Starkey Hearing Technologies

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

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]


Early years[edit]

In 1967, William F. 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 2016, management told employees and the media that its business was strong despite the disruption caused by a scandal, 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, who joined Starkey in 1994, was named company president, succeeding Austin, who retained the role of CEO.[4]

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


In 2015, Starkey's then-president, Jerry Ruzicka, was fired, along with a handful of senior managers.[5] 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.[6] The fired employees, including one who was not indicted, sued the company in civil court for wrongful termination and other matters.[7][8] 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.[9] In March 2018, Rusicka was found guilty of 8 charges, including mail and wire fraud.[10]


Current product line[edit]

As of October 2019, the company offers ten different hearing aid devices and several accessories. The devices include:[11]

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

Recent developments and accessories[edit]

In 2014, Starkey introduced Halo, a hearing aid that works with the iPhone and an associated app.[12]

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

In 2016, the company introduced high-tech hearing aids with more powerful processes and software, aimed at aging baby boomers; their marketing emphasized ability to hear music well.[13]

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 +.

Starkey Hearing Foundation[edit]

Starkey Hearing Foundation was set up by Austin in 1984 to provide hearing aids to people who cannot afford them.[3] It operates around the world and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.[14][15] It raises money to fund these efforts through an annual gala that is attended by various celebrities.[3][16]


  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 f Meitrodt, Jeffrey; DePass, Dee (February 20, 2016). "Messy split at Starkey Hearing is making industry waves". Star Tribune.
  4. ^ "Press release: Starkey Hearing Technologies Appoints Brandon Sawalich as President". Starkey via GlobeNewswire. July 6, 2017.
  5. ^ "Fired Starkey Hearing Technologies president hires lawyer". Star Tribune. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  6. ^ "Press release: Five Indicted For Massive Fraud Perpetrated Against Starkey Laboratories". US Department of Justice. September 21, 2016.
  7. ^ DePass, Dee (April 13, 2017). "Starkey argues 'too many red flags' in bid to group defendants in lawsuit". Star Tribune.
  8. ^ Tindera, Michela. "Runaway Billionaire: Meet The CEO Whose Company Descended Into Fraud, Embezzlement and Betrayal". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  9. ^ "Federal judge: Starkey owner Bill Austin gave false testimony". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  10. ^ "Former Starkey President Jerry Ruzicka found guilty on multiple counts in $20 million embezzlement trial". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  11. ^ Starkey hearing aids website products, retrieved October 6, 2019
  12. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (23 April 2014). "App-Controlled Hearing Aid Improves Even Normal Hearing". The New York Times.
  13. ^ DePass, Dee (March 19, 2016). "New Starkey hearing aid will help people not to miss a beat". Star Tribune.
  14. ^ Cohen, Tom (August 5, 2013). "Bill, Chelsea Clinton return to Africa for foundation work -". CNN.
  15. ^ Stanley, Craig (October 15, 2012). "A teenager meets her 'hearing angels'". NBC News.
  16. ^ Mehta, Raghav (July 18, 2016). "Starkey Gala 2016: We ask Johnny Depp about Pokémon, Jay Leno about Prince". City Pages.

External links[edit]