Celebrities Who Have Supported BHI
Presented chronologically in the order of their service to the Better Hearing Institute
Many other famous celebrities have served BHI who are no longer with us. But we will forever be grateful and proud that they volunteered their services to BHI to encourage Americans to overcome their hearing loss. To read about past celebrities visit our section Heroes of the Past
Deidre Downs – Miss America 2005 / Pediatrician-to-be
Deidre Downs, Miss America 2005, serves as national spokesperson for the Better Hearing Institute on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of hearing loss, especially in children.
Her mission is to educate the 31 million Americans suffering from hearing loss on the need for early diagnosis and treatment with today’s modern technology solutions. As a pediatrician-to-be, she is focused on the one million children with hearing loss. She identifies with them because she has had a hearing loss since childhood.
Deidre’s hearing loss is genetic. Both her father and brother suffer from hearing loss so she was tested before starting school and diagnosed early in life. She began wearing hearing aids at age five and recalls feeling conflicted with everyday social situations.
“Hearing loss affected me dramatically as a child. I began wearing hearing aids in kindergarten, but I didn’t like looking different from other kids, so I was very self-conscious about them. Yet when I didn’t wear them, I felt a different type of social isolation because I had trouble following conversations.”
A native of Alabama, Deidre has been successful despite her hearing loss, but does not want other children to face what she had to.
“For years I chose not to wear hearing aids—even while participating in pageants and the Miss America competition. I simply learned how to get by without them. In school I sat in the front of the classroom. In social situations I made a point to always look at people while they were speaking.”
Deidre was valedictorian of her high school and a Rhodes Scholar finalist. She earned a volleyball scholarship to the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar. After transferring to Samford University, she graduated magna cum laude in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in history. After college, she was chosen Miss Alabama and later Miss America 2005.
Deidre currently travels the nation educating the public and serving as an enthusiastic advocate on the issue. As a medical student, public speaker and former athlete, Deidre knows well the onset of challenges hearing loss sufferers face and wishes to educate the public on the condition’s sharp increase and the life-changing technology available for its treatment.
“It wasn’t until I started medical school that I realized I couldn’t get by without hearing aids any longer. It was very hard to follow lectures in large auditoriums, interact with fellow students and professors (especially if they wore surgical masks), and interact with patients. I realized that I finally needed to face my hearing problem and find a solution that would help me to be the best doctor I can be for my patients."
“Wearing hearing aids again gave me the ability to better participate in life—school, family, and friends. Hearing aids have diminished the impact hearing loss has on my life. I finally feel like I can hear as well as a normal hearing person. My friends, family, and classmates no longer have to constantly repeat themselves. I don’t have to use closed captioning on TV anymore and I rarely miss pieces of conversations—even in noisy restaurants. It’s been an unbelievable life change for me, my family, and my friends.”
Deidre strongly encourages parents to have their children’s hearing professionally tested, and to assure that children with hearing loss obtain proper treatment.
”I didn’t wear my aids for years and now that I do my friends and family are happier – and I can participate in my life more than ever before. If you have untreated hearing loss, don’t wait another day. See your hearing health professional, ask for the right solution and be an active participant in your life again.”
Duke Fakir - Vocalist Entertainer
Duke Fakir, has been with the wildly popular group The Four Tops now for 50 years. Duke (2nd from right) and his group cut some of Motown's most memorable singles during the label's creative zenith in the 1960’s, including "Baby I Need Your Loving," "I Can't Help Myself," "It's the Same Old Song," "Reach Out I'll Be There.”
The Detroit-based vocal group - consisting of lead vocalist Levi Stubbs, first tenor Abdul "Duke" Fakir, second tenor Lawrence Payton and baritone Renaldo "Obie" Benson - began singing together right out of high school. After enjoying initial success on the Columbia label, they were lured to Motown by founder Barry Gordy.
The Four Tops cut 39 albums and have made countless television appearances including: Jimmy Kimmel Live, David Letterman, numerous Motown specials, Soul Train, American Band Stand, The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Mike Douglas Show.
In a tribute to their remarkable careers, Duke and the Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Subsequent to their glory days at Motown, The Four Tops remained an in-demand live act. Periodically, they found themselves back on the charts during the Seventies and Eighties with such hits as "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)" and "When She Was My Girl." After the death of Payton in 1997, the remaining members continue to perform as the Tops to packed audiences around the World.
Duke has moderate sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. He says he visited an audiologist when, "I noticed there were things I couldn’t hear as well as I used to. Things like television and movies, hearing clearly at parties or restaurants; even my wife's voice was sometimes difficult for me to hear. That was extremely frustrating! When you can’t understand what people are saying, you tend to fake it. You nod your head as though you are hearing them, but really you don't have a clue as to what they said. People began to notice and asked me if there was something wrong with me. Who wants to admit that they can’t hear? I didn't want to admit it for a long time. I stayed away from hearing aids. I guess it was a macho thing. I just didn’t want anything hanging off my ear.”
