Starkey Hearing Technologies

Starkey Hearing Technologies is an American privately owned company based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota that makes hearing aids, and is one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world.[1] As of 2019, the company had more than 5,000 employees in 24 facilities, serving more than 100 markets worldwide, and is the only American-owned global hearing aid manufacturer.[2]

Starkey Hearing Technologies
IndustryHearing instruments
FounderWilliam F. "Bill" Austin
Area served
Key people
William F. Austin, Founder
Tani Austin, Co-Founder, Starkey Hearing Foundation
Brandon Sawalich, President and CEO
ProductsHearing instruments
Number of employees
ca. 6000 (2019)


Early yearsEdit

In 1967, William F. "Bill" Austin started a small hearing aid repair store after dropping out of medical school. In 1970, he purchased an ear mold company called Starkey Labs for $13,000.[3] Starkey started manufacturing hearing aids, offering the industry's first 90-day trial period.


In 1983, the company's sales doubled when Ronald Reagan started wearing its hearing aids while he was president, which caused a manufacturing crisis at the company to meet demand.[3]

Austin has personally assisted five U.S. presidents, two popes, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and other notable leaders with Starkey hearing aids.

In 2015, Austin fired Starkey's then-president, Jerry Ruzicka, along with a handful of senior managers.[4] A year later, in September 2016, federal prosecutors charged Ruzicka and four others with stealing more than $20 million from Starkey and a supplier since 2006.[5] During the trial, Austin, who was not charged, provided false testimony to the court, causing some of his statements to be stricken from the record.[6] In March 2018, Rusicka was found guilty of eight charges, including mail and wire fraud, and in December 2018 was sentenced to seven years in prison.[7] In 2016, the company reported that its business was strong despite the disruption caused by the embezzlement, with sales of $800 million the prior year.[3] A report in the Star Tribune noted that Starkey faced challenges at that time; its number of new patent filings had fallen, it had slipped to second place in sales to the Veteran's Administration, a key market for hearing aid companies, and sales of hearing aids to consumers were shifting more to big box stores such as Costco or proprietary dealerships, but Starkey was committed to selling directly to independent audiologists.[3]

In July 2017, Brandon Sawalich, Austin's stepson who joined Starkey in 1994, was named company president, succeeding Austin, who retained the role of CEO.[8]

In the summer of 2017, Achintya Bhowmik joined the company as Chief Technology Officer (CTO).[9]

According to Forbes, in 1992 Starkey’s sales had reached nearly $200 million; by 2018 sales were an estimated $850 million a year.


Current product lineEdit

As of October 2019, the company offers ten different hearing aid devices and several accessories. The devices include:[10]

  • Hearing & activity tracking
  • Smartphone compatible
  • Invisible products
  • Receiver-in-canal
  • Completely-in-canal
  • Behind-the-ear-ear
  • In-the-canal
  • In-the-ear
  • Tinnitus relief
  • Single-sided hearing

Recent developments and accessoriesEdit

In 2014, Starkey introduced Halo, a hearing aid that works with the iPhone and an associated app.[11]

Bill Austin with a person being helped through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

In 2016, the company introduced high-tech hearing aids with more powerful processors and software, aimed at aging baby boomers; their marketing emphasized its ability to help its users hear music well.[12]

In 2017, the iQ product family was unveiled. Products in this family deliver pristine audio and exceptional listening clarity. Muse IQ Rechargeable delivers continuous, stable power to ensure users' hearing aids are always ready for use.

In 2018, the company introduced Livio AI, the world’s first hearing aid with embedded sensors and artificial intelligence. A multi-purpose hearing aid, Livio AI is the first device to track physical activity and cognitive health as measured by hearing aid use. Other features of Livio AI include language translation, fall detection and alerts, tap control, and other features. The product launch also included a new app, the Thrive Hearing Control app, and three new wireless accessories—the Starkey Hearing Technologies TV, the Remote and the Remote Microphone +.

In addition, Starkey offers two accessories for hearing protection: a line of digital hearing aids called SoundGear that enhance sound quality while protecting ears from sudden loud noises and custom-fit earplugs which protect workers and others from unusually loud or noisy environments.[13]

Starkey Hearing FoundationEdit

According to the World Health Organization, as of 2019, approximately 466 million people worldwide, including 34 million children, have disabling hearing loss. One of WHO's responses has been to build partnerships "to develop strong hearing care programmes."[14] To address hearing loss facing those in developing nations, in 1984 Austin and his spouse, Tani Austin, founded the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Together, they have been active in "building sustainable, community-based systems of hearing healthcare around the world to empower local communities and ensure the people helped are able to achieve their full potential in life." In 2015, Tani Austin was honored at the United Nations by the United States Federation for Middle East Peace as Female Philanthropist of the Year.[15][16]

To help raise funds, the foundation holds an annual gala that is attended by various celebrities.[3][17] As of 2017, the foundation had donated one million hearing aids to those in need around the world.[18]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Starkey suspended its Hear Now Program and is yet to release a date to resume services.[19]


  1. ^ Market Report, retrieved September 29, 2019
  2. ^ "Starkey website, History". Starkey Hearing Technologies website. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Meitrodt, Jeffrey; DePass, Dee (February 20, 2016). "Messy split at Starkey Hearing is making industry waves". Star Tribune.
  4. ^ "Fired Starkey Hearing Technologies president hires lawyer". Star Tribune. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Press release: Five Indicted For Massive Fraud Perpetrated Against Starkey Laboratories". US Department of Justice. September 21, 2016.
  6. ^ "Federal judge: Starkey owner Bill Austin gave false testimony". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  7. ^ "Former Starkey President Ruzicka sentenced to 7 years in prison". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  8. ^ "Press release: Starkey Hearing Technologies Appoints Brandon Sawalich as President". Starkey via GlobeNewswire. July 6, 2017.
  9. ^ "Starkey brings AI to hearing aid device". koreatimes. 2019-06-02. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  10. ^ Starkey hearing aids website products, retrieved October 6, 2019
  11. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (23 April 2014). "App-Controlled Hearing Aid Improves Even Normal Hearing". The New York Times.
  12. ^ DePass, Dee (March 19, 2016). "New Starkey hearing aid will help people not to miss a beat". Star Tribune.
  13. ^ Starkey Hearing Technologies website, Hearing Protection, retrieved October 16, 2019
  14. ^ World Health Organization, Key Facts, March 20, 2019, retrieved October 16, 2019
  15. ^ Starkey Hearing Foundation news release, Tani Austin named Female Philanthropist of the Year," September 23, 2015, retrieved October 16, 2019
  16. ^ Delta Zeta website, Tani Austin, Co-founder of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, to be Delta Zeta Sorority’s 2016 Convention Initiate, retrieved October 16, 2019
  17. ^ Mehta, Raghav (July 18, 2016). "Starkey Gala 2016: We ask Johnny Depp about Pokémon, Jay Leno about Prince". City Pages.
  18. ^ Audiology World News, Celebrity attendees at the 2018 Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala, July 20, 2018, retrieved October 16, 2019
  19. ^ "Starkey Hearing Foundation Suspends Programming". Twin Cities Business. 2020-05-12. Retrieved 2020-07-05.

External linksEdit