Ask anyone who watches Switched at Birth, and also they’ll call you that Katie Leclerc is extremely convincing in her role as a deaf teenager on the ABC family members show—so lot so that many civilization ask if she’s actually deaf choose her character, Daphne Vasquez. Katie’s not, yet she does suffer from a condition called Ménière"s disease, which causes intermittent listening loss, in addition to vertigo. Return you may not have heard that it, Ménière"s disease currently affect an approximated 615,000 human being in the U.S., according to the nationwide Institute top top Deafness and also Other communication Disorders—and 45,500 new people room diagnosed each year.

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Katie discovered she had actually hearing issues around 2005, once she volunteered to be filmed taking a hear test because that a video about hearing loss. “After I got out the the booth, lock looked at me and also were like, ‘You need hearing aids,’” she says. “My hearing had deteriorated so progressively over time that ns don’t also realize I had actually hearing loss.” Katie’s sister had actually actually been previously diagnosed with Ménière"s disease, so anyone in her family just assumed the Katie had it, too. The wasn’t until 5 years later that she got an official diagnosis native a doctor.

So what is the actually choose to live through a disease that deserve to strike girlfriend temporarily deaf—or fully off-balance—at any time?

“My ear ring more than likely 80 percent that the time,” claims Katie. “My ears are complete probably 60 percent that the time, wherein you feel prefer you have to pop them. There’s several pressure. More than likely 60 percent of the time I gain a major head rush, like once you stand up as well quickly. The full-blown vertigo strikes where it’s miserable, those only happen I would certainly say maybe when every 6 weeks.”

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Now, Katie takes actions to prevent her symptoms from becoming too poor in the first place. Because both the hearing loss and also dizziness are brought about by excessive fluid buildup in the inner-ear, doctors often recommend limiting salt intake and also exercising (which can assist your body flush the end extra water). At this point, Katie’s hearing lose isn’t negative enough (or continual enough) that she demands to wear hear aids.

“The funny thing about Ménière"s disease in details is I’d to speak everyone’s symptoms are different and also they’re different from day come day,” Katie says. “It have the right to be extremely frustrating. … castle say the the depression prices of people who have full-blown Ménière"s room the exact same depression rates as human being who have terminal cancer. It provides me sad once I hear that statistic, yet for me it’s a various experience. Because that me, a positive attitude has to be the best tool versus Ménière"s disease.”

While the condition might seem choose a curse—it once left Katie with a bad spell that vertigo for 4 hours—she doesn’t check out it the way. “Without Ménière"s disease, i wouldn’t have the ability to play Daphne ~ above Switched,” she says. “It’s a means for me to have actually a foot in both worlds. I feel comfortable portraying a girl through hearing loss because I have actually hearing loss; it’s a huge blessing for me.”

Katie feel a link to the deaf neighborhood even prior to she establish she had actually Ménière"s disease. Not only did her sister suffer from the problem prior to Katie’s very first hearing test, however Katie likewise took sign language together her foreign language in high school. So once the role of Daphne come on she agent’s radar, Katie and also her agent (who’s currently her fiancé) knew she would certainly be perfect for it.

“In fact, Daphne was not the first character with hearing ns I’d portrayed,” states Katie. “But this to be the first time it wasn’t walk to be a one-off personality on a TV show.”

Switched at Birth has actually several hearing disabled characters—and one illustration was performed totally in authorize language. It’s helped the deaf ar take a vast step toward boosted awareness, says Katie.

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“We had actually someone who said, ‘I’m a hearing person, and also thanks come Switched in ~ Birth, I’m may be to much better relate to deaf people and have a closer relationship with my cousin who’s deaf,’” states Katie. Various other deaf viewers say that, thanks to Switched in ~ Birth,strangers no longer stare at them in ~ the grocery store. “It’s for this reason common,” says Katie.

Because of she experiences v Ménière"s disease, Katie states the most essential thing you have the right to do for your health is tomaintain an upbeat outlook: “No issue what is going on through your human body that details day, I’d to speak a positive mindset really, really strongly impacts the means the symptoms within your body react,” she says. “If you wake up and go, ‘I’m for this reason happy to be awake appropriate now’—even if you’re dizzy—you’re going to have actually a far better day. You just will.”