The 2017 Oticon Focus on People Awards celebrated 13 remarkable individuals whose courage, vision, and commitment are helping to change the perception of what it means to have a hearing loss, Oticon announced. The first place winners in four categories were recognized at a special awards ceremony at the Oticon Catalyst Conference, held November 11 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. More than 600 hearing care professionals from across the US were said to have attended the event.

(L-R) 2017 Oticon Focus on People Award winners:  John Cartwright (Advocacy); Ellie Kobak (Student); Oticon President Gary Rosenblum; Marilyn Hinrichs, AuD (Practitioner); Lieutenant Commander Michael McManus, and front, Braden Baker (Outstanding Achievement).

(L-R) 2017 Oticon Focus on People Award winners:  John Cartwright (Advocacy); Ellie Kobak (Student); Oticon President Gary Rosenblum; Marilyn Hinrichs, AuD (Practitioner); Lieutenant Commander Michael McManus, and front, Braden Baker (Outstanding Achievement).

The individuals honored were a diverse group, according to the announcement. They ranged from a decorated naval officer who aims to reduce the stigma of hearing loss in the military, to a high school senior who shared her own experiences of hearing loss to inspire parents of young deaf and hearing-impaired children. Each award winner is a role model, helping to create awareness and change attitudes that can open doors of opportunity for all people with hearing loss.

Created by Oticon, Inc. in 1997, the national awards program recognizes extraordinary people who demonstrate that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to live a full, productive, and even inspiring life. People from across the US cast thousands of votes to help determine the first, second, and third place award winners in the Student, Practitioner, Advocacy, and Adult categories. In 19 years, the national awards program has honored more than 245 remarkable individuals with hearing loss.

“Our 2017 Oticon Focus on People Award winners have demonstrated an unwavering determination to transform their special circumstances into lives that make a positive difference for many,” said Nancy Palmere, director of consumer marketing and public relations for Oticon, Inc. who heads up the awards program. “Each has a unique story and has made a unique contribution to changing negative perceptions of hearing loss.  We are both humbled by their accomplishments and inspired by their ability to make a meaningful difference for people with hearing loss.”

This 2017 First Place Winners are:

STUDENT- Ellie Kobak, Portland, OR   This 17-year-old high school senior tutors struggling students, mentors incoming freshman, and has testified before her state’s Senate on behalf of students with disabilities.  Kobak also shares her own experience of hearing loss with parents of young deaf and hearing-impaired children at an Oregon Department of Education program that funds services for students with select disabilities.

ADULT – Lt. Commander Michael McManus, Honolulu, HI   When this decorated naval officer was diagnosed with hearing loss, he was concerned that wearing hearing aids might affect his career. Today, McManus is actively pursuing a personal campaign to reduce the stigma of hearing loss in the military, aiming to serve as a role model and mentor to those coming up behind him.

ADVOCACY – John Cartwright, Anchorage, AK   Born with a severe, undiagnosed hearing loss, Cartwright defied the odds and now aims his career and volunteer efforts to support early hearing detection and the families of children with hearing loss. As a volunteer with the local Alexander Graham Bell committee, Cartwright lends his expertise to assist families trying to navigate the world of hearing loss with their children. 

PRACTITIONER – Marilyn M. Hinrichs, AuD, CCC-A, Dallas, TX   Dr Hinrichs participates in 200+ community events each year to raise awareness of the impact of untreated hearing loss. She is currently working to establish Ears4Years, a nonprofit foundation that will collect donations and provide hearing services and hearing aids to people with restricted financial resources in her community.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – Braden Baker, Dallas, TX   This 10-year-old with a heart as big as Texas knows how important his Oticon hearing aids are to his life. To help give the gift of hearing to other children who are not as fortunate, he started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $1,000. In August, Baker was able to present a check for $15,000 to the Oticon Hearing Foundation.

In addition to a $1,000 prize, first place winners received a $1,000 donation from Oticon, Inc. to the nonprofit organization of their choice. First-place winners in the Adult, Student, and Advocacy categories also received a pair of advanced technology Oticon hearing aids.

There are eight second and third place winners in the program’s four categories:

STUDENT                2nd place – Rachel Friedman, Weston, FL

3rd place – Tsering Shola, Camas, WA

ADULT                      2nd place – Mala Bawer, Bernardsville, NJ

3rd place – Dan Beck, Rockville Centre, NY

ADVOCACY             2nd place – Jena Howell, RN, MSN, Texarkana, AR

3rd place – Cheri Perazzoli, Redmond, WA

PRACTITIONER  2nd place – Diane Kenworthy, AuD, Utica, NY

3rd place – Doug Wesson, BC-HIS, ACA, Manteca, CA

Source: Oticon

Image: Oticon