Overcoming Obstacles

During the course of the year, we’ve sought after and posted phenomenal stories about people conquering 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 countless stories we’ve encountered, here are our top selections for the year.

Emma Rudkin

At age 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 not likely to ever communicate 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 communicate clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three musical instruments. She would proceed to 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 wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to encourage other people with hearing loss. She even established the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to inspire others to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help end the stigma connected to hearing impairment.

Justin Osmond

Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead singer of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t avert him from finishing a 250-mile run—in some cases through rain and hail—to raise money 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 titled “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, only 1.7 percent of college football players 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 love for football, which he discovered at a young age.

With the guidance 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 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.

On top of all of her commitments, she also has found the time to help other people handle 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 minimal percentage of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school diplomas.

In addition to her West Davidson High School diploma, she also obtained 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 couple of months after she was born, which has provided challenges 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 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 bring about major complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some instances, 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.

Even with the challenges, Ryan stood out as a Poquoson High School student, completing Advanced Placement Calculus and U.S. History along 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 first-hand the challenges in getting kids to use their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more people with children who had hearing aids, she discovered 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 renders hearing aids stylish for kids.

Present 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 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 lucky to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a lucrative career. But by pursuing three occupations that all demand healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Instead of giving up, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would satisfy the heavy requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: a sophisticated pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key features.

Win figured out that he could manipulate 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 out on for several years.

As for the stigma associated with a 49-year-old wearing hearing aids? Rather than 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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