Overcoming Obstacles

Through the course of the year, we’ve searched and shared phenomenal stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.

These inspirational stories remind us of what human determination and persistence can achieve—even in the face of intense challenges and barriers.

Of the myriad stories we’ve come across, here are our top selections for the year.

Emma Rudkin

At age 3, Emma Rudkin acquired an ear infection that would cause her to lose the majority of her hearing. At the time, doctors advised her parents that she was unlikely to ever speak clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

After several years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only learned how to speak clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would proceed to to become the first hearing impaired woman to secure the Miss San Antonio crown as a sophomore at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma reports that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is making use of her crown to encourage other people with hearing loss. She even developed the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to entice other people to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate the stigma associated with hearing impairment.

Justin Osmond

Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead singer of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t stop him from accomplishing a 250-mile run—in some cases through rain and hail—to raise funds for hearing aids for deaf children.

In spite of being hard of hearing, Justin has also become an award-winning musician, motivational speaker, and author of the book titled “Hearing with my Heart.”

You can visit Justin’s website at www.justinosmond.com.

Derrick Coleman

Becoming a professional athlete is itself an instance of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, only 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school athletes attain the professional level.

Incorporate hearing loss into the mix, and you really have an uphill battle.

But Derrick Coleman not only plays for a professional football team—he’s also the first hard-of-hearing NFL offensive player and the third hard-of-hearing player drafted in league history. Derrick didn’t let hearing loss get in the way of his passion for football, which he found at an early age.

With the encouragement of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would excel at football on his way to eventually playing in the Super Bowl as a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks.

Hannah Neild

In spite of her hearing loss, and with the help of hearing aids in both ears, Hannah Neild, a high school senior, is a three-sport athlete, team captain, member of the National Honor Society, and coach/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.

Together with all of her obligations, she also has found the time to help others overcome the obstacles she had to overcome herself. “I’m working towards moderately disability kids, to help them get through the things they need to get through, just like I had to do,” Hannah said.

Carley Parker

West Davidson High School graduate Carley Parker is in the modest percentage of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school diplomas.

In conjunction with her West Davidson High School diploma, she also received a diploma from the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.

“I feel like I got a really good education from both, ” Carley, 18, said. “It’s definitely rewarding. Some people laughed and told me it was going to be challenging. This shows just because I had a lot of challenges in my life, it didn’t stop me. You can do whatever you put your mind to.”

Carley developed a hearing disability a couple of months after she was born, which has introduced obstacles for her throughout her life. But despite the hearing difficulty, she says, “There’s been challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

Concerning her new challenge? She plans on studying pre-medicine at Wake Forest University.

Ryan Flood

“I proved them wrong,” said Ryan Flood. “Through hard work, I proved them wrong.”

At eight months old, Ryan developed bacterial meningitis, a dangerous neurological infection that can create serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some instances, it can be fatal.

For Ryan, the infection produced hearing loss in both ears, which necessitated hearing aids, and with mild cerebral palsy, which forced him to wear leg braces into his intermediate school years.

Despite the challenges, Ryan stood out as a Poquoson High School student, completing Advanced Placement Calculus and U.S. History together with other challenging courses.

Ryan will be studying kinesiology at James Madison University as part of his plan to become a physical therapist.

“I remember the therapists helping me, and I knew that was something that I wanted to do,” Ryan said. “I want to graduate and open a physical therapy practice with my brother.”

Sarah Ivermee

With a four-year-old named Freddie, who is profoundly deaf in one ear and moderately deaf in the other, mom Sarah Ivermee recognizes from experience the challenges in getting kids to use their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she found that many kids were ashamed to wear them and resented being different.

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s assistance, she launched her own business, named Lugs, that renders hearing aids fashionable for kids.

Present styles include Batman, Toy Story, Minions, Hello Kitty, butterflies, Star Wars, Spiderman, and more.

Now, Freddie not only enjoys wearing his hearing aids, but his brother wants a pair too—and he’s not even hard of hearing!

Win Whittaker

“When I was teaching climbing school, I sometimes would have to ask a client to repeat a question,” Win Whittaker said. “It started to become very noticeable.”

Win is fortunate to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a lucrative career. But by following three trades that all necessitate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Instead of throwing in the towel, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would suit the significant requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: a sophisticated pair of digital hearing aids with several key features.

Win discovered that he could manipulate his hearing aids with his phone or watch, accept phone calls, listen to music, and minimize wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing for several years.

As for the stigma associated with a 49-year-old wearing hearing aids? Rather than deciding to be discreet, Win’s hearing aids are “Monza Red,” the flashiest of the 14 available colors.

“I’m flaunting them,” he said with a laugh.

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