Overcoming Obstacles

All throughout the year, we’ve searched and posted extraordinary stories about people conquering hearing loss to our Facebook page.

These inspiring stories remind us of what human determination and persistence can accomplish—even in the face of overwhelming challenges and obstacles.

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

Emma Rudkin

At age 3, Emma Rudkin developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large amount of her hearing. During that time, doctors advised her parents that she was not likely to ever speak clearly or attend a “normal” school.

After several years of speech and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only learned how to communicate clearly—she additionally learned how to sing and play three musical instruments. She would move on to become the first hearing impaired woman to win the Miss San Antonio crown as a sophomore at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma affirms that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is utilizing her crown to motivate other individuals with hearing loss. She even commenced the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to motivate others 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 vocalist of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t avert him from accomplishing a 250-mile run—at times through rain and hail—to raise funds for hearing aids for deaf children.

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

You can check out Justin’s website at www.justinosmond.com.

Derrick Coleman

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

Combine 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 NFL history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his love for football, which he observed at an early age.

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

Hannah Neild

Despite 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 responsibilities, she in addition has made time to help other people contend with the challenges she had to conquer 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 small portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

In conjunction with her West Davidson High School diploma, she also obtained 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 few months after she was born, which has produced challenges for her throughout her life. But even in the face of the hearing difficulty, she says, “There’s been challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

Regarding 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 severe 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 along 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 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, mother Sarah Ivermee understands first-hand the difficulties in trying to get kids to wear their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more people with children who had hearing aids, she realized that a large number of 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.

Current designs include Batman, Toy Story, Minions, Hello Kitty, butterflies, Star Wars, Spiderman, and more.

Now, Freddie not only likes 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 prosperous career. But by pursuing three trades that all require healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Rather than quitting, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would satisfy the substantial needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key functions.

Win discovered that he could control his hearing aids with his phone or watch, accept phone calls, listen to music, and cut down on wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing out on for years.

As for the stigma connected to 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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