Rush Limbaugh's doctors trying medication for hearing loss

Thursday, October 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Doctors treating Rush Limbaugh said Thursday they will try a combination of drugs for up to two months before deciding whether to implant an electronic device in his ear in hopes of saving what is left of his hearing.

The device is called a cochlear implant, which creates an electronic signal and sends it to the brain.

``He is never going to have normal hearing,'' said Dr. Jennifer Derebery of the House Ear Clinic and Institute, where the radio commentator has received treatment in recent weeks.

Limbaugh, 50, surprised his listeners this week by disclosing that he has gone almost completely deaf over the past few months. He said his left ear is ``shot,'' and he has only partial hearing in his right ear.

He suffers from autoimmune inner-ear disease, which progresses rapidly over a few weeks or months. Doctors believe it is caused when the immune system launches a misguided attack on the inner ear and damages the nerve.

Limbaugh, whose nationally syndicated talk show reaches some 20 million people on 600 stations, said he wants to continue his show.

``I'll be honest with you, I've said I'm not going to quit until every American agrees with me, and I don't expect to pull that off until I'm at least 66, 67,'' Limbaugh said Thursday.

Derebery said the speed of Limbaugh's hearing loss has slowed since he began taking an array of medicines that include a steroid and medication often used to treat arthritis inflammation. However, she said there has been no significant improvement.

Also at a Los Angeles news conference Thursday was Premiere Radio Networks president Kraig T. Kitchin, who said Limbaugh has been using relatively new technology to help him continue with his radio show.

Listener comments are quickly transcribed into text on a monitor in front of Limbaugh and an array of multicolored lights are used to indicate the mood _ anger, sympathy _ of each caller.

This summer, Limbaugh renewed his contract with the Premiere Radio Networks through 2009, reportedly for the highest price ever in radio syndication.

Symptoms of auto-immune inner ear disease can include fluctuating hearing, dizziness, ear fullness, or a sudden loss of hearing. AIED is rare, causing less than 1 percent of all cases of hearing loss or dizziness.