10 US Presidents with Hearing Loss
When hearing aids were first released to the public, very few people wanted to make their hearing loss known to others. Embarrassed by their condition, those who wore hearing aids often did so in private and only around people they trusted.
While this stigma continues to affect the hundreds of millions of people with hearing loss around the world, the use of hearing aids is now much more acceptable and encouraged by professionals and loved ones.
Several US presidents since Ronald Reagan have worn hearing aids publicly, increasing their visibility and challenging negative stereotypes about people with hearing loss. Seeing a respected representative wearing hearing aids, can help people confront their own biases and seek treatment for their own hearing loss.
Hearing loss has affected the lives of American presidents going back to the founding of their country. This list highlights ten presidents known to have hearing loss:
The first president experienced the deafening sounds of war before taking office. Documents from the end of Washington’s life often note his difficulty following conversations.
Thomas Jefferson was aware of his hearing loss and wrote of it often. Likely a victim of noise exposure due to hunting rifles, he noted in 1819 that his hearing “is distinct in particular conversation, but confused when several voices cross each other, which unfits me for the society of the table.” This phenomenon is now referred to as the Cocktail Party Effect and has been the subject of study among hearing aid developers for decades. Today’s smart hearing aids correct the muddiness of crowded rooms by isolating sounds that comes from the direction of your attention.
After completing his terms in office, a ruptured ear drum sent Teddy Roosevelt to the hospital for surgery. The abscess was removed, and the former president lost all of the hearing in his left ear.
Unlike many of the presidents in this list, Hoover’s hearing loss was not caused by loud noise exposure. As he aged, Hoover slowly lost his hearing and was fitted with hearing aids. While his condition made it somewhat difficult for his peers to understand him later in life, his public use of hearing aids inspired many to consider consulting a medical professional about their hearing.
Despite having spent a significant amount of time in the military, it was a blank from a .38 caliber that caused his early hearing loss. The blank went off too close and stole the hearing from one of his ears. When he was inaugurated in 1983, Reagan was the first president to wear hearing aids in office, boosting hearing aid sales and research.
Having played the saxophone for many years, Bill Clinton was no stranger to the dangerous volumes of the music scene. In addition to his age, this long-term exposure damaged his hearing and he was fitted for nearly invisible, in-the-canal hearing aids in 1997. To this day, the former president encourages the use of hearing aids and highlights the importance of hearing exams.
Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush
While none of these presidents wore hearing aids while in office, they were all fitted after completing their terms. By being fitted early, they were able to prevent hearing loss from significantly damaging their ability to promote charitable and policy-related work. George H.W. Bush has been praised for signing the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, a major piece of legislation that has prevented workplace discrimination for those with hearing loss and other disabilities.
More prominent Americans with hearing loss
Remembered for her contributions to the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, Sojourner Truth escaped slavery and fought for the oppressed everywhere. Truth died at the age of 86 after a long life of activism and is reported to have been almost completely deaf by the end of her life.
In 1894, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law that allowed for the construction of a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. This school, now called Gallaudet University, still operates to this day, and the diploma of every graduate is signed by the current US president.
Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge, First Lady and wife of President Calvin Coolidge, taught for many years at the Clarke Institute for the Deaf in Massachusetts. As First Lady, she used her experience working with disabled children to promote the need for quality education and employment opportunities among the hearing loss community.
Claudia Gordon is the first deaf African-American female attorney in the United States. She earned her current position at the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs following her career as a lawyer to fight discrimination after experiencing intolerance in her home country of Jamaica. Having seen first-hand how those with physical or mental disabilities were mistreated by their peers and the state, she has made it her mission to fight for the rights of the disabled.
It’s never too early to protect your hearing
The use of hearing aids by public figures such as presidents and celebrities has helped untold numbers of people suffering from hearing loss to be honest about their condition and seek professional help. There is no shame in wearing hearing aids, and many of today’s devices are designed to fit comfortably within the ear for maximum discretion. If you are concerned about your hearing or think a loved one may be suffering from a hearing loss, use our online locator today to schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional and protect your hearing for years to come.