Duke overcame his concern with the visibility of hearing aids after his audiologist demonstrated new, open-fit style hearing aids to him. These are miniature behind the ear devices which deliver sound through a virtually invisible thin tube that fits over the ear and into the ear canal. Duke learned that he was not alone and that about 15% of baby boomers have hearing loss; the incidence among musicians easily exceeds 50% because of their exposure to loud sounds.
Duke indicates that these new open-fit devices are “sleek and sexy and completely unlike hearing aids a generation ago.” he stated, “I love them. I have noticed improvements in both my personal and professional life. I recently had a business meeting with my attorney. Usually, I would have to ask her to repeat things two or three times to be able to understand what she was saying. I heard her clear as a bell. I was able to rest back in my seat comfortably and still participate in the entire meeting. No more straining to hear every word. No more guessing. No more faking it. What a relief.”
Duke has advice for Americans like him who avoid getting hearing help:
“Admit you can't hear and seek help. Today's technology is efficient and nearly invisible."
Dr. Vinton Cerf - Internet Creator and Corporate Executive
“In creating the Internet with my colleagues in part I wanted to help people with hearing loss as well as other communication difficulties”.
Widely known as one of the "Fathers of the Internet," Dr. Vinton Cerf is the co-designer (along with his colleague Robert E. Kahn) of the TCP/IP protocols and architecture of the Internet. Dr. Cerf acknowledges that the technology of the Internet has changed a lot of people's lives including his own. Having a sensorineural hearing loss he has been a user of hearing aids since age 13. “So I'm very conscious of the difficulty of voice communication. Written communication is a tremendous help for me, and so when electronic mail was invented in '71, I got very excited about it, thinking well, gee, the hard-of-hearing community could really use this. It's been a huge boon for me, and I'm glad to see the Internet now has this facility available to the general public not to mention people with hearing loss and other communication difficulties.”
Dr. Cerf indicates that in most respects, his hearing loss has not had a significant effect on his ability to function since he has grown up and learned to function in a hearing world. He has learned how to develop a variety of strategies to deal with his hearing loss such as: strategic sitting in classrooms and at conference tables, the use of amplified telephones, assistive listening devices, voice-over the Internet communication aided by headphones, instant messaging, Internet chat rooms and the use of personal digital assistants like Blackberry. He states, “In my normal work, I try to make strong use of text communication as a way of augmenting phone calls and conference calls.”
Just as he has benefited from Internet and assistive technology to enhance his communication Dr. Cerf explained, “I have benefited from the invention of increasingly powerful and flexible hearing aids with substantial digital processing capability. I could not function at all in the fashion that I have been able to without these hearing aids. When I take my aids off, I am basically incommunicado. People with hearing loss must understand that we are surrounded by sound. It tells us what is happening in our vicinity. It warns us of danger. It enables human interaction face-to-face and at a distance. While it is possible to function in the absence of sound, there is no reason to deny your self access to it if technology permits. Whether this sound is captured by means of hearing aids or cochlear implants, it is well worth the expense and effort, if your loss can be remedied by these means. My wife Sigrid is a great example. With her cochlear implant, she is determined that no decibel will go undetected!”
Dr. Cerf’s pioneering efforts have earned him dozens of awards of merit including the U.S. National Medal of Technology (1997 from President Clinton), the Alan M. Turing award (2004) widely recognized as the “Nobel Prize of Computer Science”, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005 from President George Bush) which is the highest civilian award given by the United States to its citizens. In addition to degrees in mathematics Dr. Cerf holds a Ph.D. in computer science from UCLA and a dozen honorary doctorates from prestigious universities, colleges and technical institutes from around the world.
He has held key executive positions at MCI where he led the engineering of the first commercial email service to be connected to the Internet, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) where he played a key role in the development of the Internet and security technologies and the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. Currently he is Vice- President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. Founding President of the Internet Society (1992-1995), Dr. Cerf also sits on numerous Boards of Directors including the Endowment for Excellence in Education and is a Fellow of many prestigious organizations including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Engineering Consortium and the National Academy of Engineering. No wonder that People Magazine honored him in 1994 as one of the top 25 intriguing people in the world.
Rosalyn Carter - Former First Lady
When former First Lady Rosalyn Carter agreed to do a public service announcement on tinnitus (ringing in the ears), calls to BHI HelpLine more than doubled. Ms. Carter has worked most of her life to improve the quality of life of people around the world. She with her husband former President Jimmy Carter run The Carter Center a private, non-profit institution founded in 1982. They work as advocates for mental health, early childhood immunization, human rights, and the empowerment of urban communities. Their building of homes for the needy has received prominent media coverage. She championed public awareness of tinnitus since she herself suffers from the affliction. In her BHI public service announcement she stated, "These noises can range from bothersome to devastating, but the good news is that hearing aids sometimes help mask the constant and frustrating effects of this condition". As a member of the American Tinnitus Association, Ms. Carter strongly supports tinnitus research and education "As a sufferer myself", she said, "I hope someday soon we'll be able to find a cure for this nagging affliction".
