The World Health Organization kicked off World Hearing Day on March 3 this year, a day to encourage people worldwide to take care of their hearing and to get checked at every age for hearing loss.
With more than 30 years of experience in global finance, infrastructure and medical device leadership across many industries, Starkey Hearing Technologies’ Chief Financial Officer, Bill Courtney, has helped develop and execute a wide variety of business plans and strategies for companies such as Medtronic, Hertz, Best Buy, Bank of America and Ford Motor Company. In September of 2018, he was named the Chief Financial Officer at Starkey Hearing Technologies, the only U.S. based hearing aid manufacturer. Bill experienced hearing loss at a young age, but it wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he finally took steps to meet with a hearing care professional. He now wears hearing aids full time. Bill is passionate about the hearing industry. He uses his unique experience and knowledge to help Starkey Hearing Technologies develop hearing devices that will better support their patients.
What kept you from getting hearing aids until your 30s?
It took me a long time to get hearing aids because I was in denial; I did not think my hearing was that bad. I think a lot of people have similar experiences. It is difficult to understand how debilitating your hearing loss is until you put in a hearing aid and hear all that you’ve been missing. There is a stigma attached to wearing hearing aids. Most people associate hearing aids with being old. I was in my thirties. I did not think of myself as old. It took some convincing, but eventually I took the leap to try them. That is when I understood the value hearing aids would bring to my life.
When you first got your hearing aids, what was the impact?
The impact from wearing hearing aids was immediate. I compare it to putting on glasses for the first time: Everything is crisper. You hear things you have been missing but didn’t know you were missing. It was life-changing.
What would you tell others who could benefit but haven’t made the leap yet?
I would tell anyone who could potentially benefit from hearing aids that they will improve your life both professionally and personally. Your engagement in life will increase. Your hearing aids will allow you to not only hear better but live better too. The functionality of the Livio AI hearing aids, which are the kind I wear, combine many products into one. There is Bluetooth connectivity, fitness and cognitive tracking to help maintain or improve your brain and body health, language translation, and many other features. Now, hearing aids are about much more than just helping you hear. They connect you to the world around you.
You now work in this industry — what is it like helping to make the very product that helps you?
Being able to speak into the development of hearing aids, devices that help me every day, is extremely gratifying. I am passionate about the work we do at Starkey Hearing Technologies. Because I am a patient, I have great insight into the functionality of hearing products. I’m able to talk with the team about new features that can improve the lives of the patients we serve.
What most excites you about what hearing health technology is going?
I am most excited about the technological strides Starkey Hearing Technologies has taken. We are doing things today that we did not think were possible a few years ago. When I first met Bill Austin, he was talking about how one day hearing aids would be able to translate languages or detect when a wearer falls. That was years ago! We now have Livio AI hearing aids that can translate 27 different languages and not only detect falls, but alert loved ones when there is a fall-related emergency. He knew the hearing industry would be the future of wearable technology and now, he is seeing his vision come to life.
What can we do as community to get more people to test and seek care for hearing impairment?
We need to improve awareness about hearing health in order to get people to seek care for their hearing impairment. Early intervention is key. As a community, we need to engage younger people in the conversation, promote the functionality of hearing aids like Livio AI, and the enhancement they provide to your life.
Thanks so much to Bill Courtney for sitting down with us to answer questions on World Hearing Day and for the work Starkey is doing to help people of all ages get more out of life and limit the effects of hearing loss!