During the course of the year, we’ve searched for and posted extraordinary stories about people overcoming hearing loss to our Facebook page.
These inspiring stories remind us of what human purpose and perseverance can achieve—even in the face of overpowering challenges and barriers.
Of the countless stories we’ve encountered, here are our top selections for the year.
At age 3, Emma Rudkin developed an ear infection that would cause her to lose the bulk of her hearing. At that time, doctors advised her parents that she was not likely to ever communicate clearly or attend a “normal” school.
Following 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 secure the Miss San Antonio crown as a second-year student at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Emma affirms that she dons her hearing aids “as a badge of honor” and is using her crown to encourage other people with hearing loss. She even launched the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to entice others to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help eliminate the stigma associated with hearing impairment.
Justin Osmond, son of Merrill Osmond, lead vocalist of The Osmonds, is 90 percent deaf. But that didn’t prevent 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 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.
Becoming a professional athlete is itself an instance of defying the odds. Based on NCAA statistics, only 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school players reach 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 love for football, which he observed at a young age.
With the guidance of his parents, coaches, healthcare professionals, and 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 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.
On top of all of her responsibilities, she also has made time to help other people overcome 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 small percentage of students who graduated with not one, but two, high school degrees.
Coupled with 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 few months after she was born, which has introduced obstacles 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.”
Concerning 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 induce major 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 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 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 challenges in trying to get kids to use their hearing aids.
And as Sarah met more people with children who had hearing aids, she found 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 help, she founded her own company, named Lugs, that makes hearing aids stylish for kids.
Present 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 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 privileged to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a successful career. But by pursuing three vocations that all necessitate 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 match the heavy demands of a mountain guide. The solution: a sophisticated pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key functions.
Win discovered that he could control his hearing aids with his phone or watch, accept phone calls, listen to music, and cut down on wind noise, all while hearing the sounds he had been missing for several 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.