Heather Whitestone - Miss America
Ms. Whitestone is the first deaf woman to wear the Miss America Crown. Her platform as Miss America 1995 was "anything is possible". "It is our responsibility to overcome the barriers which prevent us from reaching our dreams", she said. "As a profoundly deaf woman, my experiences have shown me that the impossible is indeed possible. Every day I try to be a positive role model. My STARS program emphasizes that through hard work and positive self esteem, anything is possible. The only thing that can stop you is you." Ms. Whitestone has worked tirelessly for the cause of better hearing and speech leading the 1995 campaign for better hearing and speech as well as numerous public service announcements and appearances for BHI and Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf promoting early detection of hearing loss in infants and young children.
Don Harron - Actor, Writer and Comedian
Canadian comic actor and writer Don Harron is well known for his TV and book character Charlie Farquharson, popular on the Hee Haw television show. Mr. Harron shared the following in his public service announcements for BHI: "My father was awarded the Military Cross at Cambrai in 1919 because he heard the enemy in trenches 200 yards away preparing for a surprise attack. I inherited that sensitive hearing system, but my razor-sharp, 20-20 hearing ended with an accident on the set of my television comedy series. I played an Olympic culler who used his oar as a vaulting pole. Instead of vaulting onto a mat, my forehead hit the cement studio floor. I missed the laughs- but even worse, immediately got a fierce ringing in my left ear, and later a 40 percent hearing loss. It's not funny that one out of 10 of us has a significant hearing loss. Happily most of us can benefit with hearing aids like me. Do you know one of the best things about receiving hearing help? I can now watch old movies at 3 a.m. without the TV volume waking my wife!"
Robin Wright - Actress
Ms. Wright landed a role in the daytime series Santa Barbara, for which she was nominated three times for an Emmy. Wright starred in the blockbuster hit The Princess Bride, in the title role. She went on to star in Denial, State of Grace (where she met her husband Sean Penn), The Playboys , Toys (with Robin Williams), Forrest Gump (with Tom Hanks and Sally Field) and Moll Flanders. As a concerned parent Ms. Wright agreed to do public service announcements targeted to parents of young children. In her BHI public service announcement Ms. Wright indicated the following: "As an actress, hearing and reacting to cues is an extremely important part of playing a role successfully. As a mother, which is my most important role, the cues my children give me are even more vital. For example, does your baby respond to your voice? Does your child complain of earaches? Does your child have difficulty speaking well? Not reacting to such cues early enough could leave your child with permanent hearing loss. Remember, a child is never too young for a hearing evaluation….and never too young for hearing help."
Curtis Pride - Baseball Player
Curtis Pride, deaf major league baseball player, was cited by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce as of one of ten outstanding young Americans. Mr. Pride shared his "overcoming hearing loss" story in a number of public service announcements for BHI. "It was my most exciting moment-pinch-hitting for the Montreal Expos with runners on first and second base against the Philadelphia Phillies. I hit the first pitch for a two-run double, and received my first standing ovation. I was overwhelmed as I stood on second and saw all those people cheering. I've come a long way since being born with a 95% hearing loss. Major reasons were my exceptionally supportive parents, being first fitted with hearing aids as a baby, getting speech therapy from infancy through high school, and my determination to rely on oral communication. Such blessings helped me obtain my degree from The College of William and Mary, as well as excel in soccer, basketball, baseball and other sports. People wanted me on their team. My hope is that others will be encouraged by my experience to seek help-medically, with hearing aids, or other rehabilitation- if they suspect a hearing loss." Curtis is the fourth known deaf major league baseball player in history. There were three deaf ball players prior to Curtis Pride. 1) Dummy Hoy (he was the first) back in the 1800's. He was the person who instigated the hand signals for balls, strikes, safe, out, etc. 2) Dummy Taylor (who also worked at the Illinois School for the Deaf) played ball in the early 1900s and 3) Richard Sipek, played in mid 1940's for Cincinnati Reds.
Shelley Beattie - Bodybuilder
Ms. Beattie was a standout heptathlete and cross country runner in high school later earning a degree in psychology and special education. As a group home counselor she helped children who suffered mental, emotional and physical handicaps. She has earned many titles including Overall Woman's Champion at USA Championships and placed third in Ms. Olympia competition. Best known as "Siren" on the TV show American Gladiators, she made history as a member of the first all-women's America's Cup yacht racing team. Shelley indicated that her hearing loss was caused by an aspirin overdose at age three. She overcame her handicap through athletic accomplishments, use of hearing aids, speech therapy and lip-reading. Beattie emphasized in her BHI public service announcements, "If someone tries to tell you that only older folks suffer from hearing problems…don't you believe it! Hearing loss can occur at any age. I refused to let a hearing problem stand in my way. So don't let a hearing problem stop you or your loved ones. If you suspect a problem, arrange for a hearing check now. Hopefully my experience will encourage others to seek help." Ms. Beattie's favorite quotes are "Never doubt your abilities" and "Don't let others define who you are".
