Put Hearing Loss on the Screen

Petition production companies to put more hearing impaired characters on TV and in the movies!

Idea At A Glance

Hearing loss is a part of life for millions of people around the world. Why is it largely absent from television and movie plots?  Write letters and make phone calls to television and movie production companies. Let them know that they should connect with this large and growing audience and add hearing impaired characters to their storylines.


West Wing

Josephine "Joey" Lucas is a fictional character on The West Wing, a U.S. television serial drama about the inner workings of the White House. Portrayed by actress Marlee Martin, Joey is a successful political expert who happens to have a severe hearing impairment and uses an interpreter. Her hearing impairment is acknowledged in the show, but it never becomes her defining trait or characteristic. Her character shows how a hearing impairment does not need to prevent one from leading a successful life.

Switched at Birth

In the United States, the teen soap opera Switched At Birth explores the communication gap between persons with hearing loss and those without hearing loss. The show follows the lives of two teenage girls who discovered they were switched at birth. One of them is deaf, and the other one is not. Throughout the show, deaf and hard of hearing characters use American Sign Language to communicate with each other. Emily Nussbaum, writing about the show in The New Yorkerstates that the sign language scenes make Switched at Birth "a show that can't be skimmed: in extended scenes among deaf characters, whole minutes elapse, submerging the audience in a world that feels intimate and alive, rich with grimaces, grins, and other physical nuances we'd usually ignore."

Potential Impact

Television and movies play a role in both creating and reinforcing social norms. Television shows have long influenced how individuals view themselves, society, and relationships. Including a hearing impaired character on a TV soap opera, a TV show, or a movie can potentially raise broad public awareness of hearing loss. It would present hearing loss as a normal part of life; an issue that can be effectively addressed and not necessarily limit one's quality of life or aspirations.