During the course of the year, we’ve searched for and shared phenomenal 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 overwhelming challenges and barriers.
Of the myriad stories we’ve come across, here are our top selections for the year.
At the age of 3, Emma Rudkin acquired an ear infection that would cause her to lose a large portion of her hearing. During that time, doctors explained to her parents that she was unlikely to ever communicate clearly or attend a “normal” school.
Following many years of speech therapy and with the assistance of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to communicate clearly—she also learned how to sing and play three instruments. She would go on 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 declares 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 launched the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to urge other people to flaunt their hearing aids with pride, and to help end the stigma associated with hearing impairment.
Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead singer of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t prevent him from finishing 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 in addition 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. Based on NCAA statistics, merely 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school athletes get to 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 league history. Derrick didn’t let hearing loss get in the way of his enthusiasm for football, which he observed at a young age.
With the encouragement of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, 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.
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/mentor for children with moderate disabilities.
Together with all of her responsibilities, she also has made time to help other people deal with the struggles she had to conquer 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 modest portion of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school diplomas.
On top of 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 generated obstacles 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 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 acquired bacterial meningitis, a serious neurological infection that can create serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In certain 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 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 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.”
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 challenges in trying to get kids to wear their hearing aids.
And as Sarah met more families with children who had hearing aids, she discovered 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 launched her own business, named Lugs, that renders hearing aids fashionable for kids.
Recent 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 fortunate to have turned three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a prosperous career. But by following three professions that all mandate 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 suit the intense requirements of a mountain guide. The solution: a sophisticated pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key features.
Win discovered that he could control 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 years.
Regarding the stigma affiliated 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.