Kathy Buckley - Comedienne
Billed as the first hearing-impaired comedienne, she quickly received national acclaim and appeared on network shows including The Tonight Show, Tom Snyder Show and Saturday Night Live. "I got involved in comedy", she said, "because laughter is the best medicine in healing, and to make the media at ease with disabilities, Without hearing aids, I've got about 60 percent normal hearing on low frequencies, but absolutely no high-frequency sound. I still don't know if I was born RH negative with a hearing loss, or if I lost my hearing when I was three or four due to spinal meningitis. Either way the fact remains I have a hearing loss. My renewed hearing has given me a better understanding about my hearing loss and myself as a person. It gave me confidence to pursue a career in acting and stand-up comedy. There is nothing like the sound of laughter. Hearing is a gift from God. So please don't neglect this precious gift." Ms. Buckley triumphed over her serious hearing loss with hearing aids.
Jim Ryun - World-class Runner & Congressman
World-renowned track star Jim Ryun, the first high school American to break the four minute mile barrier, used his experience with hearing loss to lead the Council for Better Hearing and Speech Month in 1993.
Ryun held the world record time for the mile at 3:51:1 for 9 years, and the high school mile record of 3:55:3 for 36 years. Proclaimed Sports Illustrated's 1966 Sportsman of the Year, Ryun has received numerous awards, including the AAU Sullivan Award for Best Amateur Athlete. A U.S. Olympic team member for three consecutive Olympics, Ryun received a silver medal for the 1500 meters in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
He is a frequent motivational speaker, an avid photographer and he represented the 2nd District of Kansas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996-2006. Ryun, a successful hearing aid user said of his public service work on behalf of better hearing, "I know what it has meant to me to be able to hear---a whole new world has opened up to me. So I am both grateful and excited to have the privilege of serving."
Congressman Ryun was the lead House sponsor of the hearing aid tax credit in the 108th and 109th Congress. The legislation would provide a tax credit for people who purchase hearing aids, and efforts continue to enact the legislation.
Leslie Nielsen - Actor
He's a good, solid actor who spent 30+ years in movies and on TV playing good, meaty roles before achieving significant success in slapstick comedy. The Canadian born actor, a nephew of character actor Jean Hersholt, was a radio announcer and disk jockey before turning to acting. He played an impassive spaceship commander in Forbidden Planet, Debbie Reynolds' love interest in Tammy and the Bachelor , a Howard Hughes prototype in Harlow , the ill-fated captain in The Poseidon Adventure, and more cops, doctors and attorneys than you can count. Prior to 1980 history would view him as a dramatist. That all changed in 1980, when he was one of several solid actors (along with Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges and Peter Graves---also a spokesperson for better hearing) hired for the hit spoof Airplane! He enjoyed it so much that he signed on to play bumbling cop Frank Drebin in the cult TV series Police Squad! and in the ever popular The Naked Gun series of films. Nielsen, who overcame his sensorineural hearing loss with hearing aids stated to BHI, "I have no goals or ambitions. I do, however wish to work enough to maintain whatever celebrity status I have so that they will continue to invite me to golf tournaments". Among his many media appearances on behalf of BHI to educate the public on hearing loss and its treatment, Mr. Nielsen was one of many celebrities to participate in BHI's "Help America Hear" golf tournament.
Mark Herndon - Musician
Alabama music group drummer Mark Herndon worked with BHI to develop public service announcements on hearing conservation. Herndon said his service for the better hearing cause is his way "to reach those young people who are fans of Alabama, to let them know they can be helped if they have a hearing problem and to impress upon them the importance of protecting their hearing from noise and loud music. Before learning about hearing protection, I suffered a hearing loss from years of performing as a drummer. That's why I'm now a strong advocate of hearing protection. By taking simple precautions, like wearing earplugs when around harmful noise, we could save ourselves from hearing loss."
Reggie Williams - NFL Star & Politician
"A hurdler doesn't stop after the first hurdle", said Reggie Williams, an athlete, humanitarian and politician who has soared over hearing and speech challenges himself. Mr. Williams was national chairman for the Council for Better Hearing and Speech Month in 1991 and has done numerous public service announcements for BHI as a means of helping others to overcome the hurdles of hearing loss. He was a fearsome power on the football field for the Cincinnati Bengals for 14 years and has a lifelong record of distinguishing himself as both a fierce competitor and a compassionate public servant. His honors include 1988 National Council on Communicative Disorders public service award, 1987 Sports Illustrated sportsman of the year, 1986 NFL man of the year and 1984 NFL player's association Byron "Whizzer" White humanitarian award. "School wasn't much fun. I had, as was discovered in the third grade, a hearing problem that resulted in a speech impediment," he said. By high school graduation, he had developed his athletic and academic prowess so completely that the third-grader who had been taunted as a "dummy' set off for Dartmouth College, the first Ivy League player to be drafted into the NFL. After his remarkable football career Mr. Williams served the city council of his adopted hometown of Cincinnati.
