In a terrorist attack that killed three people, caused limbs to be amputated, broke bones, and bloodied crowds with shrapnel, one invisible injury suffered by many Marathon bombing survivors is often overlooked: hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

But those problems continue to haunt those who were close to the blasts that day, and who still suffer the isolation, frustration, and stress of struggling daily to hear — even as their lives have changed dramatically in the three years since the tragedy.


“People have gotten married or had children,” said Shannon Silvestri, a hearing loss peer support counselor at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing. “Will they hear their child’s first words? Will they wake up when their child cries? Will they even be able to follow conversations without feeling lost?”

Silvestri was near the finish line that day and suffers from hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis, or pain from certain sounds. Now, she is helping to spearhead renewed efforts by the state, in the final year of a federal antiterrorism emergency assistance grant, to find and help survivors with hearing damage.

A 2014 study of 94 patients who sustained hearing injuries in the bombings found that hearing loss, tinnitus, and associated dizziness were pervasive ongoing problems six months later.