07 May 2008

Hearing impaired Oscar winner inspires ?Dancing with the Stars? audience

Oscar winning actress Marlee Matlin delivered another inspiring performance when she competed against other stars in the popular 'Dancing with the Stars' reality TV dance contest on American TV in the spring of 2008. Unlike her competition Matlin is unable to hear the music.

Matlin represented 26 million hearing impaired Americans and inspired millions more with a gutsy demonstration of how to overcome what would be considered an insurmountable obstacle by most people. She is profoundly hearing impaired.

For two weeks and two rounds, the waltz and the samba, Matlin and her professional dance partner, Fabien Sanchez, danced well enough to stay in the competition against the other couples of one celebrity and one professional dancer. But in the third round, the mamba, Matlins inability to hear the music caught up with her, the judges commented that the pair lost their way a bit and Matlin and Sanhez were eliminated in the vote among the viewers. But along the way Matlin's perseverance had moved some of the judges and many in the national audience to tears. Matlin hopes that her taking on the challenge have helped break down some prejudices about hearing impaired people and their abilities.

High heels more worrisome than hearing loss

Matlin has suffered from severe hearing loss since the age of 18 months. Today, at age 42, she is wearing two digital hearing aids.

While unable to hear the music, Matlin can sense the rhythm and feel the vibration of the bass, and she said that she never feared the challenge of dancing. But at first, she found the thought of dancing in high heels unsettling. ?The stairs at the front of the stage ? I'm thinking heels, stairs, and I start to sweat,? she told the USA Today newspaper.

Marlee Matlin never lets her hearing disability get in her way. She won the Oscar for her role as a deaf woman in the movie, 'Children of a Lesser God' and has starred in numerous movies and TV shows since that historic triumph early in her career.

Source: USA Today, 19 February 2008; www.usatoday.com, Dancing with Marlee blog, April 2008

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