Through the course of the year, we’ve sought after and posted amazing stories about people conquering hearing loss to our Facebook page.
These inspiring stories remind us of what human determination and persistence can accomplish—even in the face of overwhelming challenges and barriers.
Of the numerous stories we’ve encountered, 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 the time, doctors explained to her parents that she was unlikely to ever speak clearly or attend a “normal” school.
Following several 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 secure the Miss San Antonio crown as a sophomore 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 individuals with hearing loss. She even set up the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to encourage others to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help end the stigma linked with hearing impairment.
Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead singer 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 in addition 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.
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 reach the professional 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 league history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his enthusiasm for football, which he observed at a young age.
With the structure and support of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and with hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would stand out at football on his way to ultimately participating in the Super Bowl as a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks.
In spite of her hearing loss, and with the assistance 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.
On top of all of her commitments, she also has found the time to help other people overcome the struggles 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 small percentage 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 acquired a hearing disability a couple of months after she was born, which has generated 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.”
As for 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 serious neurological infection that can bring about severe 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.
Despite 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 knows first-hand the challenges in getting kids to wear their hearing aids.
And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she found that a great number of kids were ashamed to wear them and resented being different.
So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s help, she founded her own company, 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 enjoys wearing his hearing aids, but his brother wants 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 privileged to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a rewarding career. But by pursuing three vocations that all demand healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.
Rather than giving up, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would suit the intense needs of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key features.
Win figured out that he could manage 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? 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.