(303) 988-7299

2011 Oticon Focus on People Awards Honor Twelve Outstanding People Who Defy Stigma of Hearing Loss

LAKEWOOD CO September 12 –The Oticon Focus on People Awards was held in Los Angeles, CA.

The recipients of the 2011 Oticon Focus on People Awards, twelve outstanding people with hearing loss who prove that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to live a full, productive and even, inspiring life. The award winners were honored at a special awards ceremony in Los Angeles attended by special group of 450 hearing care professionals from across the country. Randall D. Smith, owner of Lakewood Hearing & Speech Center was invited to attend.

In fourteen years, the Focus on People Awards has brought well deserved recognition to more than 200 extraordinary people who defy the stigma of hearing loss. This year, for the first time, Oticon, Inc., sponsor of 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 US 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 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 President Peer Lauritsen. “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 oticonusa.com, read the stories of each of the twelve finalists and tell us by their vote who inspired them.”

The twelve individuals who were selected as 2011 award winners are living proof that in a world where challenges exist and the potential for misfortune may be great – it is still possible to change your luck for the better with courage, determination and a good hearing care professional. “ The remarkable people who are honored in this year’s Oticon Focus on People Awards have taken their unique circumstances and transformed their lives with a positive outlook that has enabled them to overcome challenges and accomplish goals well beyond what many thought possible,” explains Lauritsen. “Each found his or her unique way to direct that positive energy to make the world a better place for others with hearing loss.”

Among this year winners are:

Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Alberstadt (Adult Category), who actively lobbies to have children with hearing loss assigned to her classroom. She believes that rather than take 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 Student Council and President of the Council in 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 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.

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 year, hundreds of nominations representing people from all walks of life are reviewed by our judging panel comprised of leading hearing care practitioners. 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 $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 instruments.

Also honored at the Awards presentation were eight second and third place winners in the program’s four categories: Student (full-time students with hearing loss, ages 6-21), Adult (people with hearing loss, ages 21 and beyond), Advocacy (individuals of all ages involved in advocacy for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community) and Practitioner (for hearing care professionals currently in practice).


  • Sharon Beech of Chatom, AL
  • David Phalin of Chicago, IL


  • Samantha Brownlie of New York, NY
  • Arielle Schacter of New York, NY


  • Michele Friedner of Boston, MA
  • Tina Thompson of Northborough, MA


  • Linda Remensnyder of Gurnee, IL
  • Jace Wolfe of Edmond, OK

Randall D. Smith from Lakewood Hearing & Speech Center said,

“Oticon is one of the most innovative hearing aid manufacturers on the market. With more than 100 years of experience, they have spearheaded a number of technological breakthroughs which have made a significant difference for people with hearing loss.”