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Overcoming Obstacles

Throughout the year, we’ve searched for and posted remarkable stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.

These motivational stories remind us of what human determination and persistence can accomplish—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 the age of 3, Emma Rudkin developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large amount of her hearing. During that time, doctors informed her parents that she was not likely to ever communicate clearly or attend a “normal” school.

After 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 musical 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 states that she wears 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 others to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate 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 avert him from finishing 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

Becoming a professional athlete 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 players get to the professional 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 league history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his love for football, which he observed at an early age.

With the support of his parents, coaches, healthcare specialists, and 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

In spite of 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/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her obligations, she in addition has found the time to help others cope with the struggles 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 small percentage of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

In combination 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 generated obstacles for her throughout her life. But despite 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 developed bacterial meningitis, a dangerous neurological infection that can induce major complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some cases, 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 forced 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 understands from experience the challenges in trying to get kids to wear their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more people with children who had hearing aids, she realized that a great number of kids were ashamed to wear them and resented being different.

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s assistance, she founded her own business, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids stylish for kids.

Present 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 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 turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a prosperous career. But by pursuing three vocations 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 obtain a pair of hearing aids that would match the intense needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an innovative pair of digital hearing aids with several key features.

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 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.