About Bill Austin
As a young man, Bill Austin first envisioned himself as a mission doctor. He dreamed of going overseas to support underserved communities, providing developing nations with the necessary (yet often unavailable) medical care to prevent deaths from treatable diseases. Behind this career aspiration was a burning desire to raise the standard of living for as many people as possible.
Bill realized that while being a mission doctor was a noble and worthwhile calling, he would only be able to impact a handful of people every day in that role. Instead, Bill found to have a global impact and change the lives of millions, he would have to set his sights on developing another, larger enterprise. This epiphany would later define his life’s work and legacy.
In 1967, Bill Austin purchased Starkey Laboratories for $13,000. He transformed the small earmold company that specialized in industrial-grade hearing protection into what Starkey is today. Bill saw an opportunity to disrupt the industry by creating the first all-brand repair shop for hearing—a department that is still open today. To promote first-rate care, Bill also insisted on implementing a 90-day trial period (the first ever in the hearing aid industry), that allowed customers a window to return their products, if dissatisfied.
Nearly 60 years later, Starkey is the largest American-owned hearing aid manufacturer in the world. Yet, Bill Austin isn’t notable simply for his business successes; true to his original goal, Bill founded Starkey Hearing Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides hearing healthcare training and education to individuals in need. Alongside audiologists and other medical professionals, Bill and his wife, Tani Austin, have volunteered with hearing missions to over 100 countries, visiting every continent but Antarctica.
Through the 2021 launch of Starkey Cares, Starkey’s corporate social responsibility program, Bill continues to fulfill his lifelong passion for helping others by delivering the gift of better hearing to local communities in need, veterans and active-duty military, and our world at large. Through a 2022 partnership with Special Olympics International, Starkey Cares is assisting athletes with disabilities around the world receive hearing health resources they may not have access to otherwise.
Bill Austin is happiest when he is working with those needing hearing aids. Throughout the course of his career, Bill has helped more than one million people worldwide, including five U.S. Presidents, two Popes, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, countless legislators, musicians, athletes and celebrities. However, no matter an individual’s reputation or financial means, Bill treats every person with the same respect and kindness.
Bill Austin has received many honors for his work, including the Horatio Alger Award, Mexico’s Aztec Eagle Award, the Jefferson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award, the National Caring Award, the Humanitarian Award from Variety International, the Tri-State Hearing Convention’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s Minnesota Manufacturing Award for Career Achievement, Finance & Commerce and Minnesota Lawyer’s Minnesota Icon Award, the Gold Stevie Award for Lifetime Achievement, the International Hearing Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award and he became the First Goodwill Global Ambassador for Ear and Hearing Health by the International Federation for Peace & Sustainable Development at the United Nations.