Overcoming Obstacles
All throughout the year, we’ve searched and shared remarkable stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.

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

Of the many stories we’ve come across, here are our top selections for the year.

Emma Rudkin

At age 3, Emma Rudkin acquired an ear infection that would cause her to lose the majority of her hearing. At that time, doctors warned her parents that she was not likely 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 also learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would proceed to to become the first hearing impaired woman to win the Miss San Antonio crown as a second-year student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma affirms that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is utilizing her crown to encourage other people with hearing loss. She even created the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to entice others to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate the stigma connected to hearing impairment.

Justin Osmond

Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead vocalist of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t avert him from finishing a 250-mile run—occasionally 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 called “Hearing with my Heart.”

You can visit Justin’s website at www.justinosmond.com.

Derrick Coleman

Becoming a professional athlete is by itself an example of defying the odds. Based on NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school athletes reach 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 allow hearing loss to get in the way of his passion for football, which he observed at a young age.

With the support of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and with 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/mentor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her responsibilities, she in addition has found the time to help others contend 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 portion of students who managed to graduate with not one, but two, high school degrees.

In addition to 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 introduced obstacles for her throughout her life. But despite 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 developed bacterial meningitis, a severe neurological infection that can create major complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In certain 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 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 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, mom Sarah Ivermee understands first-hand the difficulties in trying to get kids to use their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she found that a great 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 business, named Lugs, that renders hearing aids fashionable for kids.

Recent designs include Batman, Toy Story, Minions, Hello Kitty, butterflies, Star Wars, Spiderman, and more.

Now, Freddie not only enjoys 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 privileged to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a rewarding career. But by pursuing 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 satisfy the substantial demands of a mountain guide. The solution: a state-of-the-art 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 cut down on wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing out on for several years.

Concerning the stigma connected to 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.

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