Each year, Cochlear Americas has the honor and immensely difficult task, of choosing volunteers from different communities throughout North America to be recognized as Community Hear-os. This year there were 22 volunteers named as Community Hear-o winners and one person from that recognized group, is selected as the Hear-o of the Year. We are thrilled to announce Wayne, from Oklahoma is the 2022 winner. See what Wayne has to say about his experience as a recipient and Cochlear volunteer.


How Wayne was selected as the Hear-o of the year

Cochlear is fortunate to have a community of volunteers that go above and beyond every day to help anyone wanting to learn more about Cochlear implantable devices from someone who understands what they are going through. Wayne has been a volunteer with Cochlear for over 10 years. He was nominated by his Cochlear Engagement Manager, Oscar. It’s clear why Wayne was nominated, Oscar shared this about Wayne: “He is the epitome of what it means to be a volunteer, not only by making an effort to increase access to hearing implant technology but also by being a friend to those seeking help. Wayne does not shy away from sharing his personal success with his cochlear implants and encourages people who are struggling with their hearing to take action and do something about it. He is empathetic in his approach to his conversations with implant candidates and is invested in their success. He does not hesitate to meet a need when he sees one and wants everyone with a cochlear implant to be successful. He is more than a volunteer; he is a mentor and a friend.”

Wayne, the 2022 Hear-o of Year winner holding his plaque.

Tell us a bit about your journey

“As a child, I had a severe case of German measles with a high fever, I believe that was the cause of my hearing loss. My hearing on one side was affected profoundly while the other was only mildly affected. I was approximately 28 years old when I started wearing a hearing aid on one side. I progressed through many hearing aids for the next 40 years. In 2009, my wife and I heard an aerospace engineer, who was born deaf and today has implants, speak about what a change his cochlear implants made in his life. It was very inspiring. I immediately began to investigate cochlear implants. We met with a Cochlear volunteer that was a recipient and discussed the surgery and activation. This was very helpful to know what to expect. In 2010, I was implanted with my first implant. Then, in 2013 I received my second implant which gave me a richer, fuller hearing experience. I currently wear Cochlear™ Nucleus® 8 Sound Processors.”

What is your favorite part of volunteering?

“One of my favorite parts of volunteering is seeing someone I have been mentoring become a recipient and have their life changed for the better because they can hear and understand speech again. Also, meeting and talking with people has allowed me to build lasting relationships with some of them.”

Wayne, the 2022 Hear-o of Year winner, volunteering with his wife at a Cochlear event.

What kinds of activities do you do while volunteering?

“I volunteer at local events in the area hosted by Cochlear. There, my Cochlear Engagement Manager introduces me to those in attendance who would like to connect with a recipient who has gone through the implant process and understands and can relate to what they are going though. In addition, I speak to groups regarding cochlear implants and my personal journey. Occasionally, I’ll respond to recipients that are needing help with their sound processors or True Wireless™ accessories too. My favorite accessory is the TV Streamer. I also enjoy the Mini Microphone 2+, which allows me to listen to the radio while I work.”

Do you volunteer in other ways within your community?

“I work with a local speech and hearing association, and I go to homes to install assistive devices such as: amplified phones, wireless door alerts and severe weather alert devices. I also provide transportation to hospitals, doctors, audiologists and various other appointments.”

What message do you tell people you’re mentoring, about cochlear implants?

“One of the messages I try to convey is, if you qualify for a cochlear implant, do not wait for newer technology to become available. Enjoy better hearing now. You can always upgrade to newer technology when it becomes available later.”

Wayne, the 2022 Hear-o of Year winner.

Your hearing journey impacted someone close to you and they became a Speech Pathologist. Who is that?

“My granddaughter, Cayley. During her childhood we spent a significant amount of time together. She grew up believing everyone used closed captioning on their TVs and didn’t realize until she was older that that was because of my hearing loss. She was in high school and was thinking about her future career when I received my first Cochlear implant. She saw my incredible success with it and how much easier our conversations became. That inspired her to want to help others. I worked with Cayley often, practicing my hearing rehabilitation and she fell in love with the process of sound and the opportunity to work with people with hearing loss. Now, she has her Master of Science Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. While in school, she wrote a paper sharing why she wanted to become a Speech Pathologist and expressed ‘I cannot wait to get that diploma and show Papa and say, “This is all because of you”’.

Wayne, the 2022 Hear-o of Year winner, with his granddaughter.

Thank you, Wayne

Congratulations, Wayne on being named the 2022 Hear-o of the year. We would like to thank Wayne for all the wonderful ways he has impacted the community by sharing his incredible story and encouraging others. Thank you, Wayne, for everything you have done over the past 10+ years as a Cochlear Volunteer.

If you or a loved one is considering a Cochlear hearing solution and would like to be connected with others who have gone through the process, like Wayne, the 2022 Hear-o of the Year winner, please visit the Connect with a Mentor page to learn more. 

Anna Martinez
Anna Martinez is the Associate Volunteer Engagement Manager and has worked for Cochlear since 2016. She is responsible for communication and onboarding with the Cochlear volunteer community. Anna is a Colorado native and enjoys being outside in the beautiful weather with her son.