Katie LeClerc stars in Switched At Birth. In the show, she plays a deaf teenager coping with life in the hearing world. What you may not know is that Katie herself is also hard of hearing. She has Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder that can cause severe hearing loss over time. It is possible that her hearing may get worse as she gets older.
Q: Tell us about your character in the show.
Katie: Daphne is a normal, typical high school girl. She plays basketball on her team. She’s got boyfriends. She’s got good grades. And she’s deaf. It was really exciting to be able to portray that. I learned sign language when I was 17. I learned it in high school. When I was 20, I found out that I had Meniere’s disease and I am very, very, very fortunate that I will be able to communicate for the rest of my life, because it gets worse over time. I thought, I would not leave my daughter alone in the deaf world and not teach her. It’s amazing how many parents do and because of that I learned sign language.
Q: Do you do your voice on the show?
Katie: I do speak in accents on the show. We mapped out Daphne’s hearing loss and what that would mean for her accents. So I trained in dialect and worked on that very hard.
Q: Did you get any advice from [deaf actress Marlee Matlin] about Deaf culture?
Katie: I’ve had some great conversations with Marlee. The Deaf community has a different perspective on the world than the hearing community does and I think this show’s gonna be a great bridge between the two worlds and I think we’re hopefully going to be very successful with that.
Q: Did you ever feel you wanted to switch lives and not have Meniere’s disease?
Katie: There are definitely symptoms and some times are harder than others but my sister’s is far more progressed than mine and to see how her struggle goes and see what she does is sort of inspiring and I’m lucky ’cause I get to know what I have to look forward to so I can prepare for it. There’s really nothing you can do about it so I just try to keep a positive attitude. I’ve acted for ten years and I’ve had the great opportunity to play this role. I’ve been very fortunate as far as this goes.
Q: Has anyone not wanted to cast you because of it?
Katie: Most people are unaware of my hearing loss.
Q: If you lose your hearing, will you still speak? Have you thought about what it would be like?
Katie: I think that I’m going to embrace the moment that I’ve been given right now and take it one day at a time. But I have every plan in the world to continue with my career and keep up with the good work.
I think that’s good advice for anyone, no matter who you are! What do you think? Will you be watching Switched at Birth? Let us know in the Comments.
Interview by Gerri Miller
Images courtesy of ABC Family