Al & Bobby Unser - Legendary Race Car Drivers
Between them Al and Bobby Unser have seven times won the Indianapolis 500, the world's most heralded auto race. Four time Indy "500" champion Al Unser, refused to let hearing loss stand in his way to success. A three-time national driving champion, he also won the Triple Crown in 1978 by winning the Indy 500, California 500 and Pocono 500--- the only driver in history to accomplish this achievement. The famous brothers also shared a more personal victory in overcoming hearing loss in BHI public service announcements throughout the years. Bobby urged the American public to protect their hearing when exposed to loud noise. "My brother and I didn't" said Bobby, "So we use hearing aids to overcome our hearing loss." Their most important victory was better hearing!
Mike Singletary - Football Hall of Famer
Star linebacker for the world champion Chicago Bears he finished as the team's first or second leading tackler each of his last 11 seasons. In his career he had 1488 tackles (885 solo), 51 passes defensed, 12 fumble recoveries and 7 interceptions. He was selected as all-pro eight times, all-NFC nine straight years, and to ten consecutive Pro Bowls. He was voted defensive player of the year twice. A constant force on defense, he missed playing just two games in his career with the Bears. He had 13 tackles and a sack in the playoffs leading up to the Bears' 46-10 defeat of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The Bears' league-leading defense held the Patriots to a record low seven yards rushing, while the hard-charging Singletary contributed with two fumble recoveries. Mike and his wife Kim did joint public service announcements on television for BHI to emphasize the point that hearing loss is a family problem; and that often it is the spouse who encourages the person with a hearing loss to get help. Mike says "When it comes to sacking a quarterback, I don't let anything stand in my way. The same goes for my hearing problem." Mr. Singletary tackled his hearing problem with hearing aids.
Jim Kyte -National Hockey League Defenseman
As the hockey player for the Winnipeg Jets Mr. Kyte hardly seems to fit the stereotype of a person with a hearing loss. He's young and virile, so active, and so much a part of life. We were pleased that Mr. Kyte, the first hard-of-hearing hockey play, came forward to publicly talk about his hearing loss and to encourage other young people to seek a solution for their hearing loss. Hearing aids helped him to become victorious over his hearing loss.
Sally Field - Actress
This girlishly attractive actress began her career as the perky TV Gidget in 1965; she then went on to play the equally perky The Flying Nun from 1967 to 1970. Both roles proved formidable obstacles in her subsequent attempts to make it as a serious actress. In the mid 1970s she played the female lead in the quirky 1976 bodybuilding drama Stay Hungry and as a woman with 17 distinct personalities in the compelling TV movie Sybil, for which she won an Emmy. After appearances in light-hearted movies like Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper Ms. Field took on a challenging, serious role as a reluctant union organizer in the drama Norma Rae for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award. In the 1980's she was a box-office leading actress playing an ambitious reporter in the controversial Absence of Malice ,a haunted widow in Kiss Me Goodbye , and a determined Texas mother in Places in the Heart (in 1984, she won another Best Actress Academy Award for that film). This was followed by her career as a producer in such worthwhile projects as Murphy's Romance , Punchline and Steel Magnolias (1989). In the late 1980's Ms. Field starred in award winning BHI radio public service announcements on hearing loss and its treatment.
Richard Dysart - Actor
Known as Leland McKenzie (for which he received an Emmy) on the popular TV drama LA Law, during his tenure as a BHI spokesperson he was influential in scripting into the series a confrontation between one of his partners and himself on the importance of treating hearing loss and job effectiveness. In this drama he had to battle his vanity and admit he needed hearing aids when he went to court to fight an age discrimination case. Mr. Dysart's major film credits include: Being There, Pale Rider, Mask, The Falcon and the Snowman, The Day of the Locust, The Hospital, Truman and Wall Street. Mr. Dysart was victorious over his hearing loss through the use of hearing aids.
Ronald Reagan - President
President Ronald Reagan was National Chairman of the Council for Better Hearing and Speech month in 1988 (shown here with poster child Jessica Riley) and also public spokesperson for BHI in the early 1990's. In 1983 President Reagan was fit with hearing aids according to Dr. John House, his ear physician. He had a right ear hearing loss for many years, the result of a gun fired near him during filming of a movie. His left ear was fit with a hearing aid in 1987 so that he could improve his understanding in noisy situations and amidst background noise. Dr. House exclaimed "I'm pleased that his example led to a much better acceptance of hearing aids among the public, and he encouraged many people with hearing loss to take advantage of all kinds of available hearing help." As the most powerful person in the world during the 80's we are confident that he had a positive impact on alleviating the stigma of hearing loss. His public admission of his hearing loss and his demonstration that there are solutions to hearing loss was an inspiration to millions of hard-of-hearing people world wide.
