The 2021 Oticon Focus on People Awards celebrated 12 “remarkable individuals whose courage and commitment are helping to change perceptions of what it means to have a hearing loss” at a special awards ceremony, held on February 24. The event honored winners in the Student, Advocacy, Adult, and Practitioner categories. A record 15,296 votes were cast by people from across the US to help determine the 2021 first-, second-, and third-place winners, according to an announcement from Oticon.

The national awards program, now in its 23rd year, has brought recognition to “more than 300 extraordinary people who demonstrate that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to live a full, productive, and even inspiring life.”

“The 2021 Oticon Focus on People Award winners have each found a unique way to make the world a better place — for others with hearing loss and for all of us,” said Nancy Palmere, director of consumer marketing and public relations for Oticon, Inc and awards program leader for more than 22 years.  “This national program allows us to recognize their achievements and create awareness that is helping to change attitudes and open doors of opportunity for all people with hearing loss.

The 2021 First Place Winners are:

Lauren King

STUDENT – Lauren King, Chester, VA

As a young girl, Lauren overheard a skating coach remark that a girl with hearing loss could never make it to the US national competitions.  She was determined to show she could do that and so much more. She competed in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 US Figure Skating Association (USFSA) National Solo Dance Series Championships and in 2017, placed fourth in the country.  Now a college sophomore, Lauren is a dedicated volunteer for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and a mentor for incoming students at her college.

ADULT – Destiny Lopez, Waterbury, CT 

A multimedia storyteller and creative strategist whose hearing loss was diagnosed in elementary school, Destiny is passionate about creating accessible and inclusive media that amplifies the voices of marginalized communities. Through her award-winning research, advocacy, and involvement in communities like the NYU Center for Disability Studies, she continues to spark conversations on inaccessibility and encourage allies to join the fight for a more inclusive society.  

Destiny Lopez

ADVOCACY – Sarah Klegman, Sherman Oaks, CA

With openness, authenticity, and humor, Sarah shares her journey with hearing aids as a storyteller, public speaker, and writer. Through giving talks at festivals and sharing her writing in international publications, she joyfully fights hearing aid stigma while inspiring people to accept and even celebrate their own hearing journey. In all she does, Sarah strives to help others feel confident with their hearing aids – a cause that is “deeply close to her heart – and ears!”

Sarah Klegman

PRACTITIONER – Ricardo Gauthier, AuD, Punta Gorda, FL

More than 20 years in the field of audiology, with 13 years in private practice, have not diminished Dr Gauthier’s passion for “seeing every patient as an individual who deserves the best care possible.” That commitment to quality care is at the core of his efforts to bring much-needed hearing healthcare to children on the island of Haiti. Through the nonprofit Hope for Hearing Haiti, he joins with other volunteer audiologists and speech-language pathologists to provide free audiological care for approximately 300-400 deaf and hard-of-hearing children each year.

Ricardo Gauthier, AuD

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

There are eight Second and Third Place Winners in the program’s four categories:

STUDENT                2nd Place – Demii Wright, Madison, WI

3rd Place –  Hunter Martin, Illiopolis, IL

ADULT                      2nd Place – Trip Neil, Dallas, TX

3rd Place – Thomas Withrow, Austin, TX

ADVOCACY             2nd Place – Meryl Evans, Plano, TX 

3rd Place – Paul Wichansky, Freehold, NJ      

PRACTITIONER     2nd Place – Kamal Elliot, AuD, Lancaster, PA

3rd Place – Phallon Doss, AuD, Schertz, TX    

Learn more about the Oticon Focus on People Awards program at:

Source: Oticon

Images: Oticon