Oticon Inc, Somerset, NJ, is seeking nominations of outstanding people with any degree of hearing loss for the 2009 Oticon Focus on People Awards. For 12 years the national awards program has honored more than 180 people whose courage, vision, and commitment are changing the perception of what it means to have a hearing loss, the company says.

The  program recognizes 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, the company says. By spotlighting people with hearing loss and their achievements and contributions, Oticon says it aims to change outdated stereotypes that discourage people from seeking professional help for their hearing loss. The program has awarded more than $165,000 to people and the not-for-profit causes of their choice.

“Our winners have ranged from award-winning researchers and scholars, to engineers, business people, dancers, graphic artists, social workers, and even a feisty little boy in a cowboy hat," says Peer Lauritsen, the company’s president. "What they all share is a desire to be recognized as people first and to use that determination to help eliminate hurtful stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss. With their help, we hope to motivate the more than 80% of individuals who hesitate to seek help for their hearing loss to consult a hearing care professional.”

Anyone can nominate an individual for the awards, which are offered in five categories:
•    Student: for young people with hearing loss, ages 6 to 21, who are full-time students
•    Adults: for people with hearing loss, 21 and older
•    Advocacy: for adults with hearing loss, 21 and older, who actively volunteer 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

First place category winners will receive a $1,000 award and a $1,000 donation by Oticon to a not-for-profit cause of their choice. Second place winners will receive $500, and third place winners will receive $250.

All nominees will receive a certificate of recognition.

People may nominate themselves or others. Hearing care practitioners nominated for the awards need not be hearing impaired. Nominators complete a form that asks for a brief description of the nominee’s accomplishments and contributions that distinguish them as role models, especially for others who struggle to overcome the stigma of hearing loss.

The link to the application is scheduled to be activated by May 21. To complete an application, visit www.oticonusa.com via the professional or consumer sections and click on the Oticon Focus on People Awards link. The deadline for award nominations is September 21. Winning nominations will be announced in November, the company says.

[Source: Oticon]