Deafness in Hollywood

by | Jan 30, 2023 | News

Movies have the power to influence the way people think about certain ideas or topics. For example, the movie “Jaws” gave people all around the world a different experience when swimming in the ocean. Sometimes, movies take on more serious matters and can alter the way society looks at important topics such as racism, women’s rights, environmental sustainability and war. The history of cinema has many examples of dealing with the rewards and challenges that belong to members of the deaf community.  

Movies That Feature Deaf Characters

Released in 1962, “The Miracle Worker” told the story of the relationship between Anne Sullivan, the teacher, and Helen Keller, the student. As one of the early Hollywood movies focusing on a person with significant hearing loss, this film likely influenced the way many viewers thought about deafness. Several other films throughout the decades have also featured a spectrum of hearing-impaired characters:

  • “Immortal Beloved” from 1994 about the composer Ludwig Van Beethoven
  • “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” from 1968 based on the novel by Carson McCullers
  • “The Quiet” from 2005, a drama about a hearing-impaired teenager
  • “Read My Lips” from 2001, a romance between a woman with hearing loss and an ex-convict

Just as our services at HEAR Center help those with hearing loss, a thoughtful movie can also provide something of value to those who are hard of hearing. Good movies provide a window into the deaf experience as well as portray strong role models. While not all films inspired by hearing loss produce stellar stories, several have resulted in wonderful experiences for fans of cinema.

Important Hollywood Films With Deafness Themes

A movie can stand out for an excellent representation of people dealing with issues related to hearing  Recently, the film “CODA” won the 2022 Academy Award for Best Picture. The story focused on the struggles of Ruby Rossi, who grew up in a family impacted by hearing loss. In the movie, Rossi must balance her love for music with her obligations to her family.

The movie won two more Academy Awards, one for best-adapted screenplay and one for the best-supporting actor by Troy Kostur. Interestingly, Kostur and his co-star Marlee Matlin both are hearing-impaired and remain the only hearing-impaired actors to win an Academy Award. Matlin won an award for her role in the acclaimed “Children of a Lesser God.”

Another important recent film on deafness, “The Sound of Metal” saw release in 2021 and followed a drummer who began to lose his hearing. He meets many people in the deaf community who help him come to terms with his loss of hearing.  The goals of the film included the desire to break down misconceptions about hearing loss and to provide an example of realistically dealing with the issue. The film showed the importance of listening and communicating for everyone.

The Movies and Hiring Deaf Actors

Recent trends in cinema make it more likely actors who portray hearing-impaired characters will have a history of hearing loss. This can lead to more accurate depictions of individuals who are hard of hearing.

At tHEAR Center, we strive to support the deaf community comprehensively. Reach out to us to learn more about our mission.  

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