Throughout the year, we’ve sought after and shared extraordinary stories about people conquering hearing loss to our Facebook page.
These inspirational stories remind us of what human purpose and persistence can achieve—even in the face of overwhelming challenges and obstacles.
Of the numerous stories we’ve come across, here are our top picks for the year.
At age 3, Emma Rudkin developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose the majority of her hearing. At that time, doctors warned her parents that she was unlikely to ever speak clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.
Following several years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only learned how to speak clearly—she additionally 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 says 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 established the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to entice others to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help end the stigma connected to hearing impairment.
Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead vocalist of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t stop him from accomplishing 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 additionally 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.
Playing a sport at the professional level is by itself an example of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school athletes get to 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 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 let hearing loss get in the way of his love for football, which he observed at an early age.
With the support of his parents, coaches, healthcare specialists, and hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would stand out at football on his way to ultimately playing in the Super Bowl as a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks.
In spite of her hearing loss, and with the help of binaural hearing aids, 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 obligations, she also has found the 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.
West Davidson High School graduate Carley Parker is in the minimal portion of students who graduated 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 developed a hearing disability a couple of months after she was born, which has introduced obstacles for her throughout her life. But despite the hearing difficulty, she says, “There’s been challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”
Regarding her new challenge? She plans on studying pre-medicine at Wake Forest University.
“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 create serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some cases, it can be fatal.
For Ryan, the infection left him with 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 challenging 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.”
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 difficulties in trying to get kids to use their hearing aids.
And as Sarah met more families 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 assistance, she founded her own company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids stylish for kids.
Current styles 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!
“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 lucrative career. But by following three vocations that all mandate healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.
Instead of throwing in the towel, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would fulfill the heavy needs of a mountain guide. The solution: a sophisticated pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key features.
Win learned that he could manage his hearing aids with his phone or watch, take phone calls, listen to music, and reduce 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 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.