Oticon Inc, Somerset, NJ, is seeking nominations of outstanding individuals with any degree of hearing loss for the 2006 Oticon Focus on People Awards. The national awards program, created by Oticon Inc in 1998, honors hearing impaired students, adults, and advocacy volunteers whose accomplishments demonstrate that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a difference in their families, their communities, or the world.  

By spotlighting people with hearing loss and their achievements and contributions, Oticon aims to change outdated stereotypes that discourage people from seeking professional help for their hearing loss. Now in its ninth year, the program has awarded more than $120,000 to deserving individuals and the not-for-profit causes of their choice.

“We know that people with hearing loss make incredible contributions in all walks of life,” says Peer Lauritsen, president of Oticon Inc. “But for many, negative stereotypes persist. We believe these hurtful stereotypes influence the more than 80% of individuals who hesitate to seek help for their hearing loss. Through this program, Oticon hopes to motivate people to speak with hearing care professionals about the new technologies that can enable them to live the lives they want with the hearing they have.”

This year the program offers awards in five categories:

Student, for young people with hearing loss, ages 6 – 21, who are full-time students.

Adults, for people with hearing loss, ages 21 and above.

Advocacy, for adults with hearing loss, ages 21 and above who actively volunteer their time in advocacy or support efforts for the hearing impaired and deaf community (full-time students in advocacy should apply for the Student category).

Practitioner, a special award for hearing care professionals who are currently in practice.

Pediatric Practitioner, a special award for hearing care professionals in school or clinical settings.

Winning nominations will be announced at the Oticon Human Link Conference in the fall. First place category winners will receive a $1,000 award and a $1,000 donation by Oticon to a nonprofit cause of their choice. Second place winners will receive $500 and third place winners will receive $250. All nominees, regardless of whether they are selected as category winners, will receive a Certificate of Recognition. People may nominate themselves or other individuals with a hearing loss for the Oticon Focus on People Awards. Nominators complete a simple form that asks for a brief description of the nominee’s accomplishments and contributions that distinguish them as role models for all—but especially for others who struggle to overcome the stigma of hearing loss.

To complete an application, visit www.oticonus.com. The deadline for award nominations is September 15, 2006.