty queen and the first Deaf person to hold the title of Miss America. Whitestone lost most of her hearing at the age of 18 months. After winning the title of Miss America in 1995, she wrote three books, made public service announcements, became a motivational speaker, and was appointed to the National Council on Disability and the National Institute of Health on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Learn more

  • other
Kate Harvey

Kate Harvey (1870–1946)

British suffragist active for the Women’s Freedom League (WFL). Harvey mounted a lengthy tax resistance strike, and was eventually imprisoned for her actions. She became the WFL’s international representative and organized the International Suffrage Fair in 1912. She also wrote several plays in her lifetime. Learn more

  • other
Kathleen Ollerenshaw

Kathleen Ollerenshaw (born 1912)

British mathematician best known for her contribution to most-perfect pandiagonal magic squares. Ollerenshaw studied at Somerville College at Oxford University and went on to publish at least 26 mathematical papers in her career. Ollerenshaw was also a politician. She served as a Conservative Councillor for 26 years and Lord Mayor of Manchester from 1975 to 1976. In 1970, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to education. Ollerenshaw became deaf at age 8. Learn more

  • mathematicians
Kevin Frost

Kevin Frost (born 1967)

Canadian speed skater making a bid to get deaf-blind speed skating to be recognized as a Paralympic sport. Frost lost his hearing as a child and his sight as an adult. It was at this point in his life that Frost gave speed skating a try and discovered that his talent on the ice, built up over many years refereeing hockey games, had not diminished. With the help of his coach, a former World Champion, Frost hopes to realize his dream of becoming a winning Olympic speed skater. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland (born 1966)

A British actor with several roles, including the series 24, Sutherland has profound hearing loss in one ear and partial hearing loss in the other. This hearing loss was caused by loud sounds while acting and on sets, including from gunshots and explosions, making it required for him to wear hearing aids even in day-to-day life. He couldn’t wear earplugs on set, because so often he needed to hear the other actors – as a result, hearing aids became a necessity to combat his increasing hearing loss. Learn more

  • actors
Kitty O’Neil

Kitty O’Neil (born 1946)

American racer and stuntwoman. In 1977, O’Neil made auto history when she piloted a hydrogen peroxide powered rocket dragster (banned in the U.S. since the 1980s) and reached a top speed of over 600 mph with a two-way average speed of 512.710 mph, breaking the official land-speed record. As a stuntwoman in Hollywood, her credits include the television shows QuincyBaretta and The Bionic Woman and the movies Smokey and the BanditThe Blues Brothers and Airport ’77. She broke the record for the highest stunt fall by a woman (105 feet). O’Neil lost her hearing when she was 4 months old. She was the subject of a biographical movie Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story, which premiered in 1979. Learn more

  • actors
  • athletes and coaches
  • other
Lars Ulrich

Lars Ulrich (born 1963)

The drummer for Metallica is yet another musical artist who has considerable tinnitus – and just listening to one of his band’s albums, it’s not hard to see where it came from, especially considering that he never wore ear protection during his concerts. He’s been suffering from tinnitus for almost all of his professional career, and is outspoken and honest about the risks of overexposure to loud noises. He’s played rock music for the better part of 35 years, but only really noticed his tinnitus when he woke up at night, thinking he’d left the television on, when the noise he woke up to was actually his own tinnitus. Today, Lars has learned his lesson and makes sure to always wear earplugs during his concerts –  however, he worries about the young generation visiting the concerts, many of whom don’t wear proper ear protection. He therefore goes out of his way to caution younger people about proper hearing protection, saying that once you lose your hearing, it’s gone forever. Learn more

  • musicians
Laura Bridgman

Laura Bridgman (1829–1889)

The first Deaf-blind American to receive a significant education in the English language. Bridgman lost her hearing and sight at age 2. In 1837, she entered the Perkins Institution for the Blind, where she learned to communicate using tactile sign and progressed in her education. Bridgman’s case inspired Helen Keller’s mother, Kate Keller, to seek advice that led to her hiring Anne Sullivan, a teacher at Perkins who had learned the manual alphabet from Bridgman. Learn more

  • other
Laura Redden Searing

Laura Redden Searing (1839–1923)

