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Overcoming Obstacles

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

These inspirational stories remind us of what human determination and persistence can accomplish—even in the face of overwhelming challenges and obstacles.

Of the myriad stories we’ve come across, here are our top picks 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 warned her parents that she was unlikely to ever communicate clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.

Following 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 musical instruments. She would move 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 wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is utilizing her crown to motivate other people with hearing loss. She even launched the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to entice other people to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help end 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 prevent him from finishing a 250-mile run—occasionally through rain and hail—to raise funds for hearing aids for deaf children.

In spite of 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 check out Justin’s website at

Derrick Coleman

Playing a sport at the professional level is itself an example of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school athletes attain the pro 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 passion for football, which he discovered at an early age.

With the structure and support of his parents, coaches, healthcare specialists, and with hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would excel at football on his way to ultimately participating 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/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her commitments, 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 modest portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school diplomas.

Together 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 couple of months after she was born, which has provided obstacles 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 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 lead to major complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some 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 stood out 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 first-hand the challenges in getting kids to use their hearing aids.

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

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

Current 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 fortunate to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a prosperous career. But by following three professions 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 find a pair of hearing aids that would suit the substantial requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key functions.

Win learned that he could manipulate 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 for years.

As for 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.