All throughout the year, we’ve sought after and posted phenomenal stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.
These inspirational stories remind us of what human determination and perseverance can achieve—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.
At the age of 3, Emma Rudkin developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose the bulk of her hearing. At the time, doctors informed her parents that she was not likely to ever speak clearly or attend a “normal” school.
Following many years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only learned how to speak clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would proceed to 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 dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to encourage other individuals with hearing loss. She even established the #ShowYourAids social media promotion to encourage other people to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate the stigma connected 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 finishing a 250-mile run—in some cases through rain and hail—to raise money for hearing aids for deaf children.
Despite 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 itself an instance of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football athletes 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 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 NFL history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his enthusiasm for football, which he observed at an early age.
With the encouragement of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and hearing aid technology, Derrick Coleman would excel at football on his way to ultimately playing in the Super Bowl as a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks.
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.
Together with all of her responsibilities, she in addition has made time to help others 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 minimal percentage of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.
In addition to 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 few months after she was born, which has provided challenges 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.
“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 bring about 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 required hearing aids, and with mild cerebral palsy, which required 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 along 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 first-hand the difficulties in getting kids to wear their hearing aids.
And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she found that a large number of kids were embarrassed to wear them and resented being different.
So this got her thinking, and, with her husband’s help, 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!
“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 transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a lucrative career. But by pursuing three vocations that all require healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.
Instead of giving up, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to find a pair of hearing aids that would satisfy the substantial requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: an advanced pair of digital hearing aids with several key functions.
Win discovered 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 out on for years.
As for the stigma affiliated 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.