2021 Focus on
People Awards

The Oticon Focus on People Awards recognize outstanding people who are helping to show that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a positive difference in their families, communities, or the world.


Life-changing technology opens a world of possibilities for people with hearing loss. The Oticon Focus on People Awards honor the remarkable individuals who have turned those possibilities into realities to make the world a better place for all of us. This one-of-a-kind national awards competition has honored more than 300 outstanding people with hearing loss from across the US.

This year, a record 15,000+ votes were cast by people across the US to select our first, second and third place winners — a testament to the outstanding achievements of our 12 winners! Each serves as a role model, helping to create awareness and change attitudes that can open doors of opportunity for all, but especially for people with hearing loss. On February 24, we celebrated their achievements and contributions at a special Awards ceremony.

Meet our 2021 Oticon Focus on People Award winners



Congratulations to all the winners!


Student - 1st Place

Lauren King
Chester, VA

As a young girl, Lauren dreamed of skating in the Olympics. When she overheard a 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 USFSA National Solo Dance Series Championships and in 2017, placed fourth in the country. Now a college sophomore, Lauren continues to succeed on the ice and in the classroom. A dedicated volunteer for the Hearing Loss Association of America and a mentor for incoming students at her college, she works hard to ensure that others can succeed as well!

  • 2nd Place

    Demii Wright
    Madison, WI

  • 3rd Place

    Hunter Martin
    Illiopolis, IL


Adult - 1st Place

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. Her award-winning global research on media accessibility proposes three ways to make film, television and live theater more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community. Her op-eds and research have been featured and mentioned in many publications including Teen Vogue, Bustle and I-D Magazine. Through her advocacy and involvement in communities like the NYU Center for Disability Studies, Destiny continues to spark conversations on inaccessibility and encourage allies to join the fight for a more inclusive society.

  • 2nd Place

    Trip Neil
    Dallas, TX

  • 3rd Place

    Thomas Withrow
    Austin, TX


Advocacy - 1st Place

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. She hosted the series “What’s Wrong With You?” on the Awkward Human Podcast Network, co-founded the bread company and social forum, Challah Hub, and today, serves as Chief Happiness Officer for a tech startup. 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!”

  • 2nd Place

    Meryl Evans
    Plano, TX

  • 3rd Place

    Paul Wichansky
    Freehold, NJ


Practitioner - 1st Place

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. Dr. Gauthier, who is fluent in Haitian Creole, has been passionately involved in Hope of Hearing Haiti since 2001. Through the nonprofit organization, 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.

  • 2nd Place

    Kamal Elliot
    Lancaster, PA

  • 3rd Place

    Phallon Doss, AuD
    Schertz, TX



Winners in each of the four categories will receive prizes and national recognition that creates awareness and helps to open doors of opportunity for all people with hearing loss.

1st place winners  in Student, Adult and Advocacy
Receive $1,000 cash prize, $1,000 donation to a charity of their choice and a pair of Oticon hearing aids with BrainHearing™ technology

1st place winner in Hearing Care Practitioner
Receive $1,000 cash prize and $1,000 to a charity of their choice

2nd place winners
Receive $500 cash prize

3rd place winners
Receive $250 cash prize

All nominees receive a Certificate of Recognition

Rules & Regulations