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Overcoming Obstacles

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

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

Of the numerous stories we’ve come across, here are our top picks 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 the time, doctors told her parents that she was not likely to ever speak clearly or attend a “normal” school.

After several years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only learned how to speak clearly—she additionally learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would go on 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 states that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to inspire other individuals with hearing loss. She even started the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to encourage others to flaunt 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 prevent him from completing a 250-mile run—at times 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

Becoming a professional athlete is by itself an example of defying the odds. Based on NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school athletes reach the professional 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 NFL history. Derrick didn’t let hearing loss get in the way of his passion for football, which he found 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 eventually playing in the Super Bowl as a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks.

Hannah Neild

Despite her hearing loss, and with the help 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.

On top of all of her obligations, 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 minimal percentage of students who managed to graduate with not one, but two, high school degrees.

On top of 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 produced obstacles for her throughout her life. But in spite of the hearing difficulty, she says, “There’s been challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

As for 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 result in serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In certain cases, 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.

Even with the challenges, Ryan stood out 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, mother Sarah Ivermee recognizes 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 discovered that many kids were embarrassed to wear them and resented being different.

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s help, she formed her own company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids fashionable for kids.

Recent designs 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 lucky to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a lucrative career. But by pursuing three vocations that all require healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Rather than giving up, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would match the intense requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: a state-of-the-art pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key features.

Win discovered that he could manage 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 years.

Concerning the stigma affiliated with a 49-year-old wearing hearing aids? Instead of 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.