I love storms. As a kid growing up in Southern Illinois, I was fascinated by the weather. I used to go outside and watch the storms roll in. You can feel the calm settling in before a storm – Mother Nature’s signal that something is on the way.

Another sign a storm is coming is that the cattle will huddle under a tree. Then, when the thunder and rain start, the cattle leave their cover and try to outrun the storm clouds. Obviously, their effort is fruitless. Instead of outrunning the storm, they run right along with it, trapped amid the chaos.

A buffalo reacts to storms differently. The herd stops, watches the storm come in and then, instead of trying to outrun it, they run directly towards it. They tackle it, head-on. Instinctively, they know they will get through it more quickly if they remain unwavering.

This story teaches us the importance of being brave enough to do what is hard when we’re staring down a storm, to remain steady amid the chaos.

Change is Opportunity

The hearing industry has had plenty of storms – disruptions that many thought would either change our industry for the worse or put us all out of business. It could have been a big name entering the market (or exiting it) or a big technological breakthrough. It could have been a shift in consumer habits or a shift in national health care policy like over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.

There have been very few times in our industry when a storm wasn’t on our doorstep. That’s business. That’s life. Change is the only constant. The variable is how we react. Do we act like cattle, or do we take the more tactical approach of the buffalo? Do we run in fear of the unknown or do we run towards the challenge and the light on the other side?

For me, change is about evolution. It’s an opportunity.

Light Beyond the Storm

We are at the beginning of the most exciting era in the history of hearing health. Despite the perceived storms the past few years – OTC hearing aids, a pandemic, new distribution channels – our industry is only growing. Global hearing aid sales were up 14% in January 2024 compared to the previous January. At Starkey, we outpaced that industry mark. In fact, Starkey RIC sales specifically outpaced industry growth by double.

This is just the beginning. The World Health Organization estimates 1.5 billion people around the world have hearing loss. By 2050, that number is expected to skyrocket to 2.5 billion. With the growing aging population, we have never had a bigger opportunity to help more people address their hearing loss.

Hearing technology has also never been more advanced. We are not only meeting the needs of the digital patient, we are exceeding them. For Starkey, Genesis AI laid the foundation of a new generation of technology. The potential is limitless. A hearing aid is now technology for connection, active aging and better living.

Is the relentless pursuit of what’s next going to be difficult? Yes. It should be. I’ve learned over my 30-year career that the comeback is always greater than the setback. We choose whether we move through it or get stuck in the storm. We can choose fear, or we stare into the storm and have the courage and vision to do what is hard and move forward. The latter is how you win the future. The latter is how you become an elite company. And, in our business, the latter is how you help the most people and transform an industry.

Our Time to Lead

You must think differently to move forward. You must question the instinct to run with the storm instead of through it. Starkey is ready to deliver on who we are, and when quality is our reputation and customer service is our brand, that is no small task. But when caring is at the core of everything you do, excellence must be the standard.

My goal for Starkey has never been to be the biggest; it is to be the best. That starts with product performance, operational excellence and best-in-class customer service. Starkey has the industry’s flagship product, and we are not slowing down. We are setting the pace of innovation, and we are meeting the patient where they are. From form factor to features, we are giving those with hearing loss the personalized hearing health solutions they need and deserve. And, mark my word, five years from now, Starkey will be ten years ahead.

Storms in life have a way of placing us exactly where we need to be. They move the cattle east and the buffalo farther west to the other side. Starkey has learned from the storms along the way. We have run through them, head on. A new era is underway at Starkey. Now, it is our time to lead.