photo of Huey Lewis
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Huey Lewis

He’s known as the distinct voice behind such ‘80s hits as the “The Power of Love” and “Hip to be Square.” It was during that decade Lewis went almost deaf in his right ear. Then in 2018, his left ear also gave out suddenly. His doctors later diagnosed it as Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that can cause vertigo, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and hearing loss that comes and goes. Lewis may never sing again, as he has troubling finding pitch or hearing the notes. But on good days, he can understand speech “fine” with hearing aids.

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photo of Whoopi Goldberg
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Whoopi Goldberg

This Academy Award-winning actor wears two hearing aids. Goldberg blames it on years of listening to loud music. She has trouble making out low-pitch sounds, which is   less common than hearing loss in high frequencies. Many people who can’t hear low-frequency sounds, such as deep male voices and vowels like “a” and “e,” may feel as though they’re underwater. Still, most can follow normal conversations without much trouble.

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photo of Rob Lowe
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Rob Lowe

This star of TV’s The West Wing and Parks and Recreation has been deaf in one ear since he was an infant. Lowe says the most likely cause was undiagnosed mumps, a viral infection that in rare cases can lead to hearing problems. Lowe says he rarely thinks about the loss. His one regret is that he can’t hear in stereo, which sounds richer and fuller and which helps locate the sound direction.

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photo of Bill Clinton
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Bill Clinton

The first boomer president has had high-frequency hearing loss for most of his life. It makes it harder to make out the voices of children and women. Conversations also can be tough to understand because high-frequency sounds include consonants like “s,” “f,” and “h” that give words meaning. At age 51, Clinton was fitted with two hearing aids after his 1997 physical.

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photo of Halle Berry
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Halle Berry

During the early 1990s, Berry’s then-boyfriend hit her so hard that he punctured her left eardrum. She lost 80% of the hearing on that side. Berry, the only African American to win the Oscar for best lead actress, grew up watching her mother get beaten. Today, Berry actively supports domestic abuse prevention and intervention groups.

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photo of Stephen Colbert
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Stephen Colbert

This satirist and host of The Late Show is deaf in his right ear. Colbert said surgeons tried to remove a tumor when he was a kid and “scooped it out with a melon baller.” Colbert once hoped for a career in marine biology. But the damage to his ear meant he couldn’t scuba dive because he wouldn’t be able to equalize the pressure in his ears under water.

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photo of Lance Allred
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Lance Allred

The former Cleveland Cavaliers center in 2008 became the first legally deaf player in the NBA. Allred had less than 20% of normal hearing. He had worn hearing aids since elementary school, but he didn’t wear them while playing basketball. Instead, he relied on lip reading and hand gestures to communicate with his teammates. 

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photo of Jean-Christophe Novelli
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Jean-Christophe Novelli

French-born British celebrity chef Novelli was diagnosed with severe hearing loss at age 52. He said decades spent in noisy kitchens worsened the problem. Novelli, who competed on the reality show Hell’s Kitchen, had to strain so hard to follow conversations that he got headaches and a stiff neck. He resisted getting help until his fiancée insisted. Novelli was fitted with a hearing aid and now urges people over 50 to get their hearing tested. 

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photo of Will.i.am
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Will.i.am

The Grammy Award-winning artist lived for years with tinnitus, which causes a constant beep or ringing in the ear. He said the cause is years of noisy music. After testing his ears, Will.i.am’s doctor told the now-45-year-old that his hearing is more like that of someone a lot older.

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photo of Rush Limbaugh
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Rush Limbaugh

This far-right Republican hosts the most popular talk radio show in the U.S. In 2001, Limbaugh lost almost all of his hearing during a 4-month stretch. His doctors said an autoimmune disease may have attacked Limbaugh’s inner ear. Limbaugh had surgery for a cochlear implant, a device that restores hearing by sending sound signals directly to the auditory nerves. His surgeon said Limbaugh’s deafness may have been caused by his admitted addiction to powerful painkillers.

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photo of Millie Bobby Brown
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Millie Bobby Brown

This English teen actor shot to fame as Eleven in the Netflix hit Stranger Things. Brown was born with partial deafness in one ear. But she eventually lost hearing in that ear entirely. When she shoots a scene, Brown sometimes misses the director’s “action” cue unless it’s loud. She recently began singing as well as acting.

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Derrick Coleman Jr.

The NFL player has little memory of ever hearing. He became legally deaf at age 3 because of a hereditary condition. Coleman has worn hearing aids since grade school. On the field, he has used pantyhose under his helmet to keep the devices from popping off. Coleman won a Super Bowl as a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks. His autobiography is titled, “No Excuses.”