Arnold Palmer - Legendary Golfer
Associated Press named him Athlete of the Decade in the 1960s. He has won 92 professional golf championships in his career including won the Masters Tournament four times, 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964, the U.S. Open in 1960 and the British Open in 1961 and 1962. He is an esteemed golf course designer, holds six honorary doctorates and is the founder of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women. Having defeated hearing loss with hearing aids he devotes substantial time promoting the value of treating hearing loss. In a recent interview he stated the following: "I've noticed the sound of the golf ball being hit by the golf club is different and much more realistic with the hearing aids." The sound with the hearing aids makes sense and better represents what I know is happening to the golf ball. So you could say that the hearing aids help give me confidence regarding my golf game. "I've been wearing hearing aids for a long time," he says. "The technology available now is simply unbelievable. When I compare the new digital products to what we had 30 years ago, it's an amazing difference. The products have improved dramatically, and fortunately, they'll just continue to get better."
Richard Thomas - Actor
Veteran actor Richard Thomas best known for his role as John Boy in The Waltons and as the host of Pax TV's It's a Miracle and Just Cause has helped promote better hearing for the BHI for more than 15 years; he has also served as the BHI National Chairman. In his public service announcements for BHI Richard stated, "What would you do if you couldn't see well? Probably have your eyes checked, get a pair of glasses, right? But if you couldn't understand an ordinary conversation, what would you do? The smart thing would be to get a hearing check-up as I did. I got tired of asking people to repeat themselves. For me, hearing aids were the answer. Why are so many still suffering? False pride…lack of information. If someone you love doesn't hear well, arrange for a hearing test today. You should HEAR what you're missing."
The Lennon Sisters - Vocalist entertainers
Reminiscent of the WWII Andrews Sisters, during the 1970's and 1980's their melodic harmony came into our homes via the Lawrence Welk, Andy Williams and Jimmy Durante shows. The Lennon Sisters performed on the BHI telethon for hearing loss awareness titled "Sentimental Sounds" in 1984.
Jeff Float - Olympic Gold Medalist
Mr. Float was captain of the 1984 U.S. Olympic swim team, which set a world record in the men's 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay. He wears two hearing aids to correct his hearing loss. Jeff reported, "I had viral meningitis at the age of 13 months that caused a permanent loss of 60-80% of my hearing. My very supportive parents sent me to a famous clinic when I was three, where I was fitted with hearing aids and introduced to the fundamentals of communicating effectively in a hearing world. I owe thanks to the rapid advancement in hearing aid technology combined with lip reading and speech therapy techniques. Winning a gold medal and overcoming a hearing handicap took many years of parents, practice, keeping things in proper perspective and above all, a deep desire to excel to the best you can be. My motto throughout high school and college was "it is better to have tried and lost than to have never tried at all".
Jack Klugman - Actor
Mr. Klugman attained stardom in 1970 as the slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison in the TV version of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, which enjoyed a five-year run. It also earned him two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe award. Klugman and his co-star Tony Randall reunited for a TV movie, The Odd Couple in 1993. But perhaps his greatest success was a crime-solving medical examiner on TV's Quincy between 1976-83. His key film roles include 12 Angry Men, Days of Wine and Roses, The Detective , and Goodbye Columbus. In the early 1980's Mr. Klugman unselfishly donated his time to the BHI promoting the value of better hearing.
Phyllis Diller - Comedienne
She was a housewife in San Francisco suburb with five children and an under-employed husband who eventually convinced her to make money with the talent she regularly displayed in PTA skits. Her breakthrough came in 1955 at age 37, with her debut at San Francisco's Purple Onion club where her career was launched with subsequent appearance on Jack Paar's show. Her career received a boost from Bob Hope, who saw Diller in a Washington, D.C. club. She went on to appear in 3 of Hope's movies and 23 of his TV specials. People will remember Ms. Diller as that wacky comedian who had numerous face lifts. She describes her comedy as "tragedy revisited." Less common is the knowledge that as of 2000, she had appeared as a piano soloist with 100 symphony orchestras across the United States, including performances in Dallas, Denver, Annapolis, Houston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Cincinnati. As a key spokesperson for the BHI in the media Ms. Diller stated "Most of us take our hearing for granted. But it's not funny when you can't hear". She experienced sudden hearing loss which was alleviated with medical therapy. According to Ms. Diller, "My hearing loss first made itself known to me when I became so dizzy during a radio interview that I fell off the chair. I had lost all equilibrium and I realized it had something to do with the inner ear. So I went to my ear doctor and he explained that getting medical attention immediately was partly responsible for my total recovery. He treated me with medicine, shots and vitamins and made changes in my diet. He prescribed no coffee, tea, colas or cigarettes. You see, these constrict blood vessels which can abet hearing loss. In three months I had normal hearing again."
