How one business professional is helping erase hearing loss stigma and making money.
For Daymond John, Shark Tank star, founder of FUBU and storied investor, he was unaware of a personal challenge until he attended a gala for the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Starkey, which makes hearing aids, was giving out free hearing tests. John decided to give it a try.
"I got my hearing checked and realized I was suffering, at some point, from hearing loss," John said. "I didn't want to face it; I didn't understand it."
The test opened John's eyes, not only to his own hearing loss, but to the extent of hearing loss in America, and the stigma that, unfortunately, can come with it. Nearly 50 million Americans, or 1 in 5 people over the age of 12, suffer from hearing loss. It's also the second most prevalent health issue globally, according to the Hearing Health Foundation.
As a frequenter of music events early in his career and an avid fan of loud music, John said he knew something was going on before he took the hearing test. Once his hearing loss was confirmed, John didn't shy away from the issue. Like any great entrepreneur, he dove right into this new challenge: Since the gala, John has been wearing Starkey hearing aids.
"It just made such a big difference in my everyday ability to communicate and what I didn't realize I was missing," he said. "I realize how much more effective I am. At the end of the day, communication is going to get me where I'm going."
Combatting a stigma
While John has benefitted from using Starkey's hearing aids, he's working with Starkey to raise awareness about hearing loss and its unfortunate stigma.
"I started to get more and more educated on the facts of hearing loss," he said. "It has a stigma, and young kids who shy away from academics in school … they can't really understand what the teacher's saying – they don't raise their hands."
John, who is dyslexic and is an advocate for learning disability awareness, said as he learned more about hearing loss, it became clear that he wanted to work with Starkey to address the social preconceptions attached with it. John's current hearing aids are bright red.
"I want people when they see me on TV, I want people to ask about them," he said. "I think the biggest thing is not that people don't realize they have hearing loss. I think the biggest thing is stigmatizing it [as] being so negative."
John has worked with Starkey and other celebrities and organizations, like the New York Yankees and the Wilf Family Foundation, to raise awareness and even provide free hearing aids to individuals with hearing loss.
Starkey's high-tech hearing aids
As for his own hearing aids, John started with Starkey's Halo hearing aids and now uses Starkey's Livio AI, which is built out with artificial intelligence and a lifestyle app. John said he uses several features daily, like streaming TV audio, listening to music, adjusting settings to focus on a single person's speech, translating languages and streaming audiobooks. John said he also uses the locate feature, which allows him to find each hearing aid in case they get lost. All of these features are controlled through Starkey's smartphone app called Thrive Assistant.
In addition to these features, Starkey hearing aids come with voice-to-text transcription, fitness and health tracking, Alexa compatibility, and even fall detection and alert capability. The technology in Starkey's hearing aids goes beyond just restoring hearing, and John said these features have made using the devices convenient.
For John, working with Starkey has helped shine a light on an important issue. He also has been able to benefit from combatting his own hearing loss.
"Ever since I put them in, I can't live without them," he said.