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Overcoming Obstacles

All throughout the year, we’ve sought after and posted incredible stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.

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

Of the numerous stories we’ve come across, here are our top selections for the year.

Emma Rudkin

At the age of 3, Emma Rudkin developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose the majority of her hearing. At that time, doctors advised her parents that she was unlikely to ever talk clearly or attend a “normal” school.

Following many years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only learned 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 secure 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 motivate other people with hearing loss. She even created the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to urge 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 vocalist of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t stop him from completing 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 titled “Hearing with my Heart.”

You can check out Justin’s website at www.justinosmond.com.

Derrick Coleman

Becoming a professional athlete is 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.

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

But Derrick Coleman not only plays 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 NFL history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his love for football, which he discovered at a young age.

With the structure and support of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and with hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would stand out 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/mentor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her obligations, she also has made time to help other people contend with 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 small portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

In combination with her West Davidson High School diploma, she also obtained 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 challenges 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.”

Concerning 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 trigger severe complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In certain 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 stood out as a Poquoson High School student, completing Advanced Placement Calculus and U.S. History along with other challenging 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 recognizes first-hand the difficulties in getting kids to wear their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more people with children who had hearing aids, she found that many kids were ashamed to wear them and resented being different.

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s help, she launched 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 likes 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 privileged to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a lucrative career. But by following three vocations that all mandate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Rather than throwing in the towel, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would match the substantial needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key functions.

Win learned that he could manipulate his hearing aids with his phone or watch, take phone calls, listen to music, and cut down on 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? 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.

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