Burt Reynolds - Actor
Mr. Reynolds was a top box office draw in the late 1970s and early 1980s for four years straight. This feat was equaled only by Shirley Temple and Bing Crosby. In various phases of his career he has played stone-faced macho types or arrogant smart-mouthed good ol' boys with equal ease. While appearing in such serious films as Deliverance, The Longest Yard, Shamus and Starting Over, he is perhaps best known for fast action car chase movies including Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, and Stoker Ace and other comedies such as The End. Mr. Reynolds volunteered to help the BHI in public service announcements when he found out that his friend and co-star Keenan Wynn (in the movie Best Friends) had a hearing loss.
Lou Ferrigno - Actor and Body Builder
Lou Ferrigno is the "Hulk" actor from the Incredible Hulk television show. Ferrigno has starred in over 15 movies - notably as muscular super heroes such as Hercules. He has also played professional football for the Toronto Argonauts and has won several bodybuilding titles, including Mr. America and Mr. International. At age 21, Ferrigno was the youngest athlete to ever win the Mr. Universe title, a record that has yet to be broken. At a young age he suffered a 65-75% loss of hearing due to an ear infection. At age four he was fit with his first hearing aids. Lou reports that it has been a battle all of his life to compensate for his hearing loss. Concurrent with his hearing aid fittings he has had many years of speech therapy to correct defective speech emanating out of his childhood hearing loss. Lou recently stated that "Everyone has his own 'little Hulk' inside him." If I hadn't lost my hearing, I wouldn't be where I am now. It forced me to maximize my potential. I had to be better than the average person to succeed. That's why I chose bodybuilding. If I became a world champion, if I could win admiration from my peers, I could do anything." As a spokesperson for the BHI he offered hope to those with hearing loss by his public statement "It takes time to overcome a handicap. There are ups and downs and you can never be a quitter. I believe the maxim that you only get out of life what you put into it." Mr. Ferrigno has served the BHI for more than a quarter of a century.
Dr. Art Ulene - Celebrity Medical Doctor
Special medical editor to NBC for many years, Dr. Ulene worked with the BHI in producing special segments on tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Dr. Ulene noted in his Tinnitus segments that "normal hearing people may help their tinnitus by the use of a masking device worn like a hearing aid, and that those with a hearing loss may find that a hearing aid drowns out ringing with other ambient noises." BHI has also used Dr. Ulene to educate physicians and the public to break down misperceptions of who can be helped with their hearing loss. Dr. Ulene indicated, "Hearing problems that stem from damage to the outer or middle ear can often be helped medically or surgically. However, if the problem is with the inner ear or auditory nerve, the best alternative is usually hearing aids." Dr. Ulene uses hearing aids as the solution to his hearing loss.
Ed Asner - Actor
Asner is best known for playing a TV news director on The Mary Tyler Moore show and a newspaper city editor on Lou Grant. He appeared in a half hour BHI video on the dangers of noise, hearing loss prevention and treatment with Norm Crosby and more than a dozen other celebrities.
Charles Percy - Politician and Business Executive
Past Senator from Illinois and past president of Bell and Howell, Mr. Percy overcame his hearing loss with hearing aids. He appeared in public service announcements for BHI in the 1980's.
Hank Aaron - Hall of Fame Baseball Player
Hammerin' Hank" Aaron earned his nickname by clubbing 755 roundtrippers over his 23-year career. Not only did he raise the bar for home runs, but he also established 12 other major league career records, including most games, at-bats, total bases and RBI. Aaron played the infield but gained recognition as an excellent outfielder, winning three Gold Glove awards. He earned National League Most Valuable Player honors in 1957, and appeared in a record 24 All-Star Games. His Hall of Fame Plaque reads as follows: Henry "Hank" L. Aaron Milwaukee N.L., Atlanta N.L., Milwaukee A.L., 1954-1976.; hit 755 home runs in 23-year career to become majors' all-time homer king; had 20 or more for 20 consecutive years, at least 30 in 15 seasons and 40 or better eight times; also set records for games played (3,298), at bats (12,364), long hits (1,477), total bases (6,856), runs batted in (2,297). paced N.L. in batting twice and homers, runs batted in and slugging pct. four times each; won most valuable player award in N.L. in 1957. Mr. Aaron lent his prestigious name to the BHI in public service announcements on hearing loss and its treatment in the early 1980's. He appeared in a half hour BHI video on the dangers of noise, hearing loss prevention and treatment with Norm Crosby and more than a dozen other celebrities.
