Richard Thomas made his acting breakthrough as John-Boy on “The Waltons.” For much of his career, Richard Thomas faced little issues understanding his directions, hearing his costars recite their lines, or picking up his cues. Then, when the actor was in his 30s, things started to change.
Richard Thomas’s hearing loss came on gradually. He rarely heard his children cry, noted a Washington Post article.
“I just thought they were very good babies,” the Washington Post noted the actor said. However, over time, there were more and more hints that something may be amiss.
“He also stopped hearing the telephone,” the Washington Post reported of the actor. “He would turn on the stereo, and other family members would come in and turn the volume down.”
Eventually, noted the article, Thomas was suffering from a condition called cochlear otosclerosis. This condition causes the inner ear to lose its sound sensitivity. The actor also learned that the higher-pitched sounds – such as a baby’s cry, or a telephone – are often hard to hear with this condition.
An Unexpected Diagnosis
A recent publication on the Tabernacle Choir website noted that this condition is primarily classified as abode disorder. This condition affects the middle ear. According to Tabernacale’s publication, the “Waltons” star lost 50 percent of his hearing due to this condition. He is also dependant on hearing aids. The article also notes that Richard Thomas has become a strong advocate of hearing health. He has served as the national chairman of the “Better Hearing Institute.”
The Washington Post article noted that Richard Thomas was able to treat the condition. The treatment prevented the hearing loss from getting worse. However, his doctors said it was impossible to restore the hearing Thomas already lost. Because of this, Richard Thomas is dependent on using hearing aids in both ears.
While the hearing loss was a difficult adjustment for the “Waltons” actor, the adjustment to the hearing aids was difficult in its own right. There was about a six-week adjustment period, noted the Washington Post.
“Waltons” Star Is Drawing On His Own Experience To Help Others
Now, the Waltons star told the outlet, Thomas has made it a priority to raise awareness for hearing loss.
“I think every child should have his or her ears checked,” Thomas said. “When you go in to have your next physical, ask your doctor to check your hearing. You might tell your parents to get their ears checked, too.”
Thomas also noted regular care is important. He said that avoiding playing music too loud will help protect ones hearing as well.
“You can do serious damage to your ears that way,” he said. “And once the damage is done, it can’t be repaired.”