Overcoming Obstacles

During the course of 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 determination and perseverance can achieve—even in the face of overwhelming challenges and barriers.

Of the numerous 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 the majority of her hearing. At that time, doctors told her parents that she was not likely to ever communicate clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

Following many years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only learned 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 win 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 inspire other people with hearing loss. She even initiated the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to motivate other people to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate the stigma linked with hearing impairment.

Justin Osmond

Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead vocalist of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t stop him from carrying out a 250-mile run—in some cases through rain and hail—to raise money 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 called “Hearing with my Heart.”

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

Derrick Coleman

Becoming a professional athlete is itself an example of defying the odds. Based on NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school players attain the pro level.

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

But Derrick Coleman not only plays 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 NFL history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his enthusiasm for football, which he found at a young age.

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

Hannah Neild

Despite her hearing loss, and with the assistance 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/advisor 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 small percentage of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

Combined 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 couple of months after she was born, which has provided challenges 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 severe neurological infection that can result in major 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 required hearing aids, and with mild cerebral palsy, which required 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 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 first-hand the challenges in getting kids to wear their hearing aids.

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

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

Recent designs 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 would like 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 prosperous career. But by following three trades that all mandate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Instead of quitting, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would meet the substantial needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an innovative pair of digital hearing aids with multiple 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 affiliated 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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