2017 Oticon Focus on People Awards Honors 13 Remarkable People Who Are Changing Perceptions of Hearing Loss

Somerset, NJ
13 November 2017


The 2017 Oticon Focus on People Awards celebrated 13 remarkable individuals whose courage, vision and commitment are helping to change the perception of what it means to have a hearing loss. The first place winners in four categories were recognized at a special awards ceremony at the Oticon Catalyst Conference, held November 11 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. More than 600 hearing care professionals from across the US attended the event.

The individuals honored are a diverse group. They range from a decorated naval officer who aims to reduce the stigma of hearing loss in the military to a high school senior who shares her own experiences of hearing loss to inspire parents of young deaf and hearing-impaired children. Each award winner is a role model, helping to create awareness and change attitudes that can open doors of opportunity for all people with hearing loss.

Created by Oticon, Inc. in 1997, the national awards program recognizes extraordinary people who demonstrate that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to live a full, productive and even inspiring life.  People from across the US cast thousands of votes to help determine the first, second and third place award winners in the Student, Practitioner, Advocacy and Adult categories. In 19 years, the national awards program has honored more than 245 remarkable individuals with hearing loss.

“Our 2017 Oticon Focus on People Award winners have demonstrated an unwavering determination to transform their special circumstances into lives that make a positive difference for many,” said Nancy Palmere, Director of Consumer Marketing and Public Relations for Oticon, Inc. who heads up the awards program. “Each 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.”

This 2017 First Place Winners are:

STUDENT — Ellie Kobak, Portland, OR  
This 17-year-old high school senior tutors struggling students, mentors incoming freshman and has testified before her state’s Senate on behalf of students with disabilities.  Ellie also shares her own experience of hearing loss with parents of young deaf and hearing-impaired children at an Oregon Department of Education program that funds services for students with select disabilities.

ADULT — Lt. Commander Michael McManus, Honolulu, HI  
When this decorated naval officer was diagnosed with hearing loss, he was concerned that wearing hearing aids might affect his career. Today, Mike is actively pursuing a personal campaign to reduce the stigma of hearing loss in the military, aiming to serve as a role model and mentor to those coming up behind him.

ADVOCACY — John Cartwright, Anchorage, AK  
Born with a severe, undiagnosed hearing loss, John defied the odds and now aims his career and volunteer efforts to support early hearing detection and the families of children with hearing loss. As a volunteer with the local Alexander Graham Bell committee, John lends his expertise to assist families trying to navigate the world of hearing loss with their children.

PRACTITIONER — Marilyn M. Hinrichs, AuD, CCC-A, Dallas, TX  
Dr. Hinrichs participates in 200+ community events each year to raise awareness of the impact of untreated hearing loss. She is currently working to establish Ears4Years, a non-profit foundation that will collect donations and provide hearing services and hearing aids to people with restricted financial resources in her community.

This ten-year-old with a heart as big as Texas knows how important his Oticon hearing aids are to his life. To help give the gift of hearing to other children who are not as fortunate, he started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $1,000. In August, Braden was able to present a check for $15,000 to the Oticon Hearing Foundation.

In addition to a $1000 prize, first place winners received a $1000 donation from Oticon, Inc. to the non-profit organization of their choice. First place winners in the Adult, Student and Advocacy categories also received a pair of advanced technology Oticon hearing aids. 

There are eight second and third place winners in the program’s four categories:

2nd place – Rachel Friedman, Weston, FL
3rd place – Tsering Shola, Camas, WA

2nd place – Mala Bawer, Bernardsville, NJ
3rd place – Dan Beck, Rockville Centre, NY

2nd place – Jena Howell, RN, MSN, Texarkana, AR
3rd place – Cheri Perazzoli, Redmond, WA

2nd place – Diane Kenworthy, AuD, Utica, NY
3rd place – Doug Wesson, BC-HIS, ACA, Manteca, CA

To read the stories of all 2017 Oticon Focus on People Awards winners, visit www.Oticon.com/FOP.


Congratulations to our 2017 Oticon Focus on People Award winners! Last night we honored first-place award winners Ellie Kobak, John Cartwright, Lt. Commander Michael McManus and Marilyn Hinrichs, AuD and outstanding achievement award winner Braden Baker.