All throughout 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 perseverance can achieve—even in the face of intense challenges and barriers.
Of the numerous stories we’ve come across, here are our top picks for the year.
At the age of 3, Emma Rudkin acquired an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large amount of her hearing. During that time, doctors warned her parents that she was not likely to ever talk clearly or attend a “normal” school.
Following years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to speak clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would go 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 says that she wears her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is making use of her crown to inspire other people with hearing loss. She even created the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to urge other people to display their hearing aids with pride, and to help end 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 completing 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 also become an award-winning musician, motivational speaker, and author of the book called “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 attain the pro 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 passion for football, which he discovered at a young 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.
Despite 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/advisor for children with moderate disabilities.
Together with all of her commitments, she also has found the time to help others contend with 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.
West Davidson High School graduate Carley Parker is in the small portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.
In addition to 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 acquired a hearing disability a couple of months after she was born, which has provided 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 has her sight set 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 developed bacterial meningitis, a serious neurological infection that can trigger severe complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In certain instances, it can be fatal.
For Ryan, the infection left him with 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.
Despite the challenges, Ryan excelled 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 knows from experience the difficulties in getting kids to use their hearing aids.
And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she realized 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 renders hearing aids fashionable for kids.
Present designs include Batman, Toy Story, Minions, Hello Kitty, butterflies, Star Wars, Spiderman, and more.
Now, Freddie not only loves 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 lucky to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a productive career. But by pursuing three vocations that all require healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.
Rather than giving up, Win worked with a local hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would satisfy the heavy 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, take phone calls, listen to music, and minimize wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing for several years.
Concerning the stigma associated with 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.