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Overcoming Obstacles

During the course of the year, we’ve sought after and posted phenomenal stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.

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

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 acquired an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large amount of her hearing. At that time, doctors advised her parents that she was unlikely to ever communicate clearly or attend a “normal” school.

Following several years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to communicate clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would move on to become the first hearing impaired woman to win the Miss San Antonio crown as a second-year student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Emma reveals 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 motivate others to display their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate the stigma connected with hearing impairment.

Justin Osmond

Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead vocalist of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t avert 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 called “Hearing with my Heart.”

You can visit 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, only 1.7 percent of college football athletes 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 not only plays 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 allow hearing loss to get in the way of his passion for football, which he discovered at an early age.

With the encouragement of his parents, coaches, healthcare specialists, and hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would excel at football on his way to eventually 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 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 obligations, she in addition has found the time to help others cope 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 percentage of students who managed to graduate with not one, but two, high school diplomas.

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 introduced challenges for her throughout her life. But despite 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 bring about severe 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 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, mom Sarah Ivermee recognizes first-hand the difficulties in getting kids to use their hearing aids.

And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she realized that many kids were embarrassed 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 renders hearing aids stylish 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 privileged to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a viable career. But by following three vocations that all mandate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Rather than giving up, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would suit the heavy requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: a state-of-the-art pair of digital hearing aids with several key features.

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

As for the stigma affiliated with 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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