American poet and journalist. As an editorialist for the St. Louis Republican, Searing covered the American Civil War and wrote poems about the battlefield. After the war, she was a correspondent for the New York Times and a staff writer for the New York Evening Mail. Searing lost her hearing at age 11. The town of Glyndon, Minnesota was named in her honor. Learn more

  • writers
Laurent Clerc

Laurent Clerc (1785–1869)

French educator and co-founder of the first permanent school for the Deaf in North America, the Hartford Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (later renamed the American School for the Deaf). As head teacher, Clerc used French signs to instruct his students. As a result, about two-thirds of today’s American Sign Language signs have French origins. Clerc became Deaf when he was about 1 year old. He is known by many as the “Apostle of the deaf in America.” Learn more

  • other
Leo Lesquereux

Leo Lesquereux (1806–1889)

Swiss bryologist and a pioneer of American paleobotany. Lesquereux studied the development of peat deposits in Europe. He traveled to the United States in 1847, where he studied mosses in the eastern part of the country and performed pioneer investigations of Paleozoic flora. Lesquereux began losing his hearing in childhood and eventually became completely Deaf. Learn more

  • scientists
Linda Bove

Linda Bove (born 1945)

Better known for her role on Sesame Street as “Linda the Librarian”, Linda was an entire generation of children’s first exposure to deaf individuals. She helped raise awareness of deaf culture and introduced millions of children to sign language. Linda played her role for 30 years and had the longest-running role on American television for a person for disability. She was born to two deaf parents and grew up learning ASL. At a summer program for the National Theater for the Deaf in her senior year of college, she both met her future husband, and decided to put her dream of being a librarian on hold to join the theater’s troupe. She then went on to perform on Broadway, and in 1971 tried out for Sesame Street, and the rest is history. Learn more

  • actors
Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

German composer and pianist widely considered one of the most influential composers of all time. Beethoven began losing his hearing in his late twenties and eventually became completely Deaf. Some of his most important works were composed after he lost his hearing. Learn more

  • musicians
Marko Vuoriheimo

Marko Vuoriheimo (born 1978)

Finnish rap artist and the first Deaf person to receive a record deal. Signmark uses the bass line to follow the music and time his rhymes, which he signs by ensuring they have the same types of hand forms. He incorporates facial expressions and freeform signing into his performances and many of his songs deal with Deaf culture and rights. Signmark released the first sign language hip-hop DVD in 2006. Learn more

  • musicians
Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin (born 1965)

American actress who at age 21 became the youngest and first Deaf recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, which she won for playing Sarah Norman in the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God. Deaf from the age of 18 months, Matlin has authored a New York Times Best Selling autobiography and is a prominent member of the National Association for the Deaf. Learn more

  • actors
  • writers
Matt ‘The Hammer’ Hamill

Matt ‘The Hammer’ Hamill (born 1976)

American wrestler and mixed martial artist. Hamill was a three-time NCAA Wrestling Division III National Champion. At the 2001 Deaflympics, he took home the silver medal in Greco-Roman wrestling and the gold in freestyle. His appearance as a contestant on the third season of the reality television show The Ultimate Fighter launched his six-year career in the UFC. He is the subject of the biographical film The Hammer (2010). Hamill was born Deaf, and was introduced to wrestling by his stepfather, who was head wrestling coach at a nearby school. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Michelle Banks

Michelle Banks (born 1968)

American actress and founder of the Onyx Theatre Company, the first Deaf theater company in the United States for people of color. Banks has appeared in the television shows Girlfriendse, Soul Food, and Strong Medicine. Learn more

  • actors
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy (1860–1913)

American athletic trainer and coach credited with revolutionizing methods of training athletes. Credited with establishing many innovative techniques, such as the crouching start for sprinters, Murphy has been called “the father of American track athletics.” He trained athletes at several universities and athletic clubs, where he developed a reputation for finding and training individual champions. Murphy was selected as the coach and trainer of the American teams at the Olympics in 1900, 1908, and 1912. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Millicent Simmonds

Millicent Simmonds (born 2003)

