Overcoming Obstacles

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

These motivational stories remind us of what human purpose and perseverance can accomplish—even in the face of intense challenges and barriers.

Of the many 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. At the time, doctors informed her parents that she was unlikely to ever talk 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 communicate clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three musical instruments. She would go on 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 says that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is making use of her crown to inspire other individuals with hearing loss. She even initiated the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to inspire other people to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate 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 completing a 250-mile run—in some cases through rain and hail—to raise funds 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 titled “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 example of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school players reach the professional 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 let hearing loss get in the way of his passion for football, which he discovered at an early 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 ultimately 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 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 found the time to help other people handle 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 small portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

Coupled with 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 few months after she was born, which has introduced challenges 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 serious neurological infection that can create serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some cases, 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 knows from experience the challenges in getting kids to use their hearing aids.

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

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s assistance, she founded her own company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids stylish for kids.

Existing 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 turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a successful career. But by following three vocations that all mandate 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 match the intense demands of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key features.

Win figured out that he could manipulate his hearing aids with his phone or watch, accept phone calls, listen to music, and reduce wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing out on for years.

Concerning the stigma associated 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.