Overcoming Obstacles

All throughout the year, we’ve sought after and shared extraordinary stories about people overcoming 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 developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose the majority of her hearing. At the time, doctors advised her parents that she was unlikely to ever speak clearly or attend a “normal” school.

Following several years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to speak clearly—she additionally 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 second-year student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma states that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is making use of her crown to motivate other individuals with hearing loss. She even created the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to urge other people to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help end 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 prevent him from carrying out a 250-mile run—occasionally through rain and hail—to raise funds 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 check out Justin’s website at www.justinosmond.com.

Derrick Coleman

Becoming a professional athlete is by itself an instance of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school players attain the professional 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 NFL history. Derrick didn’t let hearing loss get in the way of his enthusiasm for football, which he found at a young age.

With the support of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would stand out at football on his way to ultimately playing 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/mentor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her responsibilities, she also has found the time to help others cope with the challenges 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 small portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school diplomas.

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 acquired a hearing disability a few months after she was born, which has provided 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.”

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 acquired bacterial meningitis, a dangerous neurological infection that can trigger 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 necessitated 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 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, mom Sarah Ivermee understands from experience the challenges in getting kids to wear their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more families 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 launched her own company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids fashionable for kids.

Existing styles 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 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 rewarding 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 community hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would match the intense demands of a mountain guide. The solution: a sophisticated pair of digital hearing aids with several key functions.

Win discovered that he could control his hearing aids with his phone or watch, take phone calls, listen to music, and minimize wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing out on for years.

As for the stigma affiliated with a 49-year-old wearing hearing aids? Instead of 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.