Overcoming Obstacles

In 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 purpose and perseverance can accomplish—even in the face of overwhelming challenges and obstacles.

Of the many stories we’ve encountered, here are our top picks 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. At the 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 learned 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 declares that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to inspire other individuals with hearing loss. She even started the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to inspire others 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 vocalist of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t avert him from accomplishing a 250-mile run—at times through rain and hail—to raise funds for hearing aids for deaf children.

Despite being hard of hearing, Justin has in addition 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

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 athletes reach the professional level.

Combine hearing loss into the mix, and you really have an uphill battle.

But Derrick Coleman doesn’t just play 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 league 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 encouragement 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

Despite 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 obligations, she also has found the 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 small portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

In addition to 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 generated 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 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 dangerous neurological infection that can bring about serious 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.

Despite the challenges, Ryan stood out 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, mom Sarah Ivermee knows from experience the challenges 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 ashamed to wear them and resented being different.

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

Current 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 fortunate to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a profitable career. But by following three trades that all necessitate 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 suit the heavy demands of a mountain guide. The solution: a state-of-the-art pair of digital hearing aids with several key features.

Win discovered 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 several years.

Regarding 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.