Marlee Matlin

Deaf Actress

  • Marlee Matlin was only 18 months old when an illness permanently destroyed all hearing in her right ear, and 80 percent of the hearing in her left ear, making her legally deaf.
  • Marlee began learning to use sign language around the age of 5, but her parents struggled with it.
  • She landed her first leading role as Dorothy in a production of The Wizard of Oz with a children's theater company in Chicago.
  • Marlee continued to pursue her acting into adulthood, while also earning a degree in law enforcement at Harper College.
Unscripted: Marlee Matlin

What is she famous for?

• In 1986, at the age of 21, she was the youngest performer to receive a Best Actress Oscar (for Children of a Lesser God).

• In 1993, she performed the national anthem in American Sign Language at Super Bowl XXVII as Garth Brooks sang.

• She competed on the sixth season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars

• She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009.

• She is an author, and her most recent book is "I'll Scream Later".

• She is in many popular TV shows, and "Switched at Birth" is one of my favorites.

Switched at Birth - Bay, Emmett & Melody talking scene season 1 ep 9

Types of Hearing Loss

There are many kinds of hearing loss, but most fall into two categories: sensorineural or conductive.


Sensorineural hearing loss

This is the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the tiny hair cells in the ear that help transmit sound to your brain. These can bend or break due to:
  • Exposure to very loud noises
  • Genetic disposition
  • Virus infections in the inner ear
  • Certain medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation
  • Head injury
  • Age
The effects are almost always the same – it becomes harder to distinguish speech from noise, certain high-pitched sounds such as birdsong disappear altogether, people seem to be mumbling and you often have to ask them to repeat themselves.

Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and can’t be corrected medically, but a hearing aid can almost always help.

Conductive hearing loss

This is caused by any blockage that prevents sound reaching the inner ear. This might include:
  • A build-up of earwax
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Unusual bone growth in the middle ear
  • Middle ear infections
  • Small holes in the eardrum
Conductive hearing loss is not necessarily permanent and can often be corrected medically or surgically.


Mixed hearing loss

It is possible that you may suffer from both types of hearing loss. This condition is called mixed hearing loss . Mixed hearing losses can be helped with surgery and hearing aids.

Other Information

  • She was in rehab for cocaine use from past sexual abuse from a baby-sitter at age 11 and a teacher at age 15.