Overcoming Obstacles

Through the course of the year, we’ve sought after and shared extraordinary stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.

These motivational stories remind us of what human determination and perseverance can achieve—even in the face of overpowering challenges and obstacles.

Of the countless stories we’ve encountered, 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 a great deal of her hearing. At the time, doctors advised her parents that she was unlikely to ever speak 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 move on to become the first hearing impaired woman to secure the Miss San Antonio crown as a second-year student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma affirms that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is making use of her crown to motivate other individuals with hearing loss. She even initiated the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to motivate others to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help end the stigma linked 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—occasionally 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 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 by itself an instance of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, only 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 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 league history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his passion for football, which he found at an early age.

With the guidance of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and with hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would excel at football on his way to eventually 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/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.

Together with all of her obligations, she also has found the time to help others deal with the obstacles 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 modest portion of students who managed to graduate with not one, but two, high school diplomas.

Combined 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 few months after she was born, which has produced 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.”

Regarding her new challenge? She has her sight set 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 dangerous neurological infection that can induce 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 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 understands first-hand the difficulties in getting kids to use their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she realized 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 assistance, she launched her own company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids stylish 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 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 privileged to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a rewarding career. But by following three trades that all require 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 heavy demands of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key features.

Win learned 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 for several years.

As for the stigma associated with a 49-year-old wearing hearing aids? Rather than 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.