Ludwig von Beethoven and Evelyn Glennie are famous musicians who went deaf. Has deafness traditionally kept people from becoming musicians? Is that changing? Who are other famous deaf musicians?

  • This is a very fascinating question. Beethoven was always modest about his work, probably because he couldn't tell how revolutionary it was. :P Aug 15, 2015 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


Mandy Harvey and Sean Forbes are two examples of legally deaf musicians. Their bios are as follows:


Jazz singer Mandy Harvey always had a hearing problem. In her youth, she'd had infections that affected her hearing, but only to the point that she had to sit at the front of the class in order to understand the lecture. Her hearing loss was never enough to keep her from pursuing her passion - music. When she entered Colorado State University, she had every intention of becoming a vocal music professor upon graduation. That is until her hearing began to rapidly deteriorate, and, despite medical treatment, she lost hearing in both ears during her Freshman year.

For the next year she was plunged into a deep depression, but she eventually came out of her funk when she realized she could still play music on the piano and use her perfect pitch to simply remember how to sing the notes. While Harvey says her hearing loss is categorized as "profound," meaning she can only hear anything over about 110 decibels, she is still able to "feel" the music as so many deaf musicians can, by sensing the vibrations of the bass and rhythms. She also uses her talents as a piano player to watch her favorite accompanist, Mark Sloniker, as he hits notes and chords to help her stay on cue. It's through these adaptations that Harvey has launched a career despite her hearing loss, releasing her debut album, Smile, in 2009, and performing a weekly gig at Jay's Bistro in Fort Collins, Colorado.


Sean Forbes has been deaf as long as he can remember. He's also wanted to be a musician for just as long. Forbes became profoundly deaf when he developed a severe illness at only one year old. However, both of his parents played in bands, so music was a constant part of his childhood, whether it be from an instrument or from the stereo that was playing hits from The Beatles and Motown. Attracted to the vibrations from the beat, he first started playing the drums around the age of five, but moved up to guitar and bass by the time he was 10. The rap thing came later, though with the genre's use of room-shaking bass, it should come as no surprise he'd gravitate towards the music. After shooting an American Sign Language music video of fellow Detroit rapper Eminem's Lose Yourself, Forbes got noticed by Eminem's studio, 54 Sound, who helped produce his debut EP, I'm Deaf. (You can check out the music video for the title track here.) The EP helped Forbes gain the attention of BMI, who signed him to a record contract earlier this year.

But for Forbes, his career doesn't stop at a record deal. He has also turned his attention to other deaf artists by starting a non-profit organization called D-PAN (Deaf Performing Arts Network). D-PAN helps find and promote creative opportunities for deaf artists in a variety of fields, as well as produces American Sign Language videos of popular songs so that everyone can enjoy the music around them.


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