In the course of the year, we’ve searched and shared remarkable 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 numerous stories we’ve encountered, 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 amount of her hearing. During that time, doctors informed her parents that she was unlikely to ever speak clearly or enroll in a “normal” school.
After many years of speech therapy and with the help of hearing aids, Emma not only mastered how to communicate clearly—she additionally learned how to sing and play three musical 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 reports 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 created the #ShowYourAids social media campaign to encourage other people to showcase their hearing aids with pride, and to help end 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 stop him from finishing a 250-mile run—at times 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 called “Hearing with my Heart.”
You can check out Justin’s website at www.justinosmond.com.
Playing a sport at the professional level is itself an example of defying the odds. According to NCAA statistics, only 1.7 percent of college football athletes and 0.08 percent of high school players reach the professional level.
Incorporate hearing loss into the mix, and you really have an uphill battle.
But Derrick Coleman not only plays 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 NFL history. Derrick didn’t allow hearing loss to get in the way of his passion for football, which he observed at an early 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 eventually playing 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/mentor for children with moderate disabilities.
Together with all of her commitments, she also has made time to help other people cope with 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 managed to graduate with not one, but two, high school diplomas.
Combined 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 developed a hearing disability a couple of months after she was born, which has provided 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 developed bacterial meningitis, a dangerous neurological infection that can induce major complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities. In some cases, 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.
Even with the challenges, Ryan excelled as a Poquoson High School student, completing Advanced Placement Calculus and U.S. History along 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, mother Sarah Ivermee understands from experience the difficulties 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 assistance, she formed her own company, named Lugs, that renders hearing aids fashionable for kids.
Current 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 privileged to have transformed three of his passions—mountaineering, music, and movies—into a successful career. But by following three trades that all require healthy hearing, hearing loss could have been career-ending.
Rather than quitting, Win worked with a community hearing care professional to obtain a pair of hearing aids that would match the intense demands of a mountain guide. The solution: an innovative pair of digital hearing aids with multiple key features.
Win learned that he could manipulate his hearing aids with his phone or watch, accept 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 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.