The entertainment industry has a long way to go to include those who are deaf and have hearing loss equally. But still, there are some people with hearing loss who have made major waves in the entertainment industry. Here are a few of them:
This award-winning actress is probably the best-known of all the actresses, actors and musicians in the entertainment industry who are deaf or hard of hearing. By the time Matlin was 18 months old, she was declared legally deaf as she lost all of her hearing in her right ear and 80 percent in the left ear. By the time Matlin was seven years old, she knew she wanted to be an actress. She acted in her first play - taking the leading role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" - at the Center on Deafness in the Chicago suburbs. In 1986, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in the film "Children of a Lesser God." She has also won a Golden Globe and been nominated for four Emmys for her work in television.
Currently, Matlin acts in the sitcom "Switched at Birth." In a paramount episode in early March 2013, she and the entire cast of the show acted in the first episode in television history done completely in ASL. Matlin both signs and speaks, depending on what is necessary for her acting role, something she's been criticized for from various segments of the deaf community. But in a 2009 After Ellen interview, Matlin said that she has to do what is best for her and what she thinks is right, and that she doesn't worry about what other people think:
"I can't be everyone's answer to making everything right in the world just because the world has historically not understood people who are deaf," she said. "I've learned I'm just one of many and that whatever people want to put on me belongs to them, not me."
Though not as well-known as Marlee Matlin, Brian Kerwin is making waves for another reason. The television actor recently had a guest role on the cop drama "Blue Bloods" on CBS. The best part? In the role, he is wearing the hearing aids he uses in real life, and there was no mention of his hearing loss as an issue in the storyline. This is important because it helps normalize the use of hearing aids.
Kerwin has had hearing aids since 2007, but he told the Center for Hearing and Communication in a March 2013 interview that he lets producers know that he doesn't mind taking off his hearing aids. Typically, all of the directors and producers acquiesce - eagerly - to his offer to remove them. But director Dave Barrett of "Blue Bloods" told Kerwin to keep them in. Though Kerwin had a hearing test that indicated he needed hearing aids, it took him seven years to make the decision - something he regrets:
"We're living in an age when so many people have so many things in their ears all the time," he said. "It shouldn't be seen as that strange."
In the interview, Kerwin also talked candidly about encouraging others to get hearing aids if they need them - he noted that people often feel they have to "come out of the closet with it," but he said he doesn't care if his hearing aids get others' attention:
"Sure, it's nice for them to be discreet. But when I see them the typical beige color, almost like prosthetic plastic, I think it looks like an apology for wearing them," Kerwin said.