During the month-long taping of Donald Trump’s latest “Apprentice” series, Matlin –the Oscar-winning actress who’s been deaf since the age of 2 — realized that Busey was suffering from severe hearing loss and didn’t know it.
“Jack Jason, my interpreter, kept signing that someone kept yelling ‘What?! What?!’ ” Matlin told The Post.
“I asked him who it was and he said [Busey],” she explains.
“It took me five seconds to figure out he must be partially deaf. I’ve seen it too many times not to figure it out just like that.”
Matlin confronted Busey and arranged for him to see her former doctor, Dr. Bill Austin, who heads up the Starkey Hearing Foundation. (Celebrity contestants on the show pledge to donate their winnings to a charity of their choice. The charity Matlin was playing for was Austin’s foundation.)
Cameras in the show’s famous boardroom caught the moment Matlin persuaded Busey that at least some of his problems might be because he was going deaf.
A trip to the doctor confirmed her diagnosis.
“He told me I was only using 40 percent of my ear canals,” Busey said last week.
The doctor “fit me with a hearing aid I can actually plug into my iPod,” said the mercurial actor. “Things are much better now.”
Busey, who suffered a severely fractured skull after a motorcycle accident in 1988 (it is not clear if the hearing loss was related to the accident), recognized that Matlin’s help as a charitable gesture was outside the boundaries of the TV competition.
“That was a gift from her heart,” gushed Busey.
“The moment [Busey] returned back from seeing [Austin], his whole demeanor had changed,” Matlin said.
“He kept holding my hand and saying ‘Thank you, thank you.’ ”
On other reality shows Busey has been on — most notably, “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” — fellow cast members were rarely so helpful.
Busey’s erratic, angry behavior wore heavily on others’ nerves during earlier shows.
On the Trump show, which debuts early next month, the hearing aid did not cure Busey’s penchant for uttering unintelligible gibberish that frightens people.
“He has a good heart but sometimes he says the most off-the-wall things,” Matlin said. “But that’s why I love him.”