WATERVILLE — For the first time in three years, Michael Fernald heard his wife’s voice loud and clear.

As they sat in the office of a Waterville hearing aid clinic to test out his new hearing aids, his wife, Diane Fernald, asked him if the devices were comfortable. Without needing to read her lips to fill in the words he normally would have missed, Fernald emotionally let the room know he heard her.

“We were so nervous,” said Fernald after the test. “It was very emotional. I can’t believe how well I can hear.”

Since a 2012 car accident that left him in a coma for nearly a month, Fernald, of Clinton, has had a host of chronic medical problems, including the loss of most of his ability to hear.

Fernald was driving near the intersection of U.S. Route 201 and Route 23 in Fairfield, Nye’s Corner, when a car that had been hit by another struck his pickup truck.

Three other people, including Fernald’s son, Michael Jr., were hurt in the accident, but Fernald’s injuries were the most serious. He was taken by Lifeflight helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center, where he stayed for a month.


“I went through nine surgeries in the first two weeks,” he said. “They told my family it didn’t look good.”

In the days after he woke up, he kept turning up the television to hear it and his wife kept telling him it was up too loud.

“We used to go out to a family cookout and meet with relatives for Christmas, and 15 minutes after I was there, I was ready to leave. I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying,” he said.

He got better at reading lips. If he was speaking face to face with a person, he could follow the conversation, but it wasn’t the same as being able to hear.

Fernald used to install satellites dishes, but had to quit his job after the accident.

The medical aftermath has left him with chronic problems including back pain and range of motion issues that make it hard to reach his head. His brother helped with whatever he needed and his son chipped in, but he said it was hard to accept help when he was used to taking care of himself.


“And it all felt like I was being punished for something that wasn’t my fault,” he said.

Fernald had a hearing test at Beltone Hearing Aid Center in Waterville in November. He recalled Thursday marveling at what he could hear with hearing aids on.

“It was like being able to hear for the first time,” he said.

But he couldn’t afford the $7,000 price. After he was discharged from the hospital following the accident, he had $100,000 in medical bills. Not being able to work added to the financial burden.

The staff at Beltone, however, asked him to apply to the Beltone Hearing Care Foundation, which gives out free hearing aids.

Fernald learned earlier this week that he had been accepted and would be fitted with the devices.


“I just want to thank everyone who was involved,” he said. “They’re all just the greatest people.”

On Thursday afternoon, the Fernalds arrived for his appointment. Felicia Curtis, with Beltone, fitted him with the hearing aids. As she programmed the device, she let him know so that it could be adjusted if the sound was too much.

After she put the hearing aids in and adjusted the programming with her computer, Fernald realized he could hear Curtis’ typing.

“I guess I just thought it was a silent keyboard all these years,” he said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252


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