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Overcoming Obstacles

Throughout the year, we’ve searched for and shared remarkable stories about people conquering hearing loss to our Facebook page.

These inspiring stories remind us of what human determination and perseverance can accomplish—even in the face of overpowering challenges and barriers.

Of the countless stories we’ve encountered, here are our top picks for the year.

Emma Rudkin

At the age of 3, Emma Rudkin acquired an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large amount of her hearing. At the time, doctors explained to her parents that she was unlikely to ever speak clearly or attend a “normal” school.

Following several years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only learned how to communicate clearly—she additionally 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 dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is making use of her crown to motivate other people with hearing loss. She even set up the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to inspire other people to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help end the stigma associated with hearing impairment.

Justin Osmond

Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead singer of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t stop him from completing 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 in addition 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

Playing a sport at the professional level is itself an instance of defying the odds. Based on NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school athletes get to the pro level.

Incorporate 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 enthusiasm for football, which he observed at an early 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 ultimately playing in the Super Bowl as a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks.

Hannah Neild

In spite of her hearing loss, and with the assistance 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 obligations, she also has made time to help other people handle the obstacles 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.

Along 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 developed a hearing disability a few months after she was born, which has generated 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 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 serious neurological infection that can trigger severe 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 required 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 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 first-hand the difficulties in trying to get kids to use their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more people with children who had hearing aids, she discovered that a large 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 company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids fashionable for kids.

Current styles 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 transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a viable career. But by pursuing three occupations that all mandate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Rather than quitting, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would satisfy the intense demands of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key functions.

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

Concerning the stigma connected to a 49-year-old wearing hearing aids? Instead of 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.