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Learn About Starkey Hearing Aids and Accessories

Interview with Dr. Rachele Orsini, Outside Sales Representative with Starkey. Learn about Starkey's innovative technology.



Hi, I'm Jim Cuddy, and this is Ask The Hearing Doctors. And I'm joined by Dr. Ana Anzola, doctor of audiology with Hearing Doctors, the Washington, DC area's highest rated audiology practice with over 1,500 5-star reviews. And we're also joined today by Dr. Rachel Orsini, outside sales representative with Starkey, a hearing aid manufacturer. Welcome to you both. Thank you. So Rachel, let's start with a little bit of history and background of Starkey.


Sure. Starkey is the only American owned and operated hearing aid manufacturer. It was founded in 1967 by our owner, Bill Austin. He currently owns the company still to this day, and it is a privately held company. Um, one of the only manufacturers in our industry to remain privately held, based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and, um, really what puts Starkey on the map was in the eighties, we were, um, able to fit Ronald Reagan with the first in-the-canal hearing aid, um, where it went completely in the ear canal, which was the smallest hearing aid that anyone had really seen. And after that really took off, uh, for custom manufacturing and really, really put Starkey on the map.


I'm sure that was very popular for a lot of people that don't like the bulky over-the-ear and that kind of thing. Who is your target?


Sure. At Starkey, we really build products for everyone. Uh, we say that our products are built for life, um, and it really is. Anyone is our target market, um, pediatrics to adults. Um, we have active, non-active. We really have solutions for everybody.


And innovative technology, I know, is a big thing for Starkey. Tell us a little bit about, about some of the things that you have going on at Starkey.


Sure, absolutely. This is where hearing aids get fun. Um, in the past, you know, as an audiologist, um, and, uh, Dr. Anzola, and I would talk about like directional microphones and noise reduction, but now we get to talk about the, what hearing aids can do, um, in addition to correcting your hearing. And so about the past four years ago, um, we looked into incorporating artificial intelligence into our hearing aids. So now our hearing aids have sensors so they can track your fitness for you. And we've learned, um, that the ear is a much better accurate representation of our daily activity in terms of fitness, because our head always knows our orientation. It knows exactly what we're doing. Um, so not only that, we can also track our brain engagement to make sure that we are providing the proper stimulation to our brain for hearing healthcare. Um, we have fall detection in our hearing aids 'cause we have sensors on board so we can detect a fall and send alerts to loved ones to provide peace of mind. Um, so innovation has really been in the forefront of Starkey. You know, we are always the first, we have a lot of firsts - first custom in-the-ear hearing aid. Um, now first to have artificial intelligence and we're really trying to make the hearing aid do more for the patient. Yeah.


Now, is this technology available in all the different styles of hearing aids?


Yes, it is. So we have some of the different styles here. We have our most popular receiver-in-the-canal style. We have the rechargeable solution here, which is also very popular these days. The industry really has been looking for and waiting for rechargeable. This is lithium-ion rechargeable, and then we do have some other, um, in-the-ear styles here as well.


Um, Starkey was the first manufacturer to come out with a custom rechargeable. So when we say custom, that means that Dr. Anzola and her team, they're going to take an impression of your ear and send that away to Eden Prairie to be designed. Um, and then it only fits your ear. So these are our first, um, in-the-ear custom devices that are rechargeable, and then we have a much smaller in-the-ear options as well, but it comes in all of the styles.


Yes. Yeah. Ana, what are some of your favorite Starkey products?


For sure. Um, if I have a client with a severe hearing loss, there's nobody else in the business that can pack a lot of power into something so minute it fits in the ear. If I'm looking for a completely in-the-ear hearing aid, this would be my go-to. It's very powerful and nobody else can actually build me something like this. Very powerful.


The other one that's very popular is the completely-in-the-canal hearing aid. So, um, there's a big difference in size, but this is completely invisible so nobody can see it. Um, very popular. Some people are just not comfortable wearing something over the ear. And even though we have the advantages of having them be rechargeable or even the new custom in-the-ear that is rechargeable - by the way, this is the first one and only one in the industry that is rechargeable. It's amazing. I love it. My patients have been trying to ask for something like this for years, but this one look at this little guy, look it's invisible. So I mean, or my clients love it. It's custom and nobody can see it. Right.


Yeah. I, you know, it's incredible to me that it can do so much. I mean, the fact that this little tiny thing and all of a sudden, Hey, great. I can hear again!


