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10 Most Famous Deaf People in History


There are about 466 million people globally with hearing disabilities. The loss of hearing may be due to complications at birth, chronic ear infections, exposure to loud noises, and in some cases it is genetic. Early identification of hearing loss may (for the reversible injuries) lead to correction by cochlear implant or hearing aids and other assistive devices.

Here is a list of famous deaf people who did not allow their disabling hearing loss to get in the way of their success.

1. Ludwig Van Beethoven

Beethoven must be one of the most famous deaf people in history. Ludwig was born a healthy baby on 16th December 1770. He was suspected to be suffering from a disease caused by lead poisoning at the age of 26 and became completely deaf by the age of 52. It became a challenge for him to perform at concerts as he heard neither the music nor the audience applauding.

Deafness did not, however, stop him from composing some of the world’s greatest music. These included String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor and Symphony No.3 in E flat.


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2. Will.iam

His real name is William Adams. He is a rapper, songwriter, entrepreneur, DJ, actor and producer. He is famously known as a member of the Black Eyed Peas. Due to prolonged exposure to loud music, Will suffered from tinnitus, an irreversible condition. This notwithstanding, during his tenure with the Black Eyed Peas, he managed to sell 31 million albums globally.

In spite of his perceived disabling condition, he went on to win three Grammy Awards. He has worked with icons like Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. He has also appeared on shows such as American Idol and the X Factor. Will.iam is one of the most famous deaf people in recent times.


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3. Thomas Edison

His hearing problems started when he was still a child. Thomas used his deafness to his advantage as it helped him concentrate on his work. One of his greatest achievements is the invention of the light bulb. He then developed electric power, which was crucial in modern businesses and factories. He also invented motion pictures through phonography.


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4. Hellen Keller

A writer and political activist, Hellen was born in 1880. When she was only 18 months, she contracted brain fever, leaving her blind, deaf and dumb. She was the first blind and deaf achiever of a Bachelor Degree in Arts. Hellen also helped to set up an organization in support of blind adults. She also worked closely with people with disabilities around the world.


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5. Jane Lynch

Famously known for the award-winning TV series, Glee, Jane is completely deaf in one ear. She discovered her problem at the age of 7 while playing a hearing game with her sibling. In spite of this disability, she has managed to make a name for herself in the film industry through popular shows such as Desperate Housewives, and West Wing.


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6. Marlee Matlin

Born in 1965, Marlee defied all odds by winning an Academy Award for the role she played in Children of a Lesser God. She also proudly won the Golden Globe award. She has also been nominated twice at the Emmy awards, which would be a dream come true for some actors without disabilities. She has become an inspiration to many in the National Association of the Deaf.


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7. Shelley Beattie

Her deafness came about due to aspirin overdose at the age of three. She was a professional actress and bodybuilder who despite her deafness came top three at the Ms International and Ms Olympia. She appeared twice on the cover of Deaf Life magazine in the 1990s. Shelley played a role in American Gladiators and the Orlando Live show. Until her death, she worked with physically impaired people and as a personal trainer.


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8. Bill Clinton

His most significant achievement is becoming president of the United States. Like Will.iam, Clinton’s deafness came about due to exposure to loud music in his youth. He uses hearing aids, especially in crowded rooms to counteract his hearing loss.


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9. Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi attributes her deafness to the loud concerts she attended in her youth. She has had a colourful career in her acting. She is one of the few to have a Tony, Oscar, Emmy and Grammy award on her shelf. She has also had some pretty impressive performances on television. Undoubtedly, she is a living legend with large shoes for anyone with or without a disability to fill.


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10. Kiefer Sutherland

Best known for his role in the TV series 24, his inability to hear was caused by the prolonged exposure to gunshots and explosion noises while filming. He now uses hearing aids to get through his days.

Being disabled does not mean you are unable. It means you are abled differently. People without disabling hearing problems communicate through speech, while those with deafness use sign language to communicate. The bottom line is we all are able to communicate in our own different ways and accomplish great things.


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