Oticon, Somerset, NJ, announced that the 2015 Oticon Focus on People Awards recently honored 12 individuals for helping to change the perception of what it means to have a hearing loss. At a special October 8 awards ceremony at the Oticon Inc US headquarters, more than 120 hearing care professionals from across the country celebrated this year’s finalists in the Student, Advocacy, Adult, and Practitioner categories.
Oticon reports that it created the national awards program in 1997 to bring well-deserved recognition to extraordinary people who demonstrate that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to live a full, productive, and even inspiring life. Winners in each of four categories receive prizes and national recognition that helps create awareness and change attitudes that can open doors of opportunity for all people with hearing loss.
The people honored in 2015 are reported to be a diverse group, ranging from a high school freshman with a passion for sports who works to share the benefits of advanced hearing technology with less fortunate student athletes to a university professor whose humanitarian missions have the potential to improve access to hearing healthcare in a poor African nation.
“The 2015 Award Winners have taken their unique circumstances and transformed their lives with a positive outlook that has enabled them to overcome challenges and accomplish goals well beyond what many thought possible,” said Oticon President Peer Lauritsen. “Each found a unique way to make the world a better place — for others with hearing loss and for all of us.”
More than 10,000 votes were cast by people from across the country to help determine who among the 12 finalists would be the 2015 first, second and third place winners in the Adult, Student, Practitioner and Advocacy categories. According to Oticon, the 2015 first place winners are:
Student: Eliza Peters of Geneva, IL
Fourteen-year-old Eliza, a freshman at Geneva High School, is an avid sport’s fan who is always happy to stand up and talk about her hearing loss and her hearing devices. No one was surprised when Eliza put that same passion into action to advocate for others with hearing loss. While in sixth grade, Eliza teamed up with ESPN’s Sarah Spain and the Chicago Hearing Society to develop the Hear the Cheers fund for student athletes who can’t afford hearing devices. Since the fund started in 2013, Eliza has helped to raise almost $81,000 in donations and donated equipment so that many other children can also “hear the cheers”!
Advocacy: Camilla Gilbert of Cincinnati, OH
Camilla was born with bilateral microtia, a congenital condition in which the ears do not fully develop. She covered her condition with a headband every day until age 26 when she found information and much needed support in the non-profit Ear Community. Today, the young girl who hid her hearing loss from the world is a confident adult who educates and advocates for others with hearing loss. She serves on the committee for the Ear Community’s Microtia and Atresia Support Group and is a past president of SW Ohio chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America.
Adult: Katie Fish of Amherst, NY
A former junior hockey player, Katie has always refused to let hearing loss hold her back. She now shares that ‘just do it’ philosophy with the young girls she coaches and inspires. As the online student services coordinator at Medaille College, Katie regularly blogs about her hearing loss, welcoming any opportunity to reach people on a larger scale to help change negative perceptions about hearing loss. She recently participated in a social media event with her audiologist that enabled her to reach thousands of people in her home state with positive messages about living a full and happy life with hearing loss.
Practitioner: Ingrid McBride, AuD, CCC-A of Mesa, AZ
A Clinical Professor at Arizona State University and Director of Audiology at ASU Speech and Hearing Clinic, Dr. McBride has been taking students on month-long humanitarian trips to Malawi as part of the Hearing for Humanity program (HFH) which she started in 2010. To date, student volunteers have tested and treated more than 4500 patients and fit 1037 hearing aids. Dr. McBride has contributed to training students at the African Bible College and developing the curriculum for the future audiology program. A former student and HFH volunteer now lives and works in Malawi as an audiologist with Sound Seekers. Funding from Sound Seekers will enable two women and two men from Malawi to study audiology in the UK and become the first Malawian audiologists. In 2016, a 4th-year externship position will be available for the first time in Malawi.
According to the company, in addition to a $1,000 prize, first place winners received a $1,000 donation from Oticon Inc to the non-profit organization of their choice. First place winners in the Adult, Student and Advocacy categories also received a pair of advanced technology Oticon hearing instruments.
There are eight second and third place winners in the program’s four categories. To read the stories of all 12 of the 2015 Oticon Focus on People Awards winners, visit the Oticon US website.