George Washington is the First Historical Selection in the Hard of Hearing Hall of Fame

April 27, 2006

Throughout his life Washington suffered from many illnesses, but one in particular may have ruined his hearing. In 1779 he suffered from abscessed tonsils, or quinsy. One report stated, "He was so weak and feverish that he feared for his own survival. He instructed General Nathaniel Green to take over if he failed to survive." One of the symptoms of acute tonsillitis is deafness.

In addition to his illnesses, the many years of hunting and serving in the French and Indian War as well as the Revolutionary War may have finished off his hearing. Loud noises like cannon and the crack of small arms fire can destroy hair cells of the middle ear. An explosion from a black powder cannon produces noise at the same level as amplified rock music.

Washington once said, "I heard the bullets whistle and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound." Little did he know that they were destroying his hearing.

According to one source, “Washington's hearing worsened in 1789 to the point where he could not hear ordinary conversation.” This makes George Washington not only the first president of the United States of America, but also the first deaf president of the United States.

The overall mission of the Hard of Hearing Hall of Fame is to educate people about potential inner ear damage AND to seek tax deductible donations to support research for hearing regeneration.

Here are some comparisons of noise levels and possible damage:

Sustained exposure causing possible hearing loss - 90-95dB
Walkman on 5/10 - 94dB
Musket fire – in excess of 100dB
Power mower - 107dB
Amplified rock, 4-6' - 120dB
Black powder cannon – in excess of 120 dB
Pain begins at a level of about 125dB
Rock music peak 150dB

The Hard of Hearing Hall of Fame is sponsored in part by Rotarians for Hearing Regeneration – A Rotary Action Group ( The Action Group promotes interest in research and the funding of the Hearing Regeneration Initiative at the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center at the University of Washington (

It was thought that once hair cells of the inner ear are destroyed (noise or drug-induced), they do not re-grow, but now research by Dr. Edwin Rubel (VMBHRC) gives hope to those with hearing loss. Dr. Rubel and his associates are attempting to re-grow hair cells in mammals. There scientists believe that within ten years they will be able to re-grow inner ear hair cells and improve the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Hearing Loss Statistics:

• Hearing loss is the number one disability in the world.

• 15 of every 1000 people under age 18 have a hearing loss.

• Nearly 90% of people over age 80 have a hearing loss.

• Ten million Americans have suffered irreversible noise induced hearing loss, and 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.

• Approximately 59,000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants. About 250,000 people would be good candidates for a cochlear implant. Most people worldwide can't afford implants.

Other Hard of Hearing Hall of Fame Selection Categories: Art, Sports, Business, Feature Films, Military, Music, Politics, Professions, Rock and Roll, Science, and Television.

The Hard of Hearing Hall of Fame website ( contains downloadable videos as well as articles on hearing loss as well as the hearing regeneration initiative (the sharing of world wide information concerning the re-growth of hair cells).

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