Overcoming Obstacles

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

These inspiring stories remind us of what human purpose and perseverance can accomplish—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 the age of 3, Emma Rudkin developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose a great deal of her hearing. At the time, doctors explained to her parents that she was unlikely to ever communicate clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

After years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to communicate clearly—she additionally 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 says that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to inspire other people with hearing loss. She even founded the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to urge other people to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate the stigma linked 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 finishing a 250-mile run—occasionally 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 called “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. Based on NCAA statistics, only 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school players 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 allow hearing loss to get in the way of his enthusiasm 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 stand out 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.

Together with all of her commitments, she also has made time to help other people cope 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.

In combination with her West Davidson High School diploma, she also achieved 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 created obstacles for her throughout her life. But despite the hearing difficulty, she says, “There’s been challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

As for 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 dangerous neurological infection that can trigger serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some instances, it can be fatal.

For Ryan, the infection left him with 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, mother Sarah Ivermee recognizes first-hand the difficulties in getting kids to wear their hearing aids.

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

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

Present designs 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 privileged to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a viable career. But by pursuing three professions that all mandate 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 match the heavy needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an innovative 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.

Concerning the stigma connected to a 49-year-old wearing hearing aids? Instead of 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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