Rush Limbaugh, the most listened-to radio talk-show host in history, announced to stunned fans worldwide yesterday that he is getting increasingly deaf – unable to hear callers, radio, television or music.

“I have lost my ability to hear,” he said. “I have not lost my ability to communicate.”

Limbaugh’s announcement sent shockwaves through the broadcasting industry – and the nation.

President Bush expressed personal concern about Limbaugh’s condition with senior staff.

“The president noted Rush Limbaugh is a national treasure,” one senior White House staffer told the Drudge Report.

For the past three months, Limbaugh has been steadily losing his hearing.

“I am, for all practical purposes, deaf,” Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh’s show is heard on over 600 stations; he commands an audience of more than 22 million a week.

“I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching this past summer because of some things that have happened to me, that have caused me to redefine what’s meaningful and what is happy and important and what’s not,” he told listeners. “Simply put, I noticed on the 29th of May – I’ll never forget the date – that I could not hear anything in my left ear.”

Limbaugh sought medical attention and learned there is a history of genetic hearing loss in his family. However, Limbaugh said that is not the cause of his hearing loss.

“There’s something more going on than that,” he said. “I have been through every conceivable medical test and exam this summer you can imagine. All those times that you thought I was on vacation or playing golf, I’ve been in an MRI machine or getting blood drawn, or on a stress EKG machine or at a cardiologist, wherever, hearing aid doctor, the hearing doctor, where have you.”

The situation just continues to deteriorate.

“The bottom line is, from May 29th up until about, I’d say, 10 days ago, I lost hearing every five days, to the point, ladies and gentlemen, I’m now totally deaf in my left ear,” he said. “I cannot hear a thing in my left ear, with hearing aids, the most powerful made, mean nothing. I have the ability to recognize sound but not identify it in my right ear.”

Limbaugh said he “cannot communicate with people.”

“I can occasionally talk to people in person one on one if their voice frequency happens to fit the range that I can still hear, but I cannot hear radio, I cannot hear television, I cannot hear music,” he said. “I am, for all practical purposes, deaf, and it’s happened in three months. I have been to what I learned were the finest doctors and clinics throughout the country, focusing on one, and every effort has been made to stabilize the loss, with the hope of restoring it. No success has been reported, in either stabilizing it or losing it – or restoring it. Now, all during this summer, the loss, even though rapid, by the middle of July, for example, I was told that from the end of May to the middle of July I had lost what the average person loses in 15 years, in terms of hearing. Hearing aids are of such improved quality today that they accommodated the loss. My hearing wasn’t normal, but I could function.”

Limbaugh explained that he took two phone calls during yesterday’s program and could not hear a word any of the callers said.

“I’m not going to explain to you how we’re doing this,” he added. “Put two and two together, if you wish, but as long as the passion exists to do it, then we’ll find a way, because – I’m at that point now; this is where I am. What do I do about it? Now, I’ve been luckier than most people will ever be in life. I can retire if I wanted to and not suffer. I don’t have a worry in the world when it comes to finances. That’s how fortunate I’ve been.”

Limbaugh asked his audience to understand his increasing absences from the show.

“The only thing that is really going to change is that I may have to be absent a day here and a day there, more so than I would like, just in order to see the doctors,” he said.

He added that one other option, besides the medications he is taking, is the cochlear implant.

“It’s the last thing they do because it’s irreversible. Once you do that you’re finished, and if it doesn’t work, then nothing they can do to go back and put you back the way you were,” he said. “So you must wait until you are entirely deaf for approval for this. I mean the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) even gets involved in this because it’s surgery which involves the brain. I have not yet spoken to people who have received cochlear implants, but I’ve talked to a number of doctors who say that it would be an improvement over the situation I’m in now.”

Yet, Limbaugh is not giving up – not on the thing he loves most, talk radio.

“That doesn’t mean that I cannot continue to do what I love doing here,” he said. “It’s just a matter of finding out how and the best way to do it.”

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