Overcoming Obstacles

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

These inspiring stories remind us of what human determination and persistence can achieve—even in the face of intense challenges and obstacles.

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 bulk of her hearing. During that time, doctors explained to her parents that she was unlikely to ever speak clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

After several years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to speak clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three musical instruments. She would go on to become the first hearing impaired woman to secure the Miss San Antonio crown as a sophomore at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma says that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is utilizing her crown to motivate other people with hearing loss. She even started the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to inspire other people 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 singer 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 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, only 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school athletes reach the pro level.

Add 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 guidance of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would excel at football on his way to eventually participating 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/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her responsibilities, she also has made time to help others deal with the struggles she had to overcome 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.

On top of her West Davidson High School diploma, she also received 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 challenges 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 severe neurological infection that can result in major complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some cases, it can be fatal.

For Ryan, the infection produced hearing loss in both ears, which required hearing aids, and with mild cerebral palsy, which forced 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 challenges in getting kids to use their hearing aids.

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

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

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

Now, Freddie not only likes 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 lucrative career. But by following three vocations that all require 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 satisfy the significant requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: a state-of-the-art pair of digital hearing aids with several key functions.

Win learned that he could control 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.

Concerning 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.