Hearing Impairment Awareness Advocate Vies for Votes in National Awards Program

For years, Rachel Friedman has been advocating for hearing loss awareness by talking to students from elementary age through doctoral programs. She is now one of three finalists in the 2017 Oticon Focus on People Awards’ student category. The national competition recognizes individuals who are helping to change perceptions of what it means to live with hearing loss. Public vote will determine the winner and Rachel is asking the Weston community to show their support.

The Cypress Bay High School senior has worn hearing aids since she was three-years-old. She has never looked at her own hearing loss as a disability; rather sharing her personal story to show people that “hearing impaired does not mean unable.”

Rachel says it’s important for her to be an advocate for hearing loss awareness because of her firsthand experiences. “People like me are the ones that have the power to eliminate any negative stigma associated with hearing loss, prevent bullying, and increase inclusion by teaching young students that those with hearing loss are no different than those without.”

For the past six years, Rachel has been speaking up about living with hearing loss. She began by talking to graduate-level students about her experiences growing up hearing impaired. In high school, she expanded her “Hear I Am” program to include presentations to elementary school students. She shows the children her hearing aids and engages them through age-appropriate stories and interactive games that simulate what a hearing loss might sound like. She also teaches strategies on how to talk to friends with hearing loss.

“In regard to the graduate-level and doctorate-level students, my main goal is to make them aware of the impact they will have as a clinician on their young patients and their families,” explains Rachel. “I also show them the ‘Hear I Am’ program I developed for elementary students. This allows them to see the importance of educating young students about hearing loss.”

Rachel says it’s a huge honor to be a named a finalist in the Oticon Focus on People Awards. “I have worked so hard since I was eleven to spread my story and educate others on hearing loss from a child’s perspective, so this national recognition is extremely rewarding.”

First and second place winners receive a cash prize, donation to the charity of their choice, and a new pair of hearing aids. Rachel says if she wins she will use the money for college and will donate to the Jack Mills NSSLHA Endowment Fund, which provides technology and services to hearing impaired people who are in financial need. Rachel is a consultant to the Fund’s Board of Directors. She became involved with the organization after raising $4,000 as her Bat Mitzvah project.

You can show your support for Rachel Friedman and the work she is doing to advocate for hearing loss awareness by voting for her in the 2017 Oticon Focus on People Awards, student category. Online voting takes place at www.Oticon.com/FOP through August 31st.