Bill Murray - Comedian and Actor
A Saturday Night Live (SNL) alumnus who graduated to the big screen, the bedraggled Murray brings a light-hearted charm to his movie roles. He broke into show business, as a member of Chicago's Second City comedy troupe and landed a spot on SNL in 1977. Murray got his big break as the sly summer camp counselor in the Canadian-made Meatballs (1979). This was followed by such comedic classics as the country-club farce Caddyshack (1980), the service comedy Stripes (1981), the box office gold hit Ghostbusters (1984) and the clever and charming romance Groundhog Day (1993). Mr. Murray has a big heart and is involved in many humanitarian efforts. We were very pleased when in 1980 he agreed to promote hearing loss awareness and prevention on behalf of the BHI.
Charlene Tilton - Actress
An accomplished singer, but best known for her perky role as Lucy Ewing on the hit TV series Dallas in the 80's, she has appeared in BHI videos on the impact of noise on hearing loss. Having a hearing loss she has also done many print and TV public service announcements for BHI on the importance of treating hearing loss early in life.
Nanette Fabray - Actress
A scintillating and energetic presence has surrounded this long-time BHI spokesperson ever since her early days as a child vaudevillian actress. At the age of 7 she appeared in Our Gang comedy shorts. The musical stage was her specialty and in the late 40s won Tony and Donaldson award-winning recognition in the Broadway productions of High Button Shoes and Love Life. Later she appeared in the memorable MGM musical The Band Wagon in which she got to perform "That's Entertainment" with Fred Astaire and Jack Buchanan. In the mid-50s TV became her medium of choice, winning 3 Emmy awards after replacing Imogene Coca as Sid Caesar's comedy partner on his TV show. Most importantly, her humanitarian efforts over the years have been long recognized. As a hearing-impaired performer, she has given much time and effort in achieving equality for all types of handicapped and disabled people. Nanette was born with a progressive deafness. Early in her career she tried to conceal her handicap and desperately withdrew into herself, as people often do with hearing problems. She says, "Thanks to corrective surgery and the use of hearing aids I came back from the edge of early retirement. Better hearing enhances my work as a performer, obviously. More importantly, it led me to a second career in education and service to the hearing impaired. Since I began to talk publicly and openly, on TV and in the press, about the importance of not have a false vanity in wearing hearing aids, other people ---- including many public figures---have followed my example."
Florence Henderson - Actress
A star of several Broadway musicals, Henderson was also featured as the matriarch of The Brady Bunch in the early '70s. From 1959 to 1960, she served as Dave Garroway 's "Today Girl" on the original version of Today. She also holds the distinction of being the first female host of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In the mid-1950s, she was diagnosed with a bone deformation of the inner ear (Osteosclerosis). She indicated in one of her BHI public service announcements "For the sake of my family, my happiness, and my career, I had something done about my hearing loss. Corrective surgery on both ears restored my hearing." We are grateful that she has been a Better Hearing Institute spokesperson for close to 30 years.
Frankie Valli - Vocalist entertainer
His trademark a high-pitched falsetto singing style got him elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Four Seasons in 1990 with such hits as "Sherry", "Dawn" and "Rag Doll". When his doctor told him he was going deaf due to Osteosclerosis he thought his singing career was over. Mr. Valli treated his hearing loss successfully with surgery.
Bill Cosby - Comedian
As an entertainer, throughout the years Bill Cosby has assumed a socially conscious tone, often associated with family values into many of his comedic roles. He will go down in entertainment history as one of the most successful and most respected entertainers in the world. Cosby who earned a doctorate in education promoted childhood hearing loss treatment and prevention on his Fat Albert cartoon series. He equates better hearing to better vision stating in one of his BHI public service announcements, "I have this friend of mine and we get along just fine. Mainly because we are good friends. But the other reason is, you see, he is hard of hearing. But he wears his hearing aids. I don't see well, so I wear my glasses. And we understand each other just fine."
Larry Brown - MVP football player
MVP halfback for the world champion Washington Redskins had hearing aids built into his football helmet upon the insistence of Vince Lombardi (when Brown was with the Green Bay Packers) so that he could hear the plays in the huddle. He was named NFL Most Valuable Player in 1972-73 season; second leading Redskins' rusher of all-time with 5,875 yards; shares the Redskins' all-time single game record with four touchdowns; appeared in four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1969-1972. Mr. Brown says his greatest accomplishment was being named league MVP and his greatest inspiration was coach Vince Lombardi. Mr. Brown, a user of hearing aids was on the first BHI advisory board.
Norm Crosby - Comedian
A hilarious comedian best known for butchering the English language, Norm has noise induced hearing loss emanating out of his World War II service. In a BHI public service announcement Norm stated "It is an extinct pleasure for me to have these few moments of dissipation with you nice people on a matter of utmost urgency and crucial insurrection. You know, I've made a whole career out of entertaining people by butchering the English language. It's funny stuff for people who catch the lines. But it's not for people who can't hear them". Mr. Crosby overcame his hearing loss with hearing aids and has generously given his time now for over 30 years to the cause for better hearing.
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