The Celebrities: Switched at Birth’s Katie LeClerc Brings New Attention to Meniere’s Disease

ABC Family’s Switched at Birth is one of the network’s most successful series, with the network ordering thirty-two total episodes for its first season. Its teen stars were nominated for teen choice awards and millions of people tune in each week.

Twenty-five-year-old Katie LeClerc is one of the show’s breakout stars. The actress, who plays a deaf character on the show, is not only a talented actress but a role model for the network’s many young viewers. LeClerc has a hearing impairment of her own, caused by Meniere’s Disease. The actress has worn hearing aids from a young age but has found that even with the devices, some days her hearing is worse than others.

Hearing loss is a symptom of Meniere’s Disease, which has no definite cause and no known cure. In addition to permanent hearing loss, Meniere’s Disease sufferers usually experience a persistent ringing in the ear known as tinnitus. LeClerc’s sister also suffers from the malady with symptoms more pronounced than LeClerc’s.

On Switched at Birth, LeClerc plays a youth who discovers she’s been raised by parents not her own. Her own parents are raising another young girl, played by Vanessa Marano. The girls discover they were switched at birth before their parents discover it and are left to deal with the consequences.
LeClerc began her acting career in a series of commercials for products like Pepsi, and GE. By 2006, she was regularly landing roles on TV, including a recurring role on a telenovela called Fashion House, which starred Bo Derek and Morgan Fairchild. She was in the Rascal Flatts music video What Hurts the Most and the TV series Veronica Mars and Saints & Sinners.

For the role on Switched at Birth, producers were hoping to find a hearing impaired actress who was beautiful and talented. They found it in LeClerc. In addition to LeClerc, the show features hearing impaired actress Marlee Matlin, the only deaf actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, and Sean Berdy, who plays LeClerc’s best friend on the show. Berdy is deaf as well.

Katie LeClerc has recently learned that Meniere’s Disease isn’t as rare as she once thought. Celebrities like Heather Locklear, who is said to have the disease, as well as the makeup artist on the Switched at Birth set. The actress is also thrilled to be able to work with Marlee Matlin, an actress she has idolized since childhood. While she finds inspiration in the actors that have lit up screens before her, Katie LeClerc is inspiring a new generation of TV viewers, many of whom are learning of the disease for the first time.

Please remember to fill out our Meniere’s disease survey if you have not already done so.  Next month, I will roll out the results of the survey.