Discover the inspiring story behind Michelle, founder and Chairwoman of the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to restore sound to those in need. Plus, learn how you can pay it forward and donate equipment to other recipients in need.


Last spring, Cochlear was proud to partner with the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation (CIAF), an independent non-profit organization dedicated to providing cochlear implant equipment to those in need. For the first 200 sound processors that were traded in during our spring discount, Cochlear pledged to donate a separate, refurbished sound processor to the CIAF. Our recipients delivered, and we are thrilled to be able to ship all 200 sound processors to the CIAF.

Michelle stands infront of a brightly colored wall. She is holding out her arm showing the sign language sign for I love you. She is proud to be a part of the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation.

Since its inception 15 years ago, the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation has greatly impacted the lives of thousands of recipients who would otherwise not have access to cochlear technology. Michelle, President, Founder, and Chairwoman of the CIAF, created the organization as a result of her own hearing journey.

The story behind the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation

At the age of 22, while in college, Michelle began experiencing mild progressive hearing loss. She started using hearing aids to get through lectures, and upon graduation, began working as a schoolteacher. Three years later Michelle became pregnant, and during her pregnancy became profoundly deaf. To her surprise, her daughter, Ellie, was then born deaf. This prompted Michelle to start avidly researching solutions, where she came across cochlear implants. At just 18 months, Ellie was one of the youngest recipients at the time to receive a cochlear implant.

After witnessing Ellie’s hearing transformation and receiving a cochlear implant of her own, Michelle started, a blog created to connect families with information and resources to help make decisions on how to help their children through hearing loss. The blog grew quickly, soon reaching hundreds of families and connecting them with cochlear implant manufacturers, implant clinics and schools.

This success inspired Michelle to establish the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2005. Her goal was to create information, education and awareness of how cochlear implants restore sound to the hearing impaired. Fast forward fifteen years and the CIAF has provided cochlear implant equipment to thousands of recipients in need across the United States and Canada. In 2018, the CIAF opened its doors internationally and began accepting applications from all over the world.

How to pay it forward with the CIAF

If you’re interested in donating used (but not worn down) equipment like sound processors, cables, cords, batteries and accessories to the CIAF, visit the donation page on the CIAF website.  You can mail your gently used equipment directly to the CIAF’s Springfield address at 830 South Grand Avenue West, Springfield, IL, 62704. No need to contact them ahead of time! Within two weeks, you’ll receive a letter of receipt for tax purposes.

How to apply to receive hearing equipment

If you’re in need of cochlear equipment, simply fill out the CIAF’s online application in its entirety. The CIAF will then match eligible applicants with equipment from their inventory bank. If a match is made, the CIAF will contact the applicant’s audiologist or doctor directly to verify the applicant’s need for hearing equipment. All applicants are then notified by email, whether the CIAF can provide assistance or not. Finally, the equipment will be sent to the applicant’s audiologist or doctor for programming. Typically, it takes about two weeks to process the application and get the equipment shipped out.

Learn more about the CIAF

The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation’s purpose is to help people get back in sound, regardless of age, income or other demographic factors. There are no boundaries! Ultimately, Michelle’s goal is to help as many people as possible experience the joy of sound.

Learn more about the CIAF here.

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.