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Actress Marlee Matlin: Danced Like a Star

Marlee Matlin is a remarkable person. She proved her acting chops in her film debut in Children of a Lesser God in 1986. The role won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress and an Academy Award in the same category. Not bad for an actor who is almost completely deaf.

Shes appeared on countless TV shows, shes been in tons of movies (shes always in demand by the Hollywood brass). In addition Marlee is a well-received author with the publication of Deaf Child Crossing, loosely based on her own life experiences.

But all of these accolades pale in comparison to this advocate for those with hearing loss, who took to the dance floor on Dancing With the Stars. And knocked the judges on the floor with her skills. She had many viewers asking, "How can a deaf person dance when they cant hear the music?"

So How Does She Boogie, Oogie Down Just Like Everyone Else?

First, many persons with profound hearing loss can still benefit from the use of quality hearing aids. Marlee wears hearing aids manufactured by Starkeys Labs which contain their proprietary BluWave' signal processing technology.

"These hearing aids which fit deep into both of her ear canals provide power levels not previously attainable while giving Marlee the benefit of total freedom of movement," said Bill Austin, Owner of Starkey Labs. Our BluWave signal processing is well suited for any type of hearing loss including someone with a profound hearing loss like Marlee.

In addition, Marlee felt the concussive pulsing beat from the lowest frequencies. The bass guitar and bass drum deliver waves through the floor, the walls and allowed Marlee to feel the rhythm of the music. Hey, your entire body is one big tuning fork!

Finally, Marlee relied on her dance partner, Fabian Sanchez, to keep the moves on track and in synch. Hes my music, Marlee proclaimed. The couple modified some of the moves so Marlee could maintain physical or eye contact with Fabian more frequently, though she had no trouble cha-cha-chaing her way across the stage, engaged in complex dance steps that were eye-popping.

Now Meet Alana Smith

Alana Smith is only 10 years old, yet in that short time shes accomplished more than most tweens. Shes an accomplished ballet dancer who just happens to be deaf. Her deft movements across the wooden floor belie the fact that Alana relies on the beat she feels, along with some hearing amplification with two hearing aids.

Though she cant hear her dance instructor, still Alanas grace makes her stand out. The observer is aware that this is a youngster who enjoys the freedom ballet gives her.

Alana is quick to point out that she draws inspiration from her role model, Marlee Matlin, especially for Marlees participation on Dancing With the Stars. Unfortunately, after a low score in week 6, a lively, under-rated performance of the mambo, Marlee and Fabian were voted off the show.

But winning isnt what matters, in this case. Marlee most certainly won the Most Inspirational contest on this popular show, the first deaf performer to trip the light fantastic on millions of TV screens.

Feel the Beat

A lot of us are surprised to learn that, not only do people with profound hearing loss dance, many are darned good at it whether on the dance floor of a major TV show or stuffing quarters in the jukebox and dancing the night away at local watering hole.

Deaf people and persons with profound hearing loss experience hearing through vibration we all do, though the hearing population is much less aware of the sensations. We all feel the low notes in the pit of our stomachs. In our bones. And, if loud enough, through hair follicles. You dont have to hear it. It passes through you like a sonic wave. Your bones and nerves feel the beat and feel it through sound waves traveling through the floor and through the air.

Sound is a series of compression waves that travel through the air (or other medium). Vibration is created when these compressions waves are detected by an object, like our bodies. Persons, who have normal hearing, do not always feel the vibration of sound because they are actively hearing it. However persons who have profound hearing loss or are deaf, have a heightened sense of awareness of these vibrations and sense them through their body. Instead of hearing the beat, they feel the beat.

Marlee Matlin's inspirational appearance on Dancing With the Stars had the beat in her before she took to the floor. And, with the help of Starkeys BluWave' hearing aid technology, a dedicated dance partner and feeling the beat, Marlee Matlin showed us all how to do it.

Hear the beat. Feel the beat. Whichever it may be, get up and dance.

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