Sue Prichard has lived in Eugene, Oregon since 1968. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon. After a brief career as an elementary school teacher, Sue was a top producing residential real estate broker. In 1988, Sue and a business partner established Prichard & Evans, Inc., a highly successful boutique commercial real estate firm specializing in the sales and leasing of office, retail and industrial properties. Sue was the first female owner of a commercial real estate company in Eugene-Springfield.
She has had a high profile in both civic and non-profit work, serving on numerous boards and committees over the past 40 years. Her volunteer focus has been on children and families, as well as civic and urban planning. She is the recipient of several awards, including Lane County Volunteer of the Year, Outstanding Alumni Award, the Mayor’s Outstanding Citizen Award and the White Rose Award.
Sue is a seamstress, an ukulele player, a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who also happens to have severe hearing loss. Her own path in discovering how to manage life with hearing loss has led to additional volunteer work to help people with hearing loss to hear better in all aspects of their lives – both in public venues and in their daily private lives. Sue’s special interest, after her own experiences, is advocating for hearing loops, both installed and portable.
I grew up in a mid-western family with a severely hard of hearing grandmother and mother, and later saw my oldest sister develop a significant hearing loss as well. I was familiar with the negative impacts of hearing loss on quality of life. When in my late 40’s my family noticed that I was missing comments and hearing words incorrectly, I quickly scheduled an appointment with an ENT doctor to assess my situation. I was determined to know the facts and address them swiftly. I did not want to repeat the frustration I experienced growing up, trying to be heard by my mother and grandmother. So at age 50 I got my first pair of hearing aids.
Fast forward 25 years, and I am now on my 6th pair of hearing aids, working as hard as I can every day to hear as much as possible. It is my nature to be heavily engaged in life – socially and professionally – so I was not going to let hearing loss prevent me from living the life I wanted to live. Imagine my surprise when I learned that hearing aids are good, and necessary, but they do not suddenly allow you to hear perfectly. And further, imagine my surprise when I realized that it takes two to communicate effectively. It wasn’t enough that I had hearing aids, read lips and worked extremely hard to hear. I also needed the people speaking to me to face me, and to speak clearly and succinctly. No matter how hard I worked, or how much money I spent on hearing aids, I still needed my friends, my family and my colleagues to do their part to help me hear.
Did that work? Absolutely, when it came to friends and family, but professionally, it was a much bigger challenge to get my colleagues and clients to consistently do their part to help me hear. For my own personal dignity and pride, I retired somewhat early. It is just luck, I think, that has given me a personality that does not retreat from challenges, but in a career where conversation was everything, I couldn’t bear to feel humiliated when I could not hear well.
Still, I wanted to stay engaged in non-profit and community work, I wanted a vibrant social life, and I wanted to show the world that having a severe hearing loss does not mean that I am arrogant, or aloof, or even stupid, and it definitely does not mean that I should just stay home. Talking about my own inability to hear well, and to bring a wider public awareness to this invisible disability that affects nearly 50,000,000 people in our country, became my mission. In this process, not only have I noticed how many people have untreated hearing loss, but I am also hyper aware of the impacts that hearing loss has on all of those people around us. It is hard to be hard of hearing, but it is also very hard to be around people who are hard of hearing. This disability has a profound effect on relationships which must be acknowledged and addressed if the relationships are to remain healthy.
Being open about my own severe hearing loss has had benefits beyond description, bringing me in touch with so many people who care about this topic as much as I do. It has led me to learn about all of the assistive devices that, in addition to my quality hearing aids, allow me to watch TV with low volume, get excellent sound from my computer (directly into my hearing aids), hear my tai chi teacher in class (because he wears my Bluetooth microphone), and most recently, use portable hearing loops in a variety of situations. With social distancing and masks, I use a portable hearing loop to stay involved with my book group, to have good sound for zoom meetings on my computer, and for small social gatherings of one or two couples (outside, of course). It is not easy to navigate this world of technological assistance, but it is worth the effort to make the most out of the devices available to us.
Our committee is committed to doing everything we can to help people hear better, whether that means encouraging them to get telecoils activated, or teaching them about TV connectors, mini-mics and telephone apps, or loaning them a portable hearing loop so that they can experience and practice with that good sound source. Knowing that it takes more than just good hearing aids to hear well, we intend to be a resource for information and support that encourages and inspires.