Can Katie Leclerc, the deaf girl on Switched at Birth on the ABC Family Channel, hear in real life?
—Maxine O’Callaghan, Charlottesville, Va.
Leclerc, 24, was born hearing but at age 20 discovered that she had Meniere’s Disease, an inner-ear disorder that affects balance and hearing, so she is slowly losing her ability to hear sound.
Prior to discovering her condition, at age 17 she learned American Sign Language, so she will be able to communicate that way when she becomes deaf.
Leclerc shares the genetic disorder with her sister. “My sister’s is far more progressed than mine and to see how her struggle goes and what she does is sort of inspiring. I’m lucky because I get to know what I have to look forward to so I can prepare for it,” she says.
As for her speaking voice on the TV show about two teenage girls who discover they were accidentally switched as newborns in the hospital, Leclerc uses an “accent.” The native of San Antonio, Texas, who grew up in Lakewood, Colo., says, “We mapped out my character’s hearing loss and what that would mean for her. So I trained in dialect and worked on that very hard.”