Famous Deaf People

More than 5% of people around the world suffer from disabling hearing loss. These deaf people need to adjust to living through the help of adaptations that let them live an independent life. They must adapt by learning sign language, learning how to lip-read and/or using cochlear implants or hearing aids. Here are some famous deaf people who have made great accomplishments, greatly adding to the lives of those around them and the world.

Helen Keller


Helen Adams Keller lived from 1880 to 1968 and is most famous for being the first blind/deaf person to successfully graduate from college as well as her work as a lecturer, activist and author. Not born deaf and blind, Keller got sick with an illness at the age of nineteen months. Although the illness was quickly cured, it left her without sight or hearing. Despite this, she became a world-famous author and speaker and is remembered for her various causes such as being an advocate for those with disabilities.


Thomas Edison


Thomas Alva Edison lived from 1847 to 1931 and was one of the most famous American inventors and businessmen, though of Dutch origin. Some of his most influential inventions include the long lasting light bulb and the phonograph. Edison became deaf because of a combination of suffering from scarlet fever as a child and recurring middle ear infections that went untreated. While in school, Edison would frequently daydream and his teachers said he was horrible at math, had problems focusing and had issues with both words and speech.

Ludwig Van Beethoven


Many people see Ludwig Van Beethoven as a great inspiration due to his ability to create beautiful works of music (both playing and composing) despite being deaf, which many people see as miraculous. He was able to conquer his deafness to become one of the most famous and best musicians in history. In addition to struggling with being deaf, he also had to deal with not being able to hear applause from his audience, instead relying on looking at them which caused a great deal of emotion.


Heather Whitestone


Heather Whitestone was born in February of 1973 in Alabama and became deaf at 18 months of age due to influenza. Whitestone’s mom was determined that she learn how to speak so she encouraged her to take dance classes with the hope that the rhythm would help her learn to talk. Whitestone faced many challenges but stayed positive throughout life. In 1995 she was crowned Miss Alabama and then Miss America.


Pete Townshend


Peter Townsend was born in 1945 in London and is most famous for his key part in the band The Who. He is an award-winning writer, composer, songwriter, singer and guitarist. He is losing his hearing and worries that this will put an end to his ability to write music. Townsend feels that his hearing loss is because of using headphones throughout his life and experts agree that this may be the cause (and warn the current generation to be careful).


Lou Ferrigno


Lou Ferrigno was born in in 1951 and is an American fitness consultant and trainer and actor as well as a retired professional bodybuilder. Ferrigno thinks that he suffered from multiple ear infections soon after his birth and because of this, he lost between 75 and 80 percent of his hearing. Ferrigno feels that instead of holding him back, his hearing loss has actually pushed him forward. He says that it does take time to be able to overcome a handicap like this but you only get what you put into life.


Linda Bove


Linda Bove was born in 1945 and is an American actress who is deaf and best-known for her role as Linda the Librarian on Sesame Street. Through her work on Sesame Street (which is the longest role for a deaf actor in TV history that is recurring) she taught thousands of children about sign language as well as issues faced by the Deaf Community. She studied at Gallaudet University and married Ed Waterstreet, a deaf performer from the National Theater of the Deaf.


Harold MacGrath


Harold MacGrath is a famous screenwriter, short story write and bestselling novelist. He wrote an article called “The Short Autobiography of a Deaf Man” for The Saturday Evening Post on April 23, 1932. In this article MacGrath described his struggles due to his hearing impairment. Because he lived in an era when people assumed the deaf were stupid, he hid his deafness from many people including his employer. MacGrath became very wealthy due to his success and was able to travel around the world.


Johnnie Ray


Johnnie Ray was an American pianist, songwriter and singer who lived from 1927 to 1990. He became partially deaf (in his right ear) at age 13 because of an accident while at a Boy Scout event. Ray created a unique style that many people describe as a mix of classic pop and pre-rock R&B. during performances he used a hearing aid. Sadly a surgery he had in 1958 in New York made Ray almost entirely deaf in both of his ears but hearing aids were able to help.


Dummy Hoy


Dummy Hoy was famous as one of the American center fielders in the MLB. He became deaf due to meningitis at the age of three and later was class valedictorian at Ohio State School for the Deaf located in Columbus. He is considered one of the most accomplished deaf players throughout the history of MLB. Some sources even credit him with creating the signals for outs and safe calls. Hoy is also the first deaf athlete to join the American athletic Association of the Deaf Hall of Fame in 1951.

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