Having lost her hearing at only 12 months old, the child actor Millicent Simmonds has found considerable fame after her roles in movies such as Wonderstruck and A Quiet Place. The latter is a horror movie revolving around the inability to speak or make noise, meaning the actors had to communicate via sign language – as a result, Millicent was an excellent candidate for the role. She grew up with several other siblings, and after she became deaf, her mother taught each of her siblings sign language in order to more effectively communicate with her. She began attending the Jean Massieu School for the Deaf when she was three and joined their drama club almost immediately. As a result, she’s spent quite an amount of her young life performing in plays, performances, and even student films. Learn more

  • actors
Millie Bobby Brown

Millie Bobby Brown (born 2004)

Millie Bobby Brown, better known as “Eleven” in Netflix’s famous Stranger Things series, is completely deaf in one ear, having lost it over the course of her young life after being born with the condition in one of her ears. She has refused to let the condition preventing her from pursuing her love of singing and acting. She doesn’t care how she sounds when she sings, because she loves doing it. She even says that she sometimes can’t hear her own performances; despite this, she was even nominated for an Emmy in 2017 thanks to her role in Stranger Things. Learn more

  • actors
Mojo Mathers

Mojo Mathers (born 1966)

New Zealand politician who became the country’s first Deaf Member of Parliament when elected in 2011. Known for her interest in political environmentalism, Mathers has been a senior policy advisor to the Green Party since 2006. Her areas of policy interest include rural issues, biodiversity, forestry and water, animal welfare, disability rights, and women’s rights. Mathers became Deaf as a newborn. Learn more

  • politicians
Nellie Zabel Willhite

Nellie Zabel Willhite (1892–1991)

American who was the first Deaf woman to earn a pilot’s license and South Dakota’s first female pilot. Deaf since age 2, Willhite earned her pilot’s license in 1928. She worked as a commercial pilot and a barnstormer, and she was a founding member of the Ninety-Nines, an organization dedicated to advancing aviation and supporting women in aviation. Shortly before her death, Willhite was inducted into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame. Her plane, named Pard in honor of her father, is on display at the Southern Museum of Flight in Alabama. Learn more

  • other
Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco (born 1989)

American model and actor known for roles such as Garrett Banducci in Switched at Birth, DiMarco was also the winner of Dancing with the Stars in 2016 and the first deaf winner of America’s Next Top Model in 2017. As a Deaf activist, DiMarco is spokesperson for Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) and started The Nyle DiMarco Foundation to support deaf children and their families. Learn more

  • actors
Olof Hanson

Olof Hanson (1862–1933)

Swedish-born American architect and President of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) from 1910 to 1913. Early in his career, Hanson contributed to plans for the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf buildings. He later opened his own office in Faribault, Minnesota. Buildings erected from his plans include The North Dakota School for the Deaf; a boys’ dormitory at Kendall school in Washington, D.C.; and several residences, stores, and business blocks. Hanson lost his hearing around 1875. Learn more

  • artists
Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend (born 1945)

A British guitarist, Townshend’s career in loud music has caused him a great deal of hearing loss over the course of his life. He has suffered from hearing loss since the 80s, and in 2012 actually had to leave in the middle of a concert due to his hearing loss. His band, The Who, even got a Guinness world record for “world’s loudest concert.” Despite this, he actually blames his hearing loss on headphones, rather than on his band’s actual performances. Even so, Townshend still continues to perform, using hearing aids and a special hearing monitor to continue performing. Learn more

  • musicians
Peter Cook

Peter Cook (1937–1995)

American performing artist who incorporates American Sign Language (ASL), pantomime, storytelling, acting, and movement. Since 1986, Cook has traveled around the world with Flying Words Project promoting ASL literature. He appeared in the PBS documentary United States of Poetry. Cook has been featured in storytelling festivals across the nation, and was invited to the White House to join the National Book Festival in 2003. Cook teaches in the ASL-English Interpretation Department at Columbia College. Learn more

  • storytellers
Pierre de Ronsard

Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)

French poet and the leader of La Pléiade, a group of French Renaissance poets who sought to ennoble the French vernacular by emulating the Ancients. Called the “prince of poets” by his contemporaries, Ronsard was popular during his lifetime. He received royal patronage from the King of France, earning him violent disdain from the Huguenot faction. One of Ronsard’s most famous works is the sonnet “Quant vous serez bien vieille.” Learn more

