The Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno is well-known for his acting and bodybuilding career. His role as the iconic superhero, as well as his impressive bodybuilding journey has been well documented.

However, not many know that what pushed Ferrigno to his current height was a severe ear infection during his early childhood that made him almost completely deaf.

Because of his hearing impairment, Ferrigno could not speak clearly. Because of this, the actor was often taunted by others.

“They used to call me ‘deaf Louie,’ ‘deaf mute,’ because of my hearing and because of the way I sounded,” Ferrigno shared during an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?

Lou Ferrigno played the Hulk in 'The Incredible Hulk'

Lou Ferrigno played the Hulk in 'The Incredible Hulk' (Source: Instagram)

Is Lou Ferrigno Deaf?

Because Ferrigno had multiple ear infections as a toddler that caused irreparable nerve damage in his ears, he lost over 80% of his hearing.

Though he wasn’t completely deaf, Ferrigno couldn’t make out most sounds and had to rely on hearing aids to help him hear the best he could.

He didn’t want his impairment to come between his work, especially when he was working on movies and shows. Because he couldn’t trust the hearing aids every time, he even started wearing two aids later on.

“Sometimes on set the hearing aid malfunctions, and I had to be treated like a hard hearing person,” he shared.

“And I never really wanted that sympathy. So over the years, I ended up wearing two hearing aids instead of one, because I wanted to maximize whatever hearing I did have.”

Ferrigno later learned that his problem could be fixed with a cochlear implant. However, it required surgery, and it caused him to be hesitant.

It was only after a friend of his who had similar hearing issues went through the surgery and convinced him he finally opted for it.

“When I saw a friend of mine do it, after what he’s been through and what he’s been suffering, I said, ‘Why not do this? Why not get better?’ Because my whole life it’s been frustrating to not be able to hear.”

After Ferrigno went through with the surgery in 2021 at age 69, he shared he was hearing some sounds for the first time.

How Hearing Impairment Led Him to Bodybuilding and Acting

Because Ferrigno was ostracized by his peers for his hearing and speech difficulties, he turned to comic books to keep him company.

He previously shared he was obsessed with “power and the feeling of being powerful.” At age 13, he got into bodybuilding, thinking it would help him gain admiration and respect from different people.

Four years later, he won the IFBB Mr. Universe competition (now called the World Amateur Bodybuilding Championship) in 1973.

In 1976, he got a phone call that let him know they were casting for The Hulk. Ferrigno was ecstatic to hear the news and applied for the role immediately.

Ferrigno played the green superhero in The Incredible Hulk from 1977 to 1982. He has also been part of other Hulk projects, such as the 2008 movie adaptation The Incredible Hulk and the 2003 movie Hulk.