Overcoming Hearing Loss – This Year’s Best Stories

Overcoming Obstacles

Through the course of the year, we’ve searched for and posted incredible stories about people conquering hearing loss to our Facebook page.

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

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

Emma Rudkin

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

Following years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to speak clearly—she also 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 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 making use of her crown to motivate other people with hearing loss. She even launched the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to entice other people to display 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 avert him from accomplishing 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 check out Justin’s website at www.justinosmond.com.

Derrick Coleman

Becoming a professional athlete is by itself an example of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, only 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school athletes attain the professional level.

Incorporate 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 let hearing loss get in the way of his passion for football, which he observed at an early age.

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

On top of all of her responsibilities, she also has found the time to help others overcome 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 graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.

In addition to 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 acquired a hearing disability a couple of months after she was born, which has introduced 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 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 severe neurological infection that can induce 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 necessitated hearing aids, and with mild cerebral palsy, which forced 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, mom Sarah Ivermee recognizes from experience the challenges in getting kids to wear their hearing aids.

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

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

Recent 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 lucky to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a rewarding career. But by following three trades that all require healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Instead of giving up, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would meet the heavy needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key functions.

Win discovered that he could manipulate 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 for years.

As for the stigma associated 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.

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