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Overcoming Obstacles

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

These inspiring stories remind us of what human purpose and persistence can accomplish—even in the face of overpowering challenges and obstacles.

Of the countless stories we’ve come across, 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 majority of her hearing. At the time, doctors informed her parents that she was not likely to ever talk clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

Following many 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 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 affirms that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is utilizing her crown to motivate other people with hearing loss. She even set up the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to inspire others to display 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 stop 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 additionally 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, merely 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school players reach the pro level.

Add 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 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 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/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her commitments, she in addition has found the time to help others deal with 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 minimal percentage of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

Along 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 couple of months after she was born, which has introduced 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.”

Regarding 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 severe complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In certain cases, it can be fatal.

For Ryan, the infection produced 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 excelled 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, mother Sarah Ivermee recognizes from experience the difficulties in trying to get kids to wear their hearing aids.

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

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s help, she established her own company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids stylish 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 fortunate to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a lucrative career. But by pursuing three occupations that all require healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Rather than quitting, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would match the heavy requirements 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, 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 affiliated 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.