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Kris Martin: A Race Car Driver

April 10th, 2013 by | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Kris Martin is a cochlear implant recipient from Canada and learned to hear and speak with the Auditory-Verbal approach. He dreams to become a NASCAR race car driver and finds that his cochlear implant helps him race effectively as it requires good communication skills.


When was your deafness first diagnosed and how did you or your parents first learn about it?

I was 8 months old.  My mom heard me wake up from a nap, and when she went in the room, my back was facing her.  She called my name and I didn’t respond.

How did your parents learn about cochlear implants and why did they choose to pursue cochlear implantation and  teach you listening and spoken language?

My Mom told the doctor she thought I couldn’t hear and we were sent to Toronto Sick Kids Hospital.  They gave us choices: learn to listen with cochlear implant and Auditory-Verbal therapy or sign language.

My parents come from a very large family.  No one has a hearing loss.  They all speak and so, they thought that would be what we would start with.  If that didn’t work, then they would look at different options.

When I had hearing aids, I couldn’t hear people calling me and hear the teacher.   I had a lot of difficulty with language and vocabulary.  None of my hearing was in the speech banana on my audiogram, and so it was difficult to speak properly.  My speech therapist at Toronto Sick Children’s Hospital felt that it would be more difficult for me to keep up with learning to speak and listen if I continued to use hearing aids, especially since there were no lip reading or sign language involved.  So, they looked into cochlear implants.

How has your cochlear implant made a difference in your life, especially in racing?

It has been amazing for me. I can hear much better.  Hearing aids were not much help for me.  I was born with a profound loss – 98-99 decibel loss and, so even with hearing aids, I struggled.  Cochlear implants opened so many doors for me and racing. Without my cochlear implant, I would not be able to race using a radio to my spotter and crew chief which limits me.

You need to communicate with your spotter because he or she helps you get around the track safely.  The spotter lets you know if someone is beside you, there is an accident, caution flag, or whatever is going on around you.  If you cannot communicate, you may have an accident because you are travelling at such a high speed, and it is impossible to make to be looking around you and making decisions without help.  There are no mirrors in race cars.. You also need to communicate with your crew and let them know if you have a problem with the car or if you’re coming in for a pit stop so that they can be ready.

Kris1When and how did you get interested in racing?

My Mom’s family is a racing family.  We really enjoy being at the race track together as a family and often my grandparents, aunts and uncles came to watch. We often camped at the track.  It was a lot of fun because we got to know many of the family members, ate ate together, raced together, and helped each other out when needed.

My Grandfather was my biggest influence.  He was a race car driver.  My Grandfather gave me tips while I was at the track. His best tips were, “Be patient and stay focused,” and “Bring your race car home in one piece.”

What challenges do you, as a person with hearing loss, encounter in racing and how do you overcome them?

Well people certainly doubt my ability to race a car because I am deaf, but when I show them what I can do they are amazed.  I just have to keep breaking down those road blocks.  It is about educating people about the abilities of the deaf and hard of hearing people.

When I went to North Carolina to race, it was my first time there.  When  other racers found out that I was deaf, they went to the track officials to voice their concerns. I asked if I could go out and show them that I can race.  At first practice, I went out with everyone and showed them I was capable of communicating on the radio and showed them I was not going to crash every one out. It was awesome because I became qualified to start 7th, and I finished 7th. The drivers came up and congratulated me for racing clean.

What accomplishments are you most proud of ?

I think graduating with honours at my local high school school because it was really hard work.  I was the first profoundly deaf student in a regular high school and doing the public speaking to motivate deaf and hard of hearing kids to be the best they can be – to believe in themselves.  I have spoken to kids in the Toronto Canada School Board, Hamilton School Board, Voice for Hearing Impaired Kids, Jamaica Junior Achievement Group, Texas Motor Speedway Deaf Action Group , Shrevport LA Deaf Action Centre,  North Carolina AG Bell Deaf and Hard of Hearing Groups. Cheerios Camp North Carolina for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Sudbury Canadian Hard of Hearing Kids.

What tips do you have for children who aspire to become a race car driver?

Follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you, “You can’t do it.”  Believe in yourself and you can do anything.



1 Comment

April 12, 2013 at 10:01 pm

For more information on a campaign to help Kris convince sponsors to take a chance on a Deaf race car driver click on the link provided.