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Overcoming Obstacles

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

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

Of the numerous stories we’ve encountered, here are our top picks for the year.

Emma Rudkin

At age 3, Emma Rudkin developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large portion of her hearing. At that time, doctors told her parents that she was not likely to ever talk clearly or attend a “normal” school.

After many years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only learned 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 secure the Miss San Antonio crown as a sophomore 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 encourage other people with hearing loss. She even initiated the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to inspire other people 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 prevent him from carrying out 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 also become an award-winning musician, motivational speaker, and author of the book titled “Hearing with my Heart.”

You can visit Justin’s website at www.justinosmond.com.

Derrick Coleman

Playing a sport at the professional level is itself an instance of defying the odds. Based on NCAA statistics, only 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school athletes get to 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 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 enthusiasm for football, which he observed at a young age.

With the guidance 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

In spite of 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/mentor for children with moderate disabilities.

Together with all of her commitments, she in addition has found the time to help others overcome the challenges 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 portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

Coupled with 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 provided 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 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 developed 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 forced 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, mother 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 realized that many kids were ashamed 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 renders hearing aids stylish for kids.

Current 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 privileged to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a lucrative career. But by following three professions that all demand 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 satisfy the significant demands of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key features.

Win discovered that he could control his hearing aids with his phone or watch, accept phone calls, listen to music, and reduce wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing out on for years.

Regarding the stigma affiliated with 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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