Super Bowl-bound player’s victory over hearing loss has made him a video star

imagesSEATTLE—The National Football League conference championship games are a big deal for pretty much all American sports fans. However, people who share this blog’s interest in hearing and hearing health had two extra reasons to watch Sunday’s battle between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers for the National Football Conference (NFC) crown.

One was the Seahawks’ back-up fullback Derrick Coleman, who is among the very few deaf athletes to make it to the major leagues in any professional sport. Coleman, whom Bob Traynor wrote about recently at Hearing International, has been unable to understand speech at all without hearing aids since age 3.

While the 23-year-old played only sparingly in the NFC title game on January 19, he was credited with a tackle in his team’s thrilling, come-from-behind win over San Francisco. Their 23-17 victory means the Seahawks will play in the Super Bowl on February 2 against the American Football Conference champion Denver Broncos.

Coleman’s history is becoming well known in Washington and beyond.  Against all odds, he overcame adversity to star for the UCLA Bruins and win all-conference honors. Then, despite not being selected in the 2012 NFC draft and being released by the Minnesota Vikings after trying out for them, he persevered and made Seattle’s 40-man roster.

He has also won fans for reaching out to youngsters with hearing loss, urging them to pursue their dreams despite the extra challenges they will face in achieving them.



Coleman’s inspiring story also captured the attention of Duracell, which featured him in an advertising video for its hearing aid batteries.
The 60-second video, entitled Duracell: Trust Your Power – NFL’s Derrick Coleman, Seattle Seahawks, is on YouTube, where, as of January 20 it had been viewed 7.6 million times and counting.

Coleman’s hearing loss may give him an advantage over other players in one area that has also drawn a lot of attention to his team from people who care about hearing.

The Seattle fans have become famous—or notorious—for making CenturyLink Stadium, home of the Seahawks, the noisiest outdoor stadium in the country. So, while his teammates and opposing players may be unable to hear any better than Coleman in the din, he’s the only one who is an adept lipreader, a skill that has been essential to his success on the gridiron.

At one game last September, the noise level was measured at 136.6 dB, a level that, as many audiologists have pointed out, is extremely dangerous for anyone in the crowd who is not wearing effective ear protection. For more, see the January 1 Hearing View.

As of the day after the NFC championship game, there were no official reports on the noise level. However, it was very noisy—enough so that reporters said the press box was shaking and some of the players were seen wearing earplugs.