Is Lou Ferrigno Deaf? His Hearing Status Revealed

By Alex Chu •  Updated: 03/03/24 •  8 min read

Have you ever smashed your finger with a hammer? Or stumped your toe in the middle of the night on the corner of your bed? How about getting cut off during traffic on the highway? If so, did you also turn green while busting out of your favorite t-shirt with expanding muscles? That’s what Lou Ferrigno’s character, The Incredible Hulk, would do whenever something or someone would make him angry.

This Marvel comic book character came to life during the late 70s – early 80s television series that propelled Ferrigno into our living rooms every Friday night at 8 pm, thanks to CBS. However, behind the green makeup, ripped clothes and snarling face, many people did not know about Lou Ferrigno’s hearing loss.

Brief History

Lou Ferrigno was born November 09, 1951, in Brooklyn New York and was 27 years old when he was hired for his breakthrough role playing the Incredible Hulk. However, he had been well established in the world of bodybuilding, winning the title of Mr. America at age 21 as well as two Mr. Universe titles in 1973 and 1974. But his bodybuilding routines were from humble beginnings at the age of 13. Using a broom handle from his mother’s kitchen, Lou would tie empty paint cans, filled with cement mixture which began his journey into strengthening his body and mind that eventually led him to his bodybuilding success. Then, in 1977, Lou signed with Universal Studios and was selected by a panel of producers to play the frightening green hero, beating hundreds of California muscle men including Arnold Schwarzenegger. After 82 episodes and 5 seasons, the popular series came to a successful end. Lou was quoted years later in an interview;

“Playing the Hulk was a dream come true. As a kid, I was bullied by other kids because of my hearing loss and speech impediment. I started reading Hulk and Spider-Man comic books. I was obsessed with having power. I wanted to be strong enough so that I could be able to defend myself.” And so, at an early age, the dream to become big, muscular and intimidating became a driving force to help overcome his deafness.

The Use of Hearing Aids

Growing up in the 1950’s in Brooklyn New York, testing children’s hearing, especially in this busy family’s life, wasn’t common. Lou’s father was a very active police lieutenant, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom devoted to Lou and his younger brother Andy. It was Lou’s mother, Victoria, who noticed after several ear infections as a toddler, he was not responding to voice conversations and noises around their home.

The Use of Cochlear Implants

Even with the advancements in technology and his steady success in his career, Lou felt he was still struggling with the continued decline in his hearing and became interested in cochlear implants. At the urging of a close friend who had the surgery in 2010, Lou began researching the procedure and confirmed through his doctors he would be a candidate for the implant surgery. Knowing the risks involved, recovery time and adjustment period, especially given his age, he decided to proceed with the implant surgery. So, in May 2021, at the age of 68, Lou had bilateral cochlear implant surgery.

“I was terrified. I was terrified to death before I had the surgery, but I didn’t want to tell anybody about it. I was literally terrified. I was supposed to have the surgery, but it was canceled because of COVID, and because of other circumstances. Finally, when I got the chance to do it a third time, and doing more research, I had less fear. I just want to get it over with. I had 3 months of speech and hearing therapy which was very important. It’s amazing how, when you hear different sounds, you’ve never heard with a hearing aid like a refrigerator, or people whispering. This morning, I actually heard a fly in my hotel room window.”, Lou shared with Richard.

Marriage & Children

In addition to his bodybuilding and acting careers, his four-decade long marriage to his wife Carla, a psychotherapist, who then later became his manager, and their three children has been his lifeline of support and encouragement. His oldest son Lou Ferrigno Jr has followed in his father’s acting footsteps. He is best known for his performance in the CBS television series S.W.A.T. as Donovan Rocker, a SWAT team leader and decorated officer. Lou’s daughter Shanna Ferrigno is also an actor best known for her recurring role as Nurse Janice in daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives, as well as a published author and producer. The youngest son, Brent Ferrigno, appeared on a reality TV show as well as several YouTube channels promoting health and fitness. Sadly, in an announcement in October 2023, Lou’s wife Carla has been diagnosed with severe dementia, losing most of her ability to care for herself.

Volunteer & Charity Work

Being Hard of Hearing

Throughout Lou Ferrigno’s life, he has viewed his hearing loss as an obstacle, a disability to overcome, while acknowledging that the “disability” was the driving force for much of his success. And, while many within the Deaf Community view being deaf as a part of who they are rather than a disability to overcome, Lou maintains many friendships and close ties to the Deaf Community, respecting individuals’ path in deciding to use hearing aids, cochlear implants, lip reading, sign language or a combination of tools to communicate.

Lou’s continued message is focusing on being the best you can be through good health, surrounding yourself with people who love and support you and having equal access to communication and opportunities regardless of a person’s physical challenges.

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