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Overcoming Obstacles

Throughout the year, we’ve sought after and posted amazing stories about people conquering hearing loss to our Facebook page.

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

Of the myriad stories we’ve encountered, here are our top selections for the year.

Emma Rudkin

At age 3, Emma Rudkin acquired an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large portion of her hearing. At the time, doctors informed 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 mastered how to communicate clearly—she additionally 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 sophomore at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma declares that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to encourage other individuals with hearing loss. She even set up the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to urge others to display their hearing aids with pride, and to help end 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 stop him from carrying out a 250-mile run—in some cases 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

Becoming a professional athlete is by itself an instance of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school players get to 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 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 let hearing loss get in the way of his love for football, which he observed at a young age.

With the support of his parents, coaches, healthcare specialists, and with hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would stand out at football on his way to eventually playing in the Super Bowl as a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks.

Hannah Neild

Despite 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/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her commitments, she also has made time to help other people cope with the challenges 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 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 produced 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.”

Concerning 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 dangerous neurological infection that can result in major 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 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 together 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 people with children who had hearing aids, she realized that a great number of kids were embarrassed 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 makes hearing aids stylish for kids.

Present styles include Batman, Toy Story, Minions, Hello Kitty, butterflies, Star Wars, Spiderman, and more.

Now, Freddie not only likes 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 successful career. But by following three professions that all mandate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Instead of quitting, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would suit the intense needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key functions.

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

Regarding the stigma connected to 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.

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