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Overcoming Obstacles

All throughout the year, we’ve sought after and posted extraordinary stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.

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

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 the time, doctors warned her parents that she was unlikely to ever communicate clearly or attend 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 go 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 says that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to inspire other people with hearing loss. She even initiated the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to inspire 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 carrying out 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 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

Derrick Coleman

Playing a sport at the professional level is itself an instance of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, only 1.7 percent of college football players and 0.08 percent of high school athletes reach the professional 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 league history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his enthusiasm for football, which he found at a young age.

With the encouragement of his parents, coaches, healthcare specialists, and with hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would stand out 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 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/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.

On top of all of her obligations, she in addition has made time to help other people deal with the challenges 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 percentage of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school diplomas.

Along with her West Davidson High School diploma, she also obtained 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 generated obstacles 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 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 severe neurological infection that can create severe complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some instances, it can be fatal.

For Ryan, the infection produced hearing loss in both ears, which required hearing aids, and with mild cerebral palsy, which required 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, mom Sarah Ivermee understands from experience 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 large number of kids were ashamed to wear them and resented being different.

So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s assistance, she formed her own company, named Lugs, that renders hearing aids fashionable 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 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 prosperous career. But by following three professions that all necessitate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.

Rather than quitting, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would fulfill the intense requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: an innovative pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key functions.

Win figured out 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 for several 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.