As a young man, I never imagined my work in the hearing aid industry would become my life’s passion. From the very moment in 1961, when I saw a man fit with hearing aids hear the world around him, my world transformed. Throughout the decades that followed, I have continuously wondered and questioned how we could take technology even further. If hearing aids could unlock someone’s potential by allowing them to hear, what else could hearing aids do? How could we go beyond to better serve those with hearing loss? As we welcome the dawn of a new decade, I’m invigorated by how the Starkey team is pushing us even further beyond what has ever been done before.
Soon after entering the hearing aid industry, I shifted my focus from repairing ear molds to developing new kinds of molds entirely. By 1971, Starkey had introduced the first custom In-The-Ear hearing aid, and I knew this was a device that would change the industry’s trajectory. Hearing aids were no longer one-size-fits-all, and Starkey was leading the change. In 1981, Starkey introduced the industry’s first In-The-Canal hearing aid. That led to the development of the industry’s first hearing aid that fit entirely in the ear canal in the early ‘90s. It was around that same time hearing aids started to use both analog and digital capabilities, which was another turning point. By 2006, Starkey had released the first hearing aids to use both nano and digital technology. The innovation and the desire to help individuals live better lives never stopped within the Starkey walls.
At the biennial Starkey Hearing Innovation Expo in 2018, we were on the verge of another monumental breakthrough in hearing aid technology. Chief Technology Officer, Achin Bhowmik, shared with the crowd how artificial intelligence could transform the capabilities of hearing aids by tracking physical movements of an individual. He spoke about Starkey’s plan to create hearing aids that could be the new gateway to hearing health and overall wellness. I thought back to my early career, when these were simply visions of mine. Now, I was witnessing my company transform the hearing aid industry.
In August 2018, Starkey reinvented the hearing aid entirely with the revolutionary Livio AI hearing aid. This is the hearing aid I had once imagined, now in front of my eyes and already impacting lives globally. Livio AI is the industry’s first hearing aid to include both integrated sensors and artificial intelligence, providing features like fall detection and real-time language translation. With brain and body tracking, this hearing aid allows users to not only hear better, but to truly live better. When TIME Magazine named Livio AI one of the Best Inventions of 2019, it further solidified Starkey at the forefront of an incredible revolution. There will surely be no signs of slowing down in 2020.
Now, the Starkey Family is hard at work preparing for the fifth Hearing Innovation Expo in Las Vegas, where passionate hearing health advocates meet with a purpose. The 2020 Expo will focus on how we can go beyond what has been done before and push the limits of hearing aid technology yet again. I am looking forward to the many inspiring keynote speakers who will take the stage and encourage all of us to think of new ways to connect to people. Some of them include Dr. Tim Shriver of the Special Olympics, ‘Shark Tank’ entrepreneur Daymond John and Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson. It’s an honor to welcome all of these passionate leaders who have broken barriers and led the way for change in their industries to Starkey Expo.
A vision without hard work and dedication may never become reality. It is incredible to see my vision of developing hearing aids that are truly multi-purpose devices become reality. The 2020 Starkey Hearing Innovation Expo will display just how far beyond we plan to go in the future.