It's a big computer. You still have an app that you can change the volume of the program and things like that. It's not streaming directly that we've been talking about with the different apps that they have available. Um, but you have access to some connectivity, uh, changing the frequency, you know, the response of it. Wow, amazing. We love it.


Now, as far as rechargeability, what is the expected duration that, that you can, that you can get out of, out of a battery? Good question. We get this question quite often.


In the clinic from our patients. So we have the same, um, charging time to get to the full charge is three and a half hours for all of the styles. No matter if it's in, in the ear or behind the ear. And then depending on how long you stream, um, we do our testing with four to five hours of streaming, and that gives us 23 hours of use. So a full day's worth of stream and use with one charge. So you charge it every night.


Again, we're talking about streaming. I've never thought that we'd be talking about streaming and hearing aids in the same conversation. What are people streaming? Okay.


So anything, um, yeah. So you can stream your phone calls. Of course, that's the easiest thing. You can stream your games. You can stream audio from YouTube videos, you can stream music, anything that has audio on your phone or your tablet, it will stream, you can stream your television. Um, really anything with audio, you can stream.


Like books, books on tape, this podcast. I can't believe he didn't pick up on that. Um, well, that's pretty fascinating that you can do that. And, and that's, that seems like a lot of life for that much streaming. It really is. Yes. All right. So I've just gone to my doctor of audiology and learned that I do in fact, have a hearing problem. I need to get hearing aids. Why Starkey product?


Sure. Great question. I have lots of answers for this. Um, but I will say that at Starkey, really the heart of Starkey is based around the consumer. So every, um, thing that we manufacture, every decision we make is really based on how that consumer will do with our product and how it will change their life. Um, so we do have very, um, innovative products out there to fit all lifestyles, but some providers and including hearing doctors, they like Starkey for certain reasons, right? Like one would be our invisible solutions. We really have been known to make the most smallest invisible solutions, which is very popular. You know, a lot of people don't like to admit that they have a hearing problem and they don't want people to know. And so we have a solution for them. Um, we also build tough ears too. Sometimes we have, um, ears that are misshapen due to defects from birth or sun damage, where we have, um, deep formalities in the ear where Starkey we'll build a hearing aid to work for that patient as well. So those are some of the reasons we're always kind of the go-to. Um, but now we have so many rechargeable products and that's really what the consumers are looking for is the rechargeability. So now we, we see that that's a lot of the reason that people come to Starkey.


Now, service and support. That's obviously a big thing. And we've talked many times about being able to make adjustments when you're out of town and that kind of thing. Talk about the service and support that Starkey offers. Sure.


So we have service and support for the providers. So at Hearing Doctors, they have support that they can connect with our audiology support customer service. Um, and then we provide service through, uh, remote care, or you've probably heard of tele-health. Um, especially now through the pandemic, we're seeing a lot of telehealth visits and Starkey does provide that option for the providers to connect to their patients remotely. Um, it's all done through an app on their smartphone or their smart tablet.


So is that's the hearing care anywhere that I saw? Yes.


Yes. It's very simple. Easy to use. And you just need your smart device and a connection to your hearing care provider here at Hearing Doctors.


All right. Now I think a lot of people are always going around and shopping and trying to get the best deal. Are Starkey products in the big box stores?


No, and I love this question because just really the heart of Starkey, we really believe in the expertise of the hearing doctors and the hearing care professionals to fit our products and that the success of our products really relies on the hearing doctors. And so we fully support that distribution model. Um, we only sell our instruments to licensed hearing care professionals and we do not sell our hearing instruments in big box stores.


Okay. Um, wireless accessories. I know there are all sorts of different things available. So what are some of those and how do they help? How do they make the, make it better for people?


Great question. And sometimes when we're presenting accessories, patients will often ask us, well, why do I need that? I'm getting these devices. I'm why do I need that? And really they're there as needed, but there are, they enhance the listening experience. So TV streaming, you know, you probably will be able to hear your TV just fine with your hearing devices, but wouldn't it be cool to like walk out to your grill and not miss a minute of the game. Um, you you'd be able to stream that all through the house. If you clean your house and listen to music, you can stream that all through the house. Um, so they kind of enhance the hearing experience, companion Mike's things that clip on so that if you're in a really loud crowded environment, or even in the car that companion can clip this on and everything that they say streams directly into your hearing aids and reduces all of that noise. And we see that a lot in the classrooms as well. And then our most recent accessory is our table microphone. And this has been something that we've been asked for. The industry has been asking for to help in restaurants. Um, restaurants are our toughest listening and environment when they're packed. Um, and so the table mic, you just set it on the table and it picks up speech all around and streams it directly into your hearing aids.