  • writers
Pierre Desloges

Pierre Desloges (1747–1799)

French bookbinder who in 1779 wrote what may be the first book published by a Deaf person. The book advocated sign language (now referred to as Old French Sign Language) and Deaf education. Desloges lost his hearing at age 7 and began learning sign language at age 27. He also wrote several political books around the time of the French Revolution. Learn more

  • writers
Raymond Luczak

Raymond Luczak (born 1965)

American writer who has written plays, poems, novels, short stories, and essays. Luczak won a place in the Jenny McKean Moore Fiction Workshop at George Washington University. His play Snooty won first place in the New York Deaf Theater’s 1990 Samuel Edwards Deaf Playwrights Competition. His is author and editor of over ten books, including Assembly Required: Notes from a Deaf Gay Life and Men with Their Hands: A Novel. Learn more

  • writers
Regina Olson Hughes

Regina Olson Hughes (1895–1993)

American artist and botanical illustrator who created works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and, later, the Smithsonian’s Department of Botany. Hughes is known for her intricate watercolors and pen-and-ink illustrations. Her work appears in plant manuals, museums, pesticide labels, and more. A species of Brazilian bromeliads and a genus of the aster family were named in her honor. Throughout her life, Hughes traveled extensively and was able to speak four languages by lipreading. She began losing her hearing at age 10 and became deaf by age 14. Learn more

  • artists
Richard Hall

Richard Hall (born 1965)

Richard Hall, AKA Moby, is a pioneer of the electronic music scene. Moby has had a career in music spanning four decades, producing and remixing for bands such as David Bowie, Daft Punk, Metallica, Britney Spears, and Guns and Roses, among others. Despite this, he does have considerable tinnitus, which he attributes to punk events in his youth. He now wears earplugs consistently in order to counteract the progression of the condition, and has begun teaching younger generations about the importance of protecting their ears. Learn more

  • musicians
Rikki Poynter

Rikki Poynter (born 1991)

A youtuber with over 80,000 subscribers, Rikki Poynter is a successful, positive young woman, who converses with her viewers about various issues affecting the deaf community today, including closed captioning and general deaf accessibility and culture. Her methods and opinions have garnered her a large amount of favor in the deaf community. She lost her hearing at age 11, a genetically inherited trait from a deaf parent. She describes her deafness as severe in her right ear and moderate to severe in her left ear. Learn more

  • other
Sean Berdy

Sean Berdy (born 1993)

American actor and comedian. Berdy was born Deaf and currently plays one of the two main Deaf characters on the hit television series Switched at Birth. In 2011, he was nominated for TV Breakout Star for the Teen Choice Awards. Learn more

  • actors
Sean Forbes

Sean Forbes (born 1980)

A deaf rapper and artist from Detroit, Sean Forbes is very outspoken and honest about his condition, and uses his music to champion deaf awareness and deaf culture. Even outside of music, Sean founded D-PAN, the Deaf Professional Arts Network, a non-profit organization which promotes accessibility and awareness within the arts and media structures. He became deaf when he was only a few months old, due to a case of spinal menengitis. Hearing loss doesn’t run in his family, and his parents always encouraged him to follow his dreams despite it – they even got him a drum kit when he was 5 as a way of saying that he could do anything. Learn more

  • musicians
Shaheem Sanchez

Shaheem Sanchez (born 1991)

A young dancer who got a role in 2016’s “So You Think you can Dance: The Next Generation”, Shaheem’s dancing talent runs in the family. Shaheem has been deaf since the young age of 4, growing up deaf. Rather than traditionally listening to the music, Shaheem uses the vibrations of the music and lets the rhythm guide him. As a result, he has an advanced understanding of the way music feels. Learn more

  • other
Shelley Beattie

Shelley Beattie (1967–2008)

American professional bodybuilder who reached the top-three at the prestigious Ms. International and Ms. Olympia contests. After her retirement from bodybuilding, Beattie competed as a grinder on the America sailing team and performed in 44 episodes of the television show American Gladiators. She lost her hearing at age 3. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
Shoshannah Stern

Shoshannah Stern (born 1980)

