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8 Notable African-Americans With Hearing Loss

From pop culture to science, sports, academics, politics, and more, people with hearing loss have contributed to every industry in our dynamic world. As we celebrate Black History Month in February, learn some of the ways these eight notable people have made their mark.

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Time to Get Inspired

With an estimated one in five Americans directly touched by hearing loss — a common chronic condition that spans race, sex, age, and socioeconomic status — a variety of icons in pop culture and beyond have experienced this challenge in their own lives. For February’s Black History Month, we’re showcasing eight African American notables with hearing loss and whose stories inspire.  

1. Whoopi Goldberg

Oscar-winning actress, comedian, activist, writer, and “The View” moderator, Goldberg cites longtime exposure to loud music as the reason for her hearing loss, according to published reports. The Sister Act and Ghost star, who has collaborated with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, wears hearing aids and has advised others to take care of their hearing health.  

2. Derrick Coleman

As the NFL’s first legally deaf offensive player, Coleman, who is a former fullback, began tackling adversity at an early age. He was just 3 years old when he lost his hearing. He eventually not only made it in the NFL but also won the Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2014. He launched the nonprofit Derrick L. Coleman Jr. No Excuse Foundation to give back to kids, teens, and adults with hearing loss who are in need.  

3. Tamika Catchings

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and retired WNBA great of Indiana Fever fame was born with a hearing loss, using the experience to help fuel her drive to win. “In the classroom, kids could make fun of me for being different,” wrote Catchings in a 2011 ESPN profile. “On the soccer field (my first sport) and eventually the basketball court, they couldn’t. I outworked them, plain and simple.”  

4. Andrew Foster

Being the first African American to hold a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University, the renowned school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, was one of many pioneering moments for Foster, who then earned two master’s degrees at other institutions and eventually launched more than 30 schools for the deaf in over a dozen African nations.  

5. Halle Berry

An alleged domestic violence incident led to Berry’s hearing loss, but the Oscar-winning actress, activist, beauty brand partner, and X-Men megastar didn’t let that setback torpedo her goals. Berry, also a producer, has around 50 movie and television acting roles under her belt and debuted as a director in 2021 with the film Bruised.  

6. Will.i.am

This Emmy- and Grammy-winning recording artist, who is also a tech visionary, producer, DJ, designer, and education philanthropist, is best known for his Black Eyed Peas hits. Many people may not know that the global entertainer experiences tinnitus, which he has described as a constant ringing in his ears.  

7. Claudia Gordon

After losing her hearing at age 8 and migrating to the United States from Jamaica with her mother at age 11, Gordon defied the naysayers to not only reportedly become the first Black and deaf female attorney in the U.S. but also to help enforce the rights of those with disabilities, as she worked as a lawyer in the executive branch under former President Barack Obama.  

8. Connie Briscoe

A New York Times bestselling author, Briscoe, who has a cochlear implant, was born with a hearing loss, but she never let it slow her down. The Money Can’t Buy Love and Big Girls Don’t Cry writer has sold more than 600,000 hardcover and paperback copies of her first novel, Sisters and Lovers, per an online bio, and credits tackling hearing loss with helping her grow “stronger, more resilient and more determined to reach [her] goals.”  

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Non-Hispanic African Americans “have the lowest prevalence of hearing loss among adults aged 20–69,” per the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
  • Some 53.3% of deaf people had jobs in 2017, per a 2019 report by the National Deaf Center, but only 44.8% of deaf African Americans are in the labor force.
  • Since 1982, the nonprofit National Black Deaf Advocates — along with more than 30 local chapters — has worked with parents, professionals, organizations, and others to help ensure the representation of deaf community members in public policy, leadership, economic opportunity, and more.

 


Don’t let hearing loss get in the way of reaching your dreams — not even a little bit! Be a hero to the people who count on you by keeping your hearing in top shape. Contact us to schedule a hearing exam or a clean and check of your hearing aids today.