Today, Starkey and the Starkey Hearing Foundation help millions of people overcome the challenges of hearing loss. I always knew from a young age that I would end up in a profession dedicated to helping others but, admittedly, it didn’t start with a passion for the hearing aid industry.
Recently, I was interviewed about my life before Starkey for Our American Stories. Back then, I dreamt of becoming a doctor because I thought medical professionals were the real heroes; saving people’s lives seemed like the most profound way to make an impact. I had no money for any type of schooling, so I took a job making earpieces for hearing aids. I never anticipated dedicating my entire life to the hearing aid industry.
It all started when an older man came into the office seeking help for his hearing. No one else was available, so they asked me to take a look—it was my first direct contact with a customer. Everything changed when I saw the look in his eyes after I helped him hear clearly again. I could tell how much it meant to him; it felt like I was giving him some of his light back. On my way home from work that day, I saw a quote on a bus that altered my entire perspective. It said: “The true way to be humble is not to stoop ‘til you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show the real smallness of your greatest greatness.” I didn’t want to be falsely humbled in this life, I wanted to be challenged by some greater nature.
I now knew what I wanted to do with my life. Not long after, I sold my small rental home (my only real asset at the time) and started my own business. Everyone told me it might take three years to turn a profit, but I had maybe a few months before my investments would run out. Making money was important so I could stay in business, but I cared more about the customers. Even then I believed that hearing is the human connection to family and life, so I knew every order I received for a hearing device would be for something important, like a child’s graduation or wedding day. To ensure that every customer received their hearing aid as quickly as possible, I would drive it to the post office myself. I started receiving letters from customers thanking me, telling me this was the best service they’ve ever had before. As word spread, the business took off.
It’s never really been about the money for me. In fact, if I had to go to work solely for money, I would just stay home. Money doesn’t motivate me; it just allows me to have the resources to help those suffering from hearing loss, whether they can afford it or not. I volunteer with the Starkey Hearing Foundation more than half the year to ensure thousands and thousands of people around the world have access to hearing devices that will change their lives. I believe that when you give your time, you give yourself.
My perspective on life has been shaped by my grandparents, but mostly by my faith. We all have a different direction in life, and mine is using hearing to show His love and my love. Money doesn’t make me feel wealthy; it’s being able to give back to someone in need that energizes me and spiritually lifts me up. I found my worth by being able to contribute to life in this way. I will never miss a chance to give back whenever and wherever I can because that one act might be the difference in changing millions of lives.
Every person, no matter their financial situation, deserves the opportunity for a better life. People often ask me if I ever tire of traveling because I have to leave my family from time to time, and my answer is always “no.” When I travel on missions, I am visiting people I view as my extended family. So, whether I’m attending a sporting event for my grandkids or testing the hearing quality of children in Africa, I’m always surrounded by family.
To hear the full interview, you can listen here.