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Oticon Focus on People Award Honors Claire Kantor of New Providence, New Jersey

National Award Spotlights Hard of Hearing People Who Defy Negative Stereotypes

Claire Kantor of New Providence, is among 15 outstanding individuals honored by the Oticon Focus on People Awards, a national competition that recognizes individuals who are helping to break down stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss. Claire's selection as a winner in the Practitioner Category was announced in Philadelphia at the sixth annual Oticon Focus on People Awards where over 8,000 audiologists from around the world were gathered for the American Academy of Audiologists (AAA) Convention. The practitioner award recognizes the critical role of hearing care professionals in improving the world of hearing impaired people.

Claire is a dedicated professional who has served the hearing impaired children of New Jersey for nearly 35 years. Her mission is to provide all hearing-impaired children with the opportunity to participate fully in the hearing world by imparting to them the ability to speak and communicate effectively. She has served for 19 years as Executive Director of the Summit Speech School, a facility offering programs that allow the "graduating" students to enroll in mainstream local schools.

During her terms at the school, Claire increased enrollment more than ten-fold, and spearheaded a $5 million capital campaign that resulted in a new state-of-the-art facility for New Jersey's hearing impaired and deaf children. To date, over 2500 children have attended the school, with over 70% of the students crossing over into mainstream kindergartens.

Although a large portion of her time is spent with the school, Claire also manages to address mothers' groups, college students, civic groups, professional associations and many other community groups on auditory/oral options for the hearing impaired. She is a hero to hearing impaired children in New Jersey, a loyal and fervent advocate on their behalf, and a supportive leader in creating opportunities for all those with hearing loss.

The Oticon Focus on People awards were started in 1996 to reach out to the 80 percent of an estimated 28 million Americans who could benefit from hearing instruments, but who fail to seek professional help. A recent online survey of audiologists from across the country found many hesitate to seek help because of concerns about looking old, fear of appearing less functional and lack of knowledge about the hearing solutions available to them.

By celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of hearing-impaired individuals, like Claire Kantor, the Focus on People Awards hopes to call attention to common misconceptions about hearing loss and motivate people with hearing loss to take advantage of the help that is available to them.

Negative Perceptions Persist
Experts say that the stigma associated with hearing loss may explain why most hard-of-hearing people wait an average of 10 years before obtaining a hearing aid despite the incredible advances of recent years, including the introduction of digital hearing instruments. In the online survey, seventy-two percent of the audiologists polled said media portrayal of people with hearing loss contributes to the negative stigma. Other factors cited by respondents included: equation of hearing loss with old age and declining abilities (36 percent), lack of subsidy for hearing aids from health care programs (24 percent), and societal side-lining of people perceived as less competent due to their hearing loss (20 percent).

"Given that hearing loss is the number-one disability in America, these findings are significant," says Mikael Worning, president of Oticon, Inc. "It's interesting to note that Americans now openly discuss and seek help for once 'unmentionable' diseases and disabilities, but not hearing loss. The challenge continues to be changing outdated and hurtful misconceptions of what it means to have a hearing loss."

Founded in 1904, Oticon is one of the world's most experienced hearing aid manufacturers. A pioneer in digital technology, Oticon introduced the first ear-level fully digital hearing instrument in 1996. People First is the motto for Oticon, which is committed to improving the quality of life for those with hearing loss through research, technological advancement and a focus on patient requirements.

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