When I started at Starkey Hearing Technologies nearly 25 years ago, the hearing industry looked very different than it does today.

Dozens of hearing manufacturers have dwindled down to just five around the globe, with Starkey being the only one based in the U.S.

Starkey looked different too. Bill Austin’s vision has helped grow this company to more than 6,000 employees in 26+ facilities across the globe. It’s an incredible achievement considering, as he told Our American Stories recently, when he bought this company as a young man, he could barely make ends meet.

I’m often asked how Starkey has been able to not only survive in the hearing industry for so long, but how we’ve been able to thrive. That very question was the center of a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article about Starkey.

While there are many factors that drive the success of any business, including our own — a hardworking team, a strategic business plan, a dedication to customer experience and service — I kept coming back to one factor in particular: innovation.

For Starkey, innovation has always been a cornerstone of business. Twenty years ago, Bill was already dreaming up a hearing aid that would help people hear better and help them live better by focusing on overall health and wellness. Last summer, that vision became a reality with Livio® AI — the first hearing aid in the world with AI and integrated sensors.

This revolutionary technology is unlike anything else on the market. It tracks brain and body activity, allowing users to monitor physical, social and cognitive health; it has real-time, in-ear translation in 27 languages to further open up communication for users around the world; and, earlier this year, fall detection and alerts were added. The hearing aid can actually detect when its user has fallen and automatically send alerts with the user’s location to predetermined emergency contacts.

While I often joke that in just a couple years hearing aids are going to be more like Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S., Starkey isn’t just using technology to boost the latest and greatest machines; we’re using it to change the entire hearing industry. As Starkey’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Achin Bhowmik says, this is the hearing aid’s Apple Moment. We’ve taken an already remarkable single-use device and revolutionized it into a multi-purpose Healthable™. Technology is changing the standard for hearing aids, and, in the process, improving people’s lives. That’s the power of technology.

And we’re not done yet.

Our work hasn’t stopped because there is so much work left to do. When we hear stats like 30,000 older adults die each year from fall-related injuries, when we see growing research linking hearing loss to cognitive decline, that’s motivation enough to continue innovating, to continue pushing ourselves and this industry forward.

When I came to Starkey more than two decades ago, I worked in the company’s All Make Repair and Earmold Lab. My job was to clean old hearing aids that needed repair. This job required tremendous attention to detail, but I looked at every hearing aid that came across my desk as a way to contribute to Bill’s greater vision. I too was helping people hear again. This is when I first started to think that innovation was the key to this business. Some day, innovation wouldn’t just set Starkey apart, it would change our entire industry and the way people reconnect to the world around them. I’m proud to say — that day is here.