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SCIENCE REPORT - Rush Limbaugh's Hearing Loss

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This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Rush Limbaugh has the most popular radio talk show in the United States. His talk show is broadcast on six-hundred radio stations. As many as twenty-million people listen every week. People telephone the show to discuss issues in the news with Mister Limbaugh.

Last month, Rush Limbaugh shocked listeners by announcing that he has lost almost all his hearing. He said he is completely deaf in one ear and has partial hearing in his other ear.

Experts say Mister Limbaugh suffers from a rare disorder called autoimmune inner ear disease. They say it happens when the body's natural defense system against disease attacks the inner ear and damages the nerve. Signs of autoimmune inner ear disease may include feelings of rapid movement in the ear, unexplained changes in hearing levels or a sudden loss of hearing.

The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association was formed to educate the public about the many kinds of autoimmune diseases. These diseases can affect any organ of the body. About fifty-million Americans suffer from one or more of the diseases. About seventy-five percent of them are women.

The group says that it is often difficult for doctors to identify autoimmune diseases. It says there are few treatments and no cures.

Doctors at the House Ear Clinic and Institute in Los Angeles, California are treating Rush Limbaugh. The doctors say they are using a combination of drugs in an attempt to stop the hearing loss.

The doctors say they may place an electronic device in Mister Limbaugh's ear to save what is left of his hearing. The device is called a cochlear implant. It creates an electronic signal and sends it to the brain.

Mister Limbaugh says he wants to continue his talk show even though he cannot hear the people who call to talk to him. He is using new technology in an effort to communicate with telephone callers. The comments of the callers are shown on a screen for him to read. Different colored lights are used to show if the caller is angry or sympathetic.

A few months ago, Mister Limbaugh signed an agreement to continue his radio show for eight more years.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow.

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