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My deafness didn't stop me becoming a DJ

Photo: Will Kirk, a deaf DJ

Starting out spinning tunes in his bedroom, Will Kirk (23) never could have imagined he’d become the first deaf DJ on BBC Radio 1.

Will, who is severely to profoundly deaf in both ears, used to make mixtapes for his friends at school. At 17, he bought a DJ deck and has since grown his passion for dance music, nightclubs and DJing.

In 2020, he was selected as a host for Radio 1’s Christmas show. “It was a very surreal time,” Will says. “It’s not something I ever could have imagined before.”

In the music sphere, people are surprised to find out Will is deaf. “People’s first interaction with me has always been music,” Will explains. “It’s only after I’ve shown my ability that they realise I’m also deaf. Because of this, any interaction about my deafness has been positive.”

Wearing hearing aids, Will sometimes finds it a challenge to hear through his headphones over venue speakers when he DJs. After some trial and error, he now uses a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that fit over his hearing aids. “If I’m struggling to hear someone in the venue,” he adds, “I’ll ask them to type what they’re saying into my phone or to come outside where I can hear better. Deafness isn’t a barrier to getting the most out of music or DJing, only a hurdle you get around.”

Being deaf can also be helpful as a DJ. “I don’t hear bad song requests,” Will jokes. “But jokes aside, it means I have to know my songs better to mix them in, which is always a good thing when DJing.”

Will would like to see more deaf people working in music. “As a society, we aren’t deaf aware enough, which fuels misconceptions about deafness. So every little helps to break them down. If you’re interested in DJing, go for it! Don’t ever let your deafness be a reason not to do something you want to do!”

Listen to Will’s tracks on SoundCloud.