Somerset, NJ — Oticon has announced the winners of the 2011 Oticon Focus on People Awards. Twelve people with hearing loss were recognized for demonstrating how hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to live a full, productive, and inspiring life.

The award winners were honored at a ceremony in Los Angeles that was attended by more than 450 hearing care professionals from across the country.

2011 is the 14th year of the Awards. In the past, winners were selected by the Focus on People Awards organizers. However, this year, for the first time, the national awards program invited the public to cast their votes to help determine who among the 12 finalists would be first, second, and third place winners in four categories. More than 3,500 people from across the United States voted in this year’s competition.

“From its inception in 1997, the Focus on People Awards has relied upon the input of judging panels, made up of hearing care professionals from across the country, who volunteered their time to review the nominations and select the first, second, and third place winners in the awards program,” stated Oticon’s president Peer Lauritsen, in the press statement. “In 2011, we decided to ‘empower’ people across the US to add their voice to selection of the winners in each of the four categories: Adult, Student, Advocacy, and Practitioner. Our goal was to expand awareness of the program and its mission by encouraging people to log onto, read the stories of each of the 12 finalists and tell us by their vote who inspired them.”

The Oticon Focus on People Awards program is designed to focus attention on common misconceptions about hearing loss, correct negative stereotypes, and motivate people with hearing loss to take advantage of the help that is available to them.

Each nominee 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,” says Lauritsen.

In addition to a $1,000 prize, first place winners received a $1,000 donation from Oticon 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 instruments.

(Photo: Focus on People Winners with Oticon’s Lauritsen:  From left to right: Donald Sims, Jennifer Alberstadt, Lauritsen, Sarah Wegley, and Dylan Dunlap)

The 2011 Oticon Focus on People Awards winners include:

  • Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Alberstadt (Adult Category), who actively lobbies to have children with hearing loss assigned to her classroom. She believes that rather than taking away from hearing students, the presence of a child with hearing loss helps her students to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for the challenges that hearing loss can bring.
  • Librarian Sarah Wegley (Advocacy Category) whose award-winning blog, “Speak Up Librarian,” invites others with hearing loss to speak out about their own challenges, adventures, and achievements. She was recently elected the Social Chair of the Association of Late Deafened Adults Chicago.
  • University of Alabama freshman Dylan Dunlap (Student Category) who has never allowed a progressive hearing loss to dampened his determination to face obstacles, tackle them and move on. At Edmond Santa Fe High School, Dylan led by example as a member of the Student Council and President of the Council in his senior year. He was named “Most Likely to Pay It Forward” by his graduating class.
  • Donald Sims, PhD (Practitioner Category) a practicing audiologist for more than 43 years, who has served as a leader, clinician, professor and researcher at the New Mexico School for the Deaf and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID). Dr Sims pioneered the development of online aural rehabilitation therapy tools including DAVID for speech reading and C-Katz for listening. He has also traveled to Africa where he volunteered to test, diagnose, and treat poor and often overlooked Nigerian citizens with hearing-related problems.

Also honored at the Awards presentation were eight second and third place winners in the program’s four categories:

Sharon Beech of Chatom, Ala
David Phalin of Chicago

Samantha Brownlie of New York
Arielle Schacter of New York

Michele Friedner of Boston
Tina Thompson of Northborough, Mass

Linda Remensnyder of Gurnee, Ill
Jace Wolfe of Edmond, Okla

To read the stories of all 12 of the 2011 Oticon Focus on People Awards winners visit

SOURCE: Oticon