Overcoming Obstacles

In the course of the year, we’ve sought after and shared incredible stories about people conquering hearing loss to our Facebook page.

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

Of the myriad 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 advised her parents that she was not likely to ever talk clearly or attend a “normal” school.

After years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to speak clearly—she additionally learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would move on 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 says that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to inspire other people with hearing loss. She even began the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to encourage 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 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 additionally 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

Playing a sport at the professional level is by 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 reach the pro level.

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

But Derrick Coleman doesn’t just play 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 guidance 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

In spite of her hearing loss, and with the assistance 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.

Together with all of her responsibilities, she also has found the 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 modest percentage of students who managed to graduate with not one, but two, high school degrees.

Coupled 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 created 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 developed bacterial meningitis, a dangerous neurological infection that can result in serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some instances, it can be fatal.

For Ryan, the infection produced hearing loss in both ears, which required hearing aids, and with mild cerebral palsy, which required him to wear leg braces into his intermediate school years.

Despite 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 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 realized that many kids were embarrassed to wear them and resented being different.

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s assistance, she established 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 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 transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a prosperous career. But by following three professions 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 meet the substantial demands of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key features.

Win figured out that he could operate 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 for several years.

Concerning 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.