Olympic Athletes with Hearing Loss

With the Olympic Games currently going on in London, we decided to take a look at some of the Olympic athletes (both current and historic) that have overcome their hearing impairment to compete.

David SmithDavid Smith
2012 US Men’s Volleyball Team
David is a 27 year old first time Olympian. He was born with hearing loss, which doctors believe is in the 80-90% range. He has worn hearing aids in both ears since he was 3.  Almost deaf, he relies on lip reading to communicate with his team mates.  His coach has introduced what he calls the “David Smith Rule”, which means that when David has the ball, there’s no stopping him because he can’t hear anyone calling him off.  His coach says it’s not an issue because David is such a great volleyball player and knows exactly what to do.  He made his Olympic debut in London with the team’s sweep of Serbia.

Tamika CatchingsTamika Catchings
2012 US Women’s Basketball Team
Tamika is atwo-time Olympic gold medalist (2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing). Tamika was born with hearing loss in both ears.  In third grade, when her classmates teased her about her huge hearing aids, she threw them into a field.  As a college basketball player, her trainer encouraged her to wear hearing aids and see a speech therapist.  Today, she wears extra durable hearing aids for during games, but goes without hearing aids for regular day-to-day activities.  Tamika hopes to extend the USA’s gold medal streak to five in a row at the 2012 London Olympics.

Chris ColwellChris Colwill
2012 US Men’s Diving Team
Chrishas won eight national diving championships and hopes to win his first gold medal on the 3-meter springboard in London. Chris was born with 60% hearing loss in both ears.  As he can’t wear his hearing aids when he dives, he relies on the scoreboard to tell him when it’s his turn to dive.

Jeff Float
1984 US Men’s Swim Team
Jeff Float was the first deaf swimmer to win a gold medal when the US team won the 800-meter freestyle at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and broke the existing world record. Jeff’s hearing loss was caused by viral meningitis at the age of 13 months old.  He is 90% deaf in his right ear and 65% deaf in his left ear.

Marie  RoethlisbergerMarie Roethlisberger
1984 US Women’s Gymnastics Team (Alternate)
Marie suffered 100% hearing loss in one ear and 85% hearing loss in the other ear after a childhood case of meningitis. As a gymnast, she choreographed her floor routines to music with heavy bass so she could feel the vibrations in the floor.

Jim RyunJim Ryun
1968 US Men’s Track & Field Team
Jim lost half of his hearing at age five after a case of the measles. He won a silver medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in the 1500 meter race. He went on to become a Republican congressman, serving the 2nd District of Kansas from 1996-2007.

Jim didn’t wear hearing aids until he was 40 years old.  In 2003, he introduced a Hearing Aid Tax Credit Act to provide a $500 federal tax credit for qualifying individuals with hearing loss.

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