Last month my practice partners and audiology staff went up to Minnesota to tour the Starkey headquarters. Starkey is the leading manufacturer of fully custom and programmable off-the-shelf digital hearing aids. Their worldwide headquarters is just outside of Minneapolis. What an impressive facility!
It is amazing to see exactly how their 24 hour operation can receive orders and construct a 100% customized hearing device in less than 4 days.
Key technology that allows this is the massive computing and hardware power allowing for fully customized 3D digital modeling and rapid stereo lithography (“3D printing”). Furthermore, round-the-clock engineers and technicians are manually placing the tiny microprocessors and components into your custom aid before going through a final round of quality testing.
Equally impressive are two separate wings of the campus: a truly high-tech troubleshooting and quality control lab that is charged with making aids more durable and determining causes for failure. An array of photomicrography and cross sectioning instruments allows the lab to pinpoint potential microchip failures, while several micro environments have been created to artificially “age” devices to ensure they remain salt, water, and wax resistant.
Their second remarkable facility is full-on R&D. Starkey spends almost $100M annually on research and development, the majority of which happens in Minnesota and California. The labs work on tweaking current projects as well as developing the devices that won’t be ready for another 5 years or so. This includes everything from industrial design of the shells, to microcircuitry, to microphone/receiver research, to Bluetooth wireless, to iPhone apps.
For Starkey’s robustness in quality, design, and service we see them as a strategic partner for ensuring a truly optimal experience for our patients.
The days of lousy poorly-fitting noisy hearing aids are numbered!