And is that, is it picking up, I mean, cause you were in a noisy restaurant, so how it differentiating from all the folks that are around this table and, and those that I actually care about that are sitting there with me.


Question. So there's eight beam forming microphones on the device and those microphones, um, they they're calibrated and they know to pick up speech only. And so whoever is talking that microphone is on and it streams right to the hearing aids. And then if you start talking, it switches to that one. And if I start talking, it switches over here.


That is just fascinating. I just, I can't get over that. All right. One other thing I wanted to ask about, and I think you touched on some of this earlier, but a health bubble hearing aid, what exactly is a health bubble hearing aid?


Great question. And health bubble is a new term in our industry that we have trademarked at Starkey because our hearing aids do do more than just correct hearing. So a health level hearing aid allows us to track physical activity, detect falls and send alert messages. We can even translate languages. Um, but it allows that tracking, um, aspect. That's what makes it a healthy bubble. Um, so we can track the body. So like your fitness tracker, we can do that. Um, we can track your brain engagement score. As we know, as hearing care providers, the brain is the key to success, um, really with our whole lives, but also with our hearing. And so we know that when you wear your hearing aids, you're providing stimulation to your brain and you get a score every day to make sure that you're, you're getting doing what you're supposed to be doing.


We, we have a much better understanding of the correlation between proper hearing and proper brain function. Yes. Now, Rachel, if you would expand a little bit on some of the other app features that Starkey offers...


Absolutely. Our app is called Thrive. We have Thrive Hearing Control. It's works with our Livio hearing devices and then we have Thrive Care. So I like to spend just a couple seconds talking about the Thrive Care app. This is a caregiver app. Um, one of the major mega trends in healthcare is caregiving. Um, we're seeing that individuals are living longer. They'd like to remain independent in their homes. Um, we know that caregiving happens locally, also across state lines across the countries. Um, so this app allows your, um, you to have vision to your loved ones' activity, their engagement, if they had a fall, um, if their batteries are full or if they need to change their battery and their hearing devices. And it's a good conversation starter. So for example, if I'm looking at my dad's hearing aid use and I see, okay, he, he really didn't do much today. He didn't change his environment. Come on, start getting up. You're still sitting down. How do you know somebody? Exactly. Uh, or the battery, you know, he'll say, yeah, I'm wearing my hearing aids every day? But I say, well, dad, you haven't changed the battery. The battery's dead. So it really helps us, you know, keep connected to our loved ones, caregivers that are in charge of, uh, hearing health care. It's a great app for them. That's really fantastic too, because not only are you keeping in touch with them, but you're keeping an eye on them.


You are you're, it's a, it's another way of really getting engaged in, in ...if you have any concerns, you have a lot more data to really have, um, the knowledge to back it up. But one of my favorite things that happened today, so you're talking about apps, um, earlier, um, it was the Thrive Hearing Control. So I had a nanny earlier today. I fit at her, um, first time, um, with the hearing aid and it was really emotional. She cried, I cried. It was really, um, you know, moving. But what I saw in, I liked about the Thrive app was the fact that I showed her how to, you know, change the volume, change the program. Um, there's a live listen, um, within the it's a feature within the app so she could leave her phone and the phone would pick up whatever the kids are saying.


She can walk away and have knowledge of what's going on in the room with their kids, or there's a little one, a toddler. And so she has the confidence to walk away, get something and come back, we'll go to the kitchen, prepare something, a meal. And she was like, what? I, this is like having 10 eyes in 10 ears. I love it. It was just wonderful. I love that story. Yeah, it's really great. And so that's one of my favorite features. The other one is, um, find my hearing aid. So within use, as the application within the iPhone, uh, or the smartphone to find it.


You've got a lot of clients in the DC metropolitan area. What was your take on, what is your take on Hearing Doctors? Hearing Doctors are top notch. Um, I would never hesitate to send my family. If someone said I need a provider in the DC area, they're going to be my first choice. They are experts at fitting the technology as well as treat you like family when you come in the office.


Dr. Rachel Orsini with Starkey. Thank you so much for joining us today and educating us on the wonderful products that you offer. Thank you. It's my pleasure.


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