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photo of Millicent Simmonds
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Millicent Simmonds

The teen actor lost her hearing as an infant after a medication overdose. Her cochlear implant gives her some sound. But Simmons largely communicates through American Sign Language. She played a deaf character in the nearly all-silent film A Quiet Place. She hopes that her visibility shows that deafness isn’t an obstacle.

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Adam Rippon

The Olympic figure skater had many health issues as a child. He was born with an ear infection and without 80% of his hearing. Rippon had surgery before his first birthday, which restored his ability to hear almost perfectly. Rippon won a bronze medal at the 2018 winter Olympics, where his sparkly costumes and personality made him a fan favorite.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 04/21/2020 Reviewed by Shelley A. Borgia, CCCA on April 21, 2020

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) Tankboy / Flickr

2) Mondadori Portfolio / Getty Images

3) Noel Vasquez / Getty Images

4) Hayden Schiff / Wikimedia Commons

5) Gage Skidmore / Wikipedia

6) Montclair Film / Wikimedia Commons

7) CollinBair / Wikipedia

8) Antony Jones / Getty Images

9) Eva Rinaldi / Flickr

10) Gage Skidmore / Flickr

11) Gage Skidmore / Flickr

12) Mike Morris / Wikimedia Commons

13) Jemal Countess / Getty Images

14) Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

 

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CBC News: “Stephen Colbert: 5 little-known facts about The Late Show's new host.”

Chattanooga Times Free Press: “Wiedmer: Deaf former NFL player Derrick Coleman will bring a message worth hearing to Chattanooga at RISE 2020.”

CNN: “Derrick Coleman: The deaf Super Bowl champion who broke the sound barrier,” “DEAFinitely Dope: Handing rap music to the deaf.”

Daily Mail: “Television chef Jean-Christophe Novelli reveals he is losing his hearing after years in noisy kitchens.”

Deafinitely Dope.

Hear-it: “High-frequency hearing loss.”

Krumslek, A. Stephen Colbert: Late-Night Comedy Leader, Lecent Press, 2019.

The Los Angeles Times: “Clinton to Get Hearing Aids for Both Ears,” “Rare Disease Sapping Limbaugh’s Hearing.”

Mashable: “6 things Deaf activist Nyle DiMarco wants you to know about sign language.”

Mayo Clinic: “Mumps,” “Cochlear implants,” “Tinnitus.”

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: “Quick Statistics About Hearing.”

NPR: “Facing Hearing Loss, Huey Lewis Releases What 'May Be' His Last Album.”

Penn State News: “First deaf NBA player Lance Allred speaks to high school students about perseverance.”

People: “Halle Berry Speaks Out About Her Experiences with Domestic Abuse: 'In the Quiet of My Mind, I Still Struggle',” “Hurts So Bad: Halle Berry Planned Her Success Carefully, but She Did Not Foresee the End of Her Marriage.”

Pittsburg Post-Gazette: “Rob Lowe.”

Rolling Stone: “Huey Lewis May Never Perform Again. But He Refuses to Give Up.”

Team USA: “Adam Rippon.”

Teen Vogue: “Millicent Simmonds Is a Force to Be Reckoned With,” “Millicent Simmonds: Why My "A Quiet Place" Character Matters.”

The New York Times: “Limbaugh Tells Listeners He's Nearly Deaf.”

The New Yorker: “Reporter Guy.”

Time: “Figure Skater Adam Rippon Already Made Olympics History. Here Are 5 Things to Know About Him.”

Times Leader: “First deaf NBA player Lance Allred speaks to high school students about perseverance.”

Variety: “How ‘Stranger Things’ Star Millie Bobby Brown Made Eleven ‘Iconic’ and Catapulted Into Pop Culture.”

Vt.: “Will.i.am reveals long battle with tinnitus will eventually lead to him losing his hearing.”

YouTube: “Music star Will.i.am speaks about his Tinnitus - 2011 Interview,” “Why Deaf Model Nyle DiMarco Doesn't Wish He Could Hear Personal,”  “Millicent Simmonds encourages participation in Sign On For Literacy competition.”

Starkey: “Are two hearing aids better than one?” “All Ears: What is low-frequency hearing loss?” “All Ears: What is high-frequency hearing loss?”

HuffPost: “Halle Berry Opens Up About Experience with Domestic Abuse.”

Reviewed by Shelley A. Borgia, CCCA on April 21, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.