Earthquake 'Cures' Veteran's Deafness

Robert Valderzak, 75, could hear for the first time since Father's day.

ByABC News
August 25, 2011, 11:13 AM

Aug. 26, 2011— -- For Robert Valderzak of Washington, D.C., Tuesday's earthquake was a miracle.

Ever since he fell and fractured his skull on Father's Day, 75-year-old Valderzak had suffered severe hearing loss. But after the 5.8 quake, he could hear everything.

"It was God's blessing," Valderzak told, his voice shaking with emotion. "It was a miracle for me."

Valderzak was visiting with his daughter and three sons when the quake rattled D.C.'s Veterans Affairs Hospital, where he is battling cancer.

"It shook me terrible -- right out of the bed," said Valderzak. "But after that it stopped. And my son talked to me, and I could hear his voice."

Tests confirmed Valderzak's significant hearing improvement. But his doctors think they have a medical explanation for the "miracle."

"He had conductive hearing loss, caused by fluid in his middle ear, as well as loss due to nerve damage," said Dr. Ross Fletcher, chief of staff at the VA Hospital. "A combination of a drug he was taking and the earthquake event itself likely led to him losing the fluid and gaining back his hearing."

Dr. Jennifer Smullen of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary said the shaking itself might not have been enough to clear the fluid from Valderzak's inner ear.

"But if somebody was startled, and yawned or yelled, sometimes that's enough to clear some fluid out from the ear drum," she said.

In any case, recovering the ability to hear after going months without is a gift.

"People are usually very grateful, very happy, very surprised," said Smullen. "They'll walk around looking at things that they'd forgotten made noise. It's very gratifying."

Valderzak had adjusted to his hearing loss with the help of a special microphone and a crash lesson in lip reading. But the situation was far from ideal.

"The devices helped, but by the time I got them all hooked up, everyone had left and I was talking to myself," he said, adding that lip reading meant he could only talk to one person at a time. But now he can talk to all four of his kids again.

"Why did it happen at that time, with my whole family there? There was God's touch in there," he said.