It's TV Week! Focus on past TV/Movie plots that highlighted hearing health

It's TV Week! Focus on past TV/Movie plots that highlighted hearing health

Hearing loss it the third most prevalent chronic condition in adults. However, representations of hearing health are rarely seen in pop culture with the exception of commercials for hearing devices. While there may be the occasional reference to a hearing impaired individual, it is often not in a positive light. Given the prevalence of hearing issues (hearing loss, ringing in the ears, etc), and the fact that many individuals will experience a difficulty with their hearing at some point in their lives, the absence of postive portrayals is concerning.

This week we will be focusing episodes of television shows, particular characters, and movie plots that portrayed some aspect of hearing health.

  • Sue Thomas, FBEye: This TV crime drama was loosely based on Sue Thomas, a deaf woman whose ability to read lips landed her a job on a surveillance team with the FBI. Sue Thomas is able to communicate in both English and American Sign Language, and uses a hearing dog (Levi) as her ears.


  • Switched at Birth: This TV drama has numerous hard of hearing character. The lead actress, Katie LeClerc, portrays Daphne, a hard of hearing teenager, while a supporting character Emmett (played by Sean Berdy) is also hard of hearing. Katie LeClerc suffers from Menieres Disease in real life, and Sean Berdy was born deaf.


  • House: while this popular medical drama often alluded to different hearing conditions such as acoustic neuromas and tinnitus, the plot of episode 22 of season 5, called “A House Divided”, highlighted the heated debate of cochlear implants in the Deaf community. Cochlear Implants are an option for those who are profoundly hearing impaired and would not benefit from hearing aids. There is widespread debate about the ethics of cochlear implantation in the Deaf community. This was a very interesting episode that highlighted both sides of the debate.