12 Famous Deaf Athletes and Their Inspirational Stories

You may be surprised to know some of the world’s most acclaimed and talented athletes have hearing loss. An estimated 466 million people worldwide are considered by the World Health Organization to have “disabling hearing loss”. As an athlete, there are many examples of famous deaf athletes having established themselves among some of the world’s elite.

Below are 12 famous deaf athletes and their inspirational stories in the world of sorts:

1. Derrick Coleman

Derrick Coleman began to lose his hearing when he was 3 years old, which is believed to be the result of predominantly genetic factors. In 2012, Coleman became the NFL’s first legally defined deaf player.

Signed to the Minnesota Vikings when he first entered the league and now playing for the Arizona Cardinals, Coleman continues to play using hand signals and lip reading to communicate with his team members during the game.


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2. Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings is a WNBA basketball player for the Indiana Fever. Throughout her career, she has maintained proficiency as a scorer, rebounder, ball handler, and defender. She was drafted originally in 2001, before beginning an all-star rookie season in 2002.

Catchings is regularly voted by fans as one of the top players in WNBA history. As of the 2012 season, this famous deaf athlete was the serving President of the WNBA Players Association.


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3. Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen is a retired English rugby union player who suffers from 33 percent hearing loss in both ears. This famous deaf athlete has played a key role in making rugby more accessible to young deaf athletes and players suffering from hard-of-hearing.

Cohen’s most notable appearance was perhaps as a member of the English national team, winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup.


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4. Mat Gilbert

Mat Gilbert is a professional rugby union player who began his career playing semi-pro in Wales. After training full-time, he eventually caught eyes in Bath prior to being signed to play in the Aviva Premiership – one of the world’s top rugby divisions. In his spare time, Mat Gilbert works hard with deaf youths, encouraging them to chase their dreams and achieve.


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5. James Kyte

James Kyte, also known as Jim Kyte, is a former NHL player, having played 598 games and being thus far the only deaf hockey player in the NHL. Diagnosed with hereditary hearing loss when he was 3 years of age, Kyte wore a customized helmet throughout his career.

The helmet came with flaps to cover his ears and protect his hearing aids during games. Unfortunately, Kyte was in an automobile accident in 1997, experienced a concussion, and was forced into retirement.


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6. Matt Hamill

Matt Hamill is an American MMA and wrestler who has competed in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Hamill received the nickname ‘The Hammer’ in his college wrestling years after he successfully beat a national champion in his first match.

As a famous deaf athlete, Hamill has received tremendous praise in the MMA community and has even had a movie made about his life called The Hammer. As of this writing, Matt Hamill maintains an official MMA fight record of 12-8-0.


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7. Terence Mike Parkin

Terence Mike Parkin is a swimmer from South Africa. In his career, he won a silver medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics, competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics, and took away 2 gold medals at the 2005 Deaflympics. Perhaps even more important than that, in 2011, Parkin saved a young boy from drowning.


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8. Reed Doughty

Reed Doughty was drafted into the NFL by the Washington Redskins in 2006. Although not legally deaf, Doughty suffers from extreme hearing loss and at times has had to rely on lip reading to understand and communicate with others in the game.


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9. Ian Redford

Ian Redford is a famous deaf athlete well-known to Scottish football fans. Joining the Rangers in 1980, Redford played a total of six seasons and helped the Rangers to four domestic cup trophies.

After being traded to the Dundee United, Redford helped the team through its most successful period in its history, reaching their peak in 1987 as he scored the winning goal in the semi-final of the UEFA Cup. Redford’s autobiography Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head is well worth the read!


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10. Ashley Fiolek

Ashley Fiolek is a returned professional motocross racer. As a deaf person who communicates solely through American Sign Language, Fiolek’s accomplishments speak for themselves. She’s a 4-time winner of the Women’s Motocross (WMX) championship in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012.

Despite retiring in 2012, you can still find this famous deaf athlete pop up here and there including on an episode of Switched at Birth.

11. Carl Morris

Carl Morris is a deaf pool player, becoming an eight-ball pool World Champion in 1998. Highly accomplished, Morris now serves as Secretary of the International Professional Pool Players’ Association (IPA).

Despite setbacks throughout his life, Carl is an example of someone who continually sought confidence and harnessed his skillset to be considered among the best there ever was in his category of sport.

12. Alan Kilby

Alan Kilby was a professional wrestler in the UK who made his name throughout the 1960s, specializing in British wrestling, and winning championships across the mid-heavyweight and light heavyweight classes.

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