Max’s Story: My Journey to Better Hearing and Communication Tips in a Global Pandemic
Living With Hearing Loss
We recently sat down and had a chat with Max Crane about his hearing loss journey. He has faced a lot of challenges but his determination to help others with hearing loss, as well as himself, has shaped him into the resilient man he is today.
Max’s hearing loss journey began when he was in Elementary School. He remembers in grade five; he sat at the back of the classroom, but then noticed he was not hearing as well as he used to. In grade six, he decided to try sitting at the front of the class and noticed he could understand his teacher better. He said, “This was the moment when I realized my hearing was not working as well as my classmates”. He decided to talk to someone about it and after being tested received his first analog hearing aid, which was attached to his glasses much like the photo below.
Although the hearing aid was helpful, it was very different from the hearing aids we have today. Max said, “I only used it for a few months and gave up as it was too cumbersome with wearing eyeglasses attached to hearing aid at the same time.”
Upon reflection, Max told us the next part of his hearing loss journey was one of the most challenging of his life. After graduating high school, Max went to Corner Brook DVS and studied accounting. He tried hearing aids again, and had a successful working for the City of Corner Brook, then he obtained employment with the federal government after moving to St. John’s. When Max started working for the government, he noticed his hearing loss had progressed and even with very powerful hearing aid he really started to struggle more and more to follow conversations.
As a result of his struggles with hearing loss, Max attended a meeting for hard of hearing individuals in Newfoundland, which was hosted by the Newfoundland Hearing Association (later the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Newfoundland and Labrador). Here, Max met Dr. Norah Brown, the past president of our Association, invited him to serve on our board as a youth representative. Max was still involved with our Association when they merged with the national Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.
Max “started to question what I would do if there came point in time I could not hear and decided to reach out to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Doctor about cochlear Implants”, Max shared, “but this was the early days for Cochlear Implants, especially in Newfoundland and I was not willing to risk losing the hearing I had left on a new and relatively untested technology.” As Max could still function without his hearing aid, he felt it would be better to wait until his hearing got worse before he decided to get a cochlear implant. A few years later, Max had his hearing retested, and decided to get a second hearing aid to lessen the strain hearing loss had on his everyday life.
When Max retired, he reached out to the ENT Doctor again, to see if he still qualified to get a cochlear implant. This time, the Doctor had a lot more encouraging information and experience that he was able to share with Max to help him make an informed decision.
Before deciding to get a cochlear implant, Max reached out to the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Newfoundland and Labrador. He was able to join the Cochlear Implant Resource Group to meet other people who were in a similar situation, as well as those who already had a cochlear implant. After hearing all sorts of great things about the cochlear implant technology, and how much it can help a person with extensive hearing loss, Max decided to make the leap.
The surgery was a success, and after his recovery period, Max was able to hear better than ever. Along with his cochlear implant, Max also wears a hearing aid on the opposite ear. Max claims that this experience has been one of the best in his life, and he is so happy he decided to get a cochlear implant.
After years of living with hearing loss, Max was able to come up with hearing solutions that helped to make his everyday life easier. With his cochlear implant, he was able to hear so much more than before, however, Max was able to use his speechreading skills to fill in the parts of conversations he missed.
When COVID-19 hit Newfoundland and Labrador, it became mandatory to start wearing masks and staying at least 6 feet apart, things got really challenging for Max, and many others with hearing loss across the province. After years of relying on speechreading to fill in the sounds he found difficult to hear, Max had to find new ways to adapt to meet the challenges of not being able to read lips and facial expressions.
Some solutions Max has found effective to hear during the pandemic include:
- Asking someone to write things down for him if he cannot understand them.
- Wearing a clear window mask to allow for lipreading.
- Moving far enough away from a person, so it is safe for them to (temporarily) lower their mask to read their lips.
- Reminding others to talk slower so that he can make out what they are saying.
Having these great solutions has helped Max overcome many of the hearing challenges he faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. By using his hearing aid in his left ear and his cochlear implant in his right, alongside the great tips outlined above, Max can hear and understand what others are saying much more easily. As Max loves to help others and is passionate about sharing his hearing loss experience, he hopes that his hearing solutions during the pandemic can help others feel less disconnected from their loved ones during these trying times.
Other Solutions That May Help
Other hearing solutions that may help during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- Clear window masks that can help improve communication.
- Use a speech to text app on your phone/tablet.
- Understanding the effects of hearing loss on mental health.
- Learning more about hearing loss.