Overcoming Obstacles

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

These inspirational stories remind us of what human purpose and persistence can accomplish—even in the face of overpowering challenges and barriers.

Of the countless 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 that time, doctors advised her parents that she was not likely to ever speak clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

After 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 musical instruments. She would proceed to to become the first hearing impaired woman to secure the Miss San Antonio crown as a second-year student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma affirms that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is utilizing her crown to inspire other individuals with hearing loss. She even developed the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to inspire other people to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate the stigma connected with hearing impairment.

Justin Osmond

Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead singer of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t prevent him from carrying out a 250-mile run—occasionally through rain and hail—to raise money for hearing aids for deaf children.

Despite being hard of hearing, Justin has in addition 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

Playing a sport at the professional level is itself an example 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 doesn’t just play for a pro 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 allow hearing loss to get in the way of his passion for football, which he discovered at a young age.

With the guidance 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

Despite her hearing loss, and with the help of binaural hearing aids, Hannah Neild, a high school senior, is a three-sport athlete, team captain, member of the National Honor Society, and coach/mentor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her obligations, she in addition has found the time to help other people deal with the obstacles 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 modest percentage of students who managed to graduate with not one, but two, high school diplomas.

Combined 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 acquired a hearing disability a few months after she was born, which has provided obstacles for her throughout her life. But despite the hearing difficulty, she says, “There’s been challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

Regarding her new challenge? She has her sight set 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 serious neurological infection that can lead to serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In certain instances, it can be fatal.

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

Despite the challenges, Ryan excelled as a Poquoson High School student, completing Advanced Placement Calculus and U.S. History along with other difficult 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, mother Sarah Ivermee understands from experience the difficulties in trying to get kids to wear their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she realized that a large number of kids were embarrassed to wear them and resented being different.

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

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

Now, Freddie not only loves 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 lucky to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a productive career. But by pursuing three professions that all necessitate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Rather than throwing in the towel, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would suit the significant demands of a mountain guide. The solution: a sophisticated pair of digital hearing aids with several key functions.

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

Regarding the stigma affiliated with a 49-year-old wearing hearing aids? Rather than choosing 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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