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Famous Olympians with Hearing Loss


Famous Olympians with Hearing Loss

The ancient Olympic Games were quite a party at the Sanctuary of Zeus a couple thousand years ago in ancient Greece. We cannot say for sure whether any of those Olympians had hearing loss, however, we doubt this would have made much difference, as the main sports were athletics, horseracing, javelin throwing, and wrestling with no holds barred.

Some athletes walked for weeks through lion-infested territory to reach the stadium, or so the story goes. We should remember those early Games were only open to men of Greek nationality, although there were loads of Greek tribes. An Ancient Roman Emperor shut the Games down 2,500 years ago, after he decided they were pagan cults and ruled them offside.

The Genesis of the Modern Olympic Games

The modern Olympic Games began in 1859, although only Greeks and Turks could compete. We cannot say whether there were any Olympians with hearing disability back then, because there were no hearing aids, and they may have even been unreported. In fact, it put a brave man to dive through the glass ceiling in 1908, and prove the Olympics really were for everybody.

Famous Olympians with Hearing Loss Before the 1950s

Oskar Willhelm Wetzell

Oskar was a Finnish diver who became the first Olympian with a known hearing disability to compete in 1908. He returned to the competition in Sweden, although he never made it to a final in 1912.

Carlo Orlandi

Carlo made it to the gold in London in 1928. This was a notable achievement, especially since he born both deaf and mute. Do you suppose the Italian handed his ear trumpet to his coach at the start of each round?

Donald Gollan

Donald was a British rower who qualified for the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. He was rather deaf although he could communicate in British Sign Language. It is a sadness technology was lagging, or else he might have been one of the first Olympians with cochlear implants.

Olympians with Hearing Disability Return in 1961

The Olympic Games seem to have entered a quieter period after Donald rowed for Britain at Amsterdam. Perhaps the Great Depression followed by World War II put a damper on them for a while. However, the deaf community was about to make a comeback!

Ignazio Fabra

Ignazio scooped two firsts for wrestling for Italy in the 1952 Helsinki Games, and returned the favor at Melbourne in 1956. The 1955 world champion was deaf since birth and communicated by signs. There were still no hearing aids for Olympians with the disability in those days.

Modern Olympian Heroes with Hearing Loss

We will have to take an Olympian leap fast forward before we run out time and the editor disqualifies us. The Japanese Olympics are on the go right now, but we will catch up on Olympians with cochlear implants there after the dust has settled.

Hugo Passos

Hugo wrestled for Italy at the 1997 Copenhagen, 2001 Rome, 2005 Melbourne, and 2009 Taipei Deaf Olympics. He made his name in history when he became the first legally deaf athlete to represent his county. This was at the 2004 Summer Olympics. 

Tamika Catchings

Tamika won four Olympic golds for Basketball for America in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. She is hard of hearing. In fact, she is one of the Olympians with hearing loss who was wearing hearing aids by the time she went to school.

David Smith

David represented America for volleyball at the 2012 London, and 2016 Rio Olympics. He is almost completely deaf, although he manages by reading lips and wearing almost invisible hearing aids.

Jakub Nosek

Czech bobsledder Jakub became deaf from meningitis when he was three. This cost him 99% loss in one ear and 80% in the other. So, he may well have been an Olympian with cochlear implants at Taipei 2009, Sofia 2013, and Samsun 2017, although we cannot say for sure.

A Reader’s Question: Could Sport Damage MY Hearing Aids?

Sports of all kinds are a rough and tumble business. Why you could even take a fall playing ping-pong. It does not make sense to risk a $5,000 pair of hearing aids, especially as your insurance may not pay if you damage them.

We have had a few calls from athletes asking us whether our hearing aids are robust. We make a point of being honest and saying yes they are, but only up to a point. However, and that is the big drawcard, Blue Angels rechargeable hearing aids price from $397.99 PER PAIR upwards.

Therefore, it would not be a total train smash if you rode over them with a bobsled, or they fell out while you were climbing a wall.