He played the raging green monster “The Incredible Hulk” in the ’70s TV series of the same title. Thanks to his glossy credentials as a bodybuilder, he got the part. Lou Ferrigno was named Mr. Universe in 1973 and again in 1974. Ferrigno appeared as himself alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1977 bodybuilding documentary “Pumping Iron.” The next year, he began his five-season run as The Hulk (1978-82), paired with Bill Bixby as The Hulk’s mild-mannered alter ego, David Banner. After The Incredible Hulk ended, Ferrigno went on to other musclebound roles, including Hercules in Hercules (1983) and Sinbad in Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989).
But during his younger years, “The Incredible Hulk” had another alias — “Deaf Louie.” He got the nickname from his hearing peers who teased him for being hard of hearing (HOH). Ferrigno lost much of his hearing after suffering from an ear infection as an infant. The constant ridicule from his hearing friends proved so hard for Ferrigno that at some point, he was sulked in depression and anxiety.
HOH is a term generally used to describe individuals who use their residual hearing and speech to communicate. Many hard of hearing people can understand some speech sounds with or without a hearing aid. Generally, these individuals supplement their residual hearing with speechreading, hearing aids and technical devices. A hard of hearing person, in audiological terms, may have a mild to moderate hearing loss.
People lose their hearing in various ways. The most common causes of hearing loss are:
Childhood illnesses (spinal meningitis and rubella/German measles are the most common examples);
Pregnancy-related illnesses (such as rubella/German measles or dependence on drugs/alcohol);
Injury (a severe blow to the head can damage the hearing);
Excessive or prolonged exposure to noise;
Heredity (scientists involved with the mapping of the Human Genome Project have identified approximately fifty (50) “deaf” genes to date, and they are working on identifying the remaining 350 “deaf’ genes)
Aging (progressive deterioration of hearing in older people, which is a natural part of aging process)
Another diagnosis that can result hearing loss among children is Otitis Media. It is the most common diagnosis in sick children in the U.S. Young children, infants, and preschoolers are particularly prone. Almost every child has at least one bout of acute otitis media before the age of 6.
Three tiny bones in the middle ear carry sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. When fluid is present, the vibrations are not transmitted efficiently and sound energy is lost. The result may be mild or even moderate hearing loss. Therefore, speech sounds are muffled or inaudible. Generally, this type of hearing loss is conductive and is temporary. However when otitis media occurs over and over again, damage to the eardrum, the bones of the ear, or even the hearing nerve can occur and cause a permanent, sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing loss can be very difficult especially among children. Children learn speech and language from listening to other people talk. The first few years of their lives are especially critical for this development. If a hearing loss exists, a child does not get the full benefit of language learning experiences. This can affect the relationship of the child to his or her peers. This was proven true enough with the experience of Lou Ferrigno, during his childhood years while he was mocked because he was HOH. However, with Lou Ferrigno’s determination and to overcome the trauma of being a HOH, he was motivated to become a bodybuilder as a teenager by an experience very common to hearing impaired youth of the ’70s.
Today, Lou Ferrigno focuses on bodybuilding education. He has a website which offers booklets on bodybuilding. He has his own book on bodybuilding too: Lou Ferrigno’s Guide to Personal Power, Bodybuilding and Fitness for Everyone. In addition, both he and his wife Carla offer personal fitness training services to residents of the Los Angeles, California region. To this date, Lou Ferrigno, proves to be an inspiration, the incredible hero both to the non-hearing and hearing alike.