Judy & Eric’s story

Sharing life’s challenges and joys

Judy and Eric have been married for more than 40 years. The challenges of Eric having a severe hearing loss has affected their life together but also drawn them closer than ever.

Eric: “I want to enjoy my family, my friends, my grandchildren and much, much more. I decided many years ago that I was not going to let my severe hearing loss keep me from living the kind of life I wanted. And it hasn’t. For more than 40 years, my biggest ally has been my wife, Judy. I couldn’t have done as much as I have in my life without her, and I’ve done a lot.”

“I lost my hearing as a young adult. I knew early on that I had to take control of my situation to survive in my job and to live the kind of life I wanted. I am a licensed electrician and a licensed water treatment plant operator. For many years, I was the superintendent of the largest water treatment facility in the state. It was a job with a lot of responsibility. I had 73 people reporting to me and the work we did ensured that the 4.5 million people in our district had clean drinking water.”

“I adapted my work environment to accommodate my needs. I wired my office so I could talk easily on the phone. With some inspiration from Judy, I rigged a device that illuminated a light on my desk that signalled when someone was standing in the doorway of my office so I wouldn’t be startled.”

“I like technology. I was never afraid to try the newest hearing aids or assistive devices, and I enjoy music a lot. I set up my basement with my own high fidelity stereo system. I can turn up the volume as loud as I want and rock and roll without bothering anybody. I joke that I’m almost afraid the cabinets will rattle and the glasses vibrate. Of course, I’m much too conscious of my hearing health to really blast my music that much!”

“My biggest ally has been my wife, Judy.”

“Despite all of the challenges, Judy and I manage to have good times together. We enjoy walking by the ocean and listening to the sea gulls and the surf. There are times that I get so emotional with the beauty of it, I have to stop and listen intently for a few minutes. Those are very good times.”

The other side

Judy: “I don’t think anyone can really understand what it is like not to be able to have a normal conversation with a partner unless they have experienced it. People know that Eric has a severe hearing loss and they are careful when speaking with him for the time they are with us. But they can’t fully understand the extent to which hearing loss impacts our communication and our life.”

“There is a sense of loneliness and isolation that someone in my situation feels. After 25 years, more than half of our married life, I still miss spontaneous conversation, especially personal and intimate conversation.”

“I have normal hearing. I don’t like to deal with long periods of silence. For Eric, background noise can be annoying and tiring. But the long silences make me feel cut off and locked in a silent world as well.”

“Each one makes you a little stronger.”

“He also tends to miss parts of conversation and I fill in the gaps. If we are in a group of friends or a family celebration, it is almost impossible for Eric to be part of the conversation. I always look to read his expression and then repeat what he missed. Many times I look over and see him smiling and nodding and I know that he can’t understand or follow the conversation. He is just being polite.”

“When this journey began, we didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice or encouragement. There was no one to say, “It’s ok, people get through this.” Perhaps by sharing our story we can give hope and support to other people.”

“In some ways, the difficulties that we have gone through have also been opportunities for more closeness. Each one makes you a little stronger. You come to rely on each other a little more. Eric always says, “I never could have done it without you” and I feel the same about him. This challenge has drawn us closer. We rely on simple ways to communicate – a touch, a gesture, a look of understanding or holding hands to let him know I am there.”

“Eric means everything to me. If I could give him my ears I would. Nothing would make me happier than to see him hear.”