Overcoming Obstacles

Throughout the year, we’ve searched and shared phenomenal stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.

These motivational stories remind us of what human determination and perseverance can achieve—even in the face of overwhelming challenges and obstacles.

Of the countless stories we’ve encountered, here are our top picks 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. During that time, doctors explained to her parents that she was not likely to ever communicate clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

After many years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only learned how to speak clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would go on 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 reports that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is making use of her crown to motivate other individuals with hearing loss. She even commenced the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to motivate others to display 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 completing 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 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

Playing a sport at the professional level is itself an instance of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, only 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school athletes attain the pro 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 league history. Derrick didn’t let hearing loss get in the way of his love for football, which he observed at an early age.

With the support of his parents, coaches, healthcare specialists, and with 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

In spite of 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/mentor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her obligations, she also has found the time to help other people cope 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 minimal portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

Coupled 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 acquired a hearing disability a couple of months after she was born, which has produced obstacles for her throughout her life. But in spite of the hearing difficulty, she says, “There’s been challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

Concerning 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 acquired bacterial meningitis, a dangerous neurological infection that can trigger 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.

Even with the challenges, Ryan stood out as a Poquoson High School student, completing Advanced Placement Calculus and U.S. History together 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 a great number of kids were ashamed to wear them and resented being different.

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s help, she formed her own company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids fashionable 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 privileged to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a prosperous career. But by pursuing three vocations that all demand healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Instead of throwing in the towel, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would suit the heavy needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key features.

Win learned that he could manage his hearing aids with his phone or watch, take phone calls, listen to music, and reduce wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing for several years.

Regarding the stigma affiliated with 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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