Each time someone in the public eye comes forward about their hearing loss, stigma withers away. The latest celebrity to do so is Lou Ferrigno, best known for his depiction of The Incredible Hulk in the 1970s and 80s. He recently received a cochlear implant, and he wants everyone to know about it. I had the opportunity to speak with him about this life changing event. A gentle giant, Ferrigno wants to use his celebrity to show there is no shame in hearing loss and to inspire those who are candidates to consider a cochlear implant.
“The biggest change for me since my cochlear implant,” he says, “is that I have more confidence.” Because the cochlear implant helps him to better hear himself, his diction has improved. He also doesn’t need to work as hard to hear others. It has been such a positive change in his life, he is already considering implanting the other side next year.
Lying About His Hearing Loss to Save Face
During the height of his career, Ferrigno never disclosed his hearing loss for fear it would cost him acting jobs. Since he spoke differently, many believed he was from another country. He told people it was a speech impediment, but really it was the hearing loss. It is only recently that Ferrigno has become more open about his hearing problems.
I asked him why he has decided to be more public about his struggles now. “After age 65, one third of all adults have hearing loss,” he answered, “I want people to see what is possible in hopes that others will be more excited about considering a cochlear implant.” Ferrigno saw the tremendous impact a cochlear implant had for a friend of his who suffered sudden hearing loss. This inspired him to learn more. He hopes he can help others to do the same.
Correcting Misinformation about Cochlear Implants
Ferrigno also wants to help correct misinformation about cochlear implants. He was frustrated by the portrayal of cochlear implants in the movie Sound of Metal, and hopes his outreach will help set the record straight. Cochlear implant surgery is usually an outpatient experience, not the inpatient event shown in the movie. It is also extremely rare that someone would get more than one cochlear implant at a time. Plus, most of the time, the surgery is covered by insurance.
Ferrigno wants people to understand that the implant procedure itself is easy; it’s what comes next that takes work — building back your ability to understand sounds. But the payoff is incredible. Ferrigno says his word discrimination has improved from 18% to 65% in only 6 weeks. He expects additional improvements ahead.
Using His Celebrity to Give Others Hope
Growing up with hearing loss was tough, especially back in the time of body aids. Diagnosed at 4 years of age, Ferrigno’s speech never sounded like his peers, for which he was bullied. He became introverted and shy, held back by his hearing and speaking differences. As a teen, he turned to body building as a way to gain respect from his peers. Working hard on his body came naturally, because he had always worked so hard on his speech. He continues to work hard on it today as part of the aural rehabilitation that comes with his implant.
Ferrigno wants other people with hearing loss to know, “If I can do it, so can anyone else.” He hopes to inspire others to get their hearing assessed and if a candidate, to consider getting a cochlear implant.
Learn more about Lou Ferrigno’s story and how to assess your candidacy for a cochlear implant in this press release.
Readers, would you consider a cochlear implant if you were a candidate?
Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!
20 thoughts on “Breaking Down Stigma: The Incredible Hulk Gets A Cochlear Implant”
Thank you for this post. Having gotten my implant a few weeks after the Hulk, I am very excited about this news. It’s great that he has been making public statements about CIs.
Excellent! Excited to hear how you are doing with it! Thanks for your comment.
I am so proud of Lou ,our hero
He is wonderful! Thank you for your comment.
Shari thank you for your always-informative and timely articles. I too have a new cochlear implant at age 82; my impetus was breaking the eardrum in my only hearing ear during a bout of flu about a year ago. It healed, but I was extremely hard of hearing for a month. My audiologist who guides me is my hero.
I am so glad it is working well for you! Thank you for sharing your experiences.
I was told that I’m a perfect candidate for the implant. I had so many mixed feeling which prevented me from getting it. Bottom line….I was scared . I therefore thank you for sharing this article!
Good luck with your decision. Thank you for your comment.
I took me two years to wrap my head around getting a Cochlear Implant after it was recomended, I was scared. In those two years I I was down to hearing 15% of conversation with my hearing aids. I was fatigued and dropping more of my activities without realizing it. When I finally decided to be brave and get the implant I was completely surprised at how easily I adapted and could hear words immediately upon activation. Now it has been almost a year and a half later and I am enjoying many of my activities again and I am hearing 80% of conversation, I love my Cochlear Implant!
How wonderful! Thank you for sharing your experience.
Excellent blog Shari, Lou seems like a real sweetheart!
He is! Thanks for your comment.
Hi, thank you for the article. I currently wear hearing aids but my hearing has gotten worse and I have an initial appointment at a CI center soon as my audiologist says I might be a candidate. I am really interested in people’s experiences going from hearing aids to CIs. It seems as if a lot of people are very happy they got one. However, there may be people who are not happy and I would be interested in getting information from them as well as to why not.
So glad you are doing research ahead of your appointment. Good luck with your decision. Hearing loss Facebook groups can also be a good place to ask about people’s experiences. Best of luck to you!
You should certainly do your due diligence before making a decision. I did and got a CI in my right ear in March, which was activated two months ago. I still have a hearing aid in my left ear. Although it is still fairly early in the process, I am already doing better than I was with two hearing aids. And I expect to continue to improve. Everybody’s experience is different, but if you do go ahead with the CI, don’t expect overnight miracles.
Thank you for your response. You also answered one of my questions already, which is can one wear a hearing aid in one ear and get a CI in another. I expect to ask many questions at my consultation, but it is so helpful to hear from people who have gone through this. Thank you.
My aunt was one of the first in the nation to receive a Cochlear Implant over fifty years ago in 1987 in NY by Richard Garcek, MD. I remember the power box that she carried on her hip with the wire connected to the hearing device. She was a RN in Vermont who had to fight to practice. Fifty years later her nephew (me) received a Cochlear Implant after a hearing lost. It was the best decision I could have made to improve my hearing, I also wear a hearing aid on my other ear that allows me to hear on both sides. With the changes in tech made when my aunt received hers fifty years ago and today the modification like tele coil which allows people like us to use devices to smartphones, televisions, smart devices placed on tables are Bluetooth to your aids. GREAT WORLD for people to hear.
How wonderful! Thank you for sharing this story!
In Lou Ferrigno’s article he told people he had a speech impediment instead of a hearing loss. I wondered why it was ok to have a speech impediment but not a hearing loss. Why is there such a stigma about hearing loss? And why did he hide his hearing loss yet when he had a cochlear implant he wanted to tell everyone? What has caused the difference?
Great questions. The stigma of hearing loss is deep seated, coming partially from the stereotypes of Deaf people that were held centuries ago. Perhaps Lou’s new technology has boosted his confidence and allowed him to feel more free to discuss his challenges. Thanks for your comment.