Overcoming Obstacles

In the course of the year, we’ve searched for and shared remarkable stories about people conquering hearing loss to our Facebook page.

These motivational stories remind us of what human purpose and persistence can achieve—even in the face of overwhelming challenges and barriers.

Of the numerous stories we’ve encountered, here are our top selections for the year.

Emma Rudkin

At the age of 3, Emma Rudkin acquired an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large portion of her hearing. At the time, doctors informed her parents that she was not likely to ever speak clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

Following years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only learned how to speak clearly—she additionally learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would move on to become the first hearing impaired woman to win the Miss San Antonio crown as a second-year student 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 motivate other people with hearing loss. She even initiated the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to inspire others to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help end 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 prevent him from accomplishing a 250-mile run—at times through rain and hail—to raise money for hearing aids for deaf children.

In spite of being hard of hearing, Justin has in addition become an award-winning musician, motivational speaker, and author of the book called “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 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 get to 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 NFL history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his love for football, which he discovered at an early age.

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

Hannah Neild

Despite her hearing loss, and with the assistance 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.

On top of all of her obligations, she also has found the time to help others 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 graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

Together 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 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 acquired bacterial meningitis, a dangerous neurological infection that can induce severe 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.

Even with the challenges, Ryan excelled 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 understands from experience the difficulties in getting kids to use their hearing aids.

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

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s assistance, she established her own company, named Lugs, that makes 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 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 fortunate to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a lucrative career. But by following three vocations that all demand healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Instead of throwing in the towel, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would match the substantial demands of a mountain guide. The solution: a state-of-the-art pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key functions.

Win discovered that he could manage 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 for years.

Regarding 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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