American actress honored as one of the Seven Fresh Faces in Film at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008 for her role in Adventures of Power (2008). Stern has appeared in the television series Weeds and Jericho and alongside Matthew Broderick in the film The Last Shot. She is a member of a fourth-generation Deaf family. Learn more

  • actors
Slava Raškaj

Slava Raškaj (1877–1906)

Croatian painter considered by many to be the greatest Croatian watercolorist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her paintings were exhibited around Europe throughout the 1890s, including the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris, France. Raškaj was born Deaf. Learn more

  • artists
Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert (born 1964)

The host of the Colbert Show is completely deaf in his right ear.  When he was young, he required to undergo a surgery to remove a tumor and perforated eardrum in his left ear, which left him without an eardrum in his right ear, inner ear damage, and a changed shape of his ear. Colbert has elected to not have plastic surgery – he believes that the small deformity is just part of who he is, and doesn’t let it define him. His nature is to never let obstacles stop him from doing what he loves. Learn more

  • other
Sue Thomas

Sue Thomas (born 1950)

American woman who became the first Deaf person to work as an undercover agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Thomas was working as a fingerprint examiner when an FBI agent discovered her expert lip-reading ability, prompting her promotion to lip-reader for an undercover surveillance team. Her autobiography Silent Night (1990) became the basis for the television series Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye (2002-2005). Thomas became Deaf at the age of 18 months. Learn more

  • other
Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison (1847–1931)

American inventor and businessman who developed the phonograph, the motion picture camera, the transmitter for the telephone speaker, and an improved light bulb. Edison is also credited with creating the world’s first industrial research laboratory. He developed hearing problems at an early age, and his deafness is said to have provided the motivation for many of his inventions. Learn more

  • inventors
Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg (born 1955)

Caryn Elaine Johnson, known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, is an American actress, comedian, television personality, and human rights activist. She is one of the few recipients of all four major entertainment awards known as the EGOT: an Emmy (Television), a Grammy (Music), an Oscar (Film), and a Tony (Theater). Goldberg suffers from low frequency hearing loss and wears hearing aids in both ears. She attributes her hearing loss to long-term exposure to loud music in her youth. Learn more

  • actors
Will J. Quinlan

Will J. Quinlan (1877–1963)

American artist born in Brooklyn, New York. Quinlan was an accomplished etcher known for his architectural city scenes. He has permanent collections in the New York Public Library, New York Historical Society, Oakland Museum, Hudson River Museum, and John H. Vanderpoel Art Gallery of Chicago. Quinlan lost his hearing as a child. Learn more

  • artists
William ‘Dummy’ Hoy

William ‘Dummy’ Hoy (1862–1961)

American center fielder in Major League Baseball from 1888 to 1902. Deaf since age 3, Hoy was the third Deaf player in the major leagues. He held the major league record for games played in center field and was known for being an excellent baserunner. In 2003, he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. The baseball field at Gallaudet University was named in his honor. Learn more

  • athletes and coaches
William Adams

William Adams (born 1975)

William Adams, AKA the rapper Wil.I.Am, has constant tinnitus, a perception of ringing in the ears usually caused by loud noises. He attributes his tinnitus to his career in loud music, but doesn’t let it interfere with his musical process. One of the most recognizable members of his band, the artist has sold tens of millions of records, though he intimately knows the symptoms of hearing damage. He’s prone to migraines due to the condition, which has been present in some level ever since his teens, where he already knew that the ringing noise he heard in his ears wasn’t normal. As a result of the condition, he tries to surround himself with noises whenever he can in order to avoid the inevitable ringing that comes with the condition. Learn more

  • musicians
William Shatner

William Shatner (born 1931)

Canadian-American actor William Shatner, best known for his role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise, suffers from considerable tinnitus, which he believes resulted from a special effects mishap during shooting of an episode of Star Trek. He reports that wearing a small device producing white noise has helped alleviate his symptoms. Learn more

  • actors
Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen

Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen (born 1964)

South African who in 1999 became the first Deaf person elected to the South African Parliament. As a Member of Parliament, Newhoudt-Druchen chaired the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Children, Youth, and Disabled Persons. More recently, she was elected vice president of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). Deaf since age 3, Newhoudt-Druchen studied at Gallaudet University. Learn more

  • politicians