Born in Morton Grove, Illinois, Marlee Matlin lost most of her hearing at the age of 18 months, following a bout of measles. (She lost all hearing in her right ear, and 80% of hearing in her left ear.)
She made her stage debut at the age of seven, as Dorothy in a children's theatre version of The Wizard of Oz, and continued to appear with the same children's theatre group throughout her childhood.
As an adult, she appeared in a supporting role in the play Children of a Lesser God, which led to her being cast in the lead for the film version of the play in 1986. It was this role for which she got her Golden Globe and Academy Awards.
Other films followed, as well as television work. The lead female role in the television series Reasonable Doubts (1991 - 1993). She won an Emmy Award for an appearance in Picket Fences. She has recurring roles in The West Wing and Blue's Clues.
She is actively involved with a number of charitable organisations, including the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the Starlight Foundation, and the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet.
In 2002, Marlee Matlin published her first novel, Deaf Child Crossing, which is loosely based on her own childhood.