Starkey Quietly Released an OTC Hearing Aid (Kind Of)

November 30, 2022
Blake Cadwell
Written by
Blake Cadwell
Blake Cadwell

Blake Cadwell is a hearing aid wearer and co-founder at Soundly. He regularly tests and reviews hearing technology to share his experience with Soundly’s readers. Blake's research and perspectives have been featured in the The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, AARP and FastCompany.

Soundly Staff
Reviewed by
Soundly Staff
Soundly Staff

Soundly conducts in-depth research to guide prospective hearing aid wearers. Our work is funded through reader support. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Starkey is the 5th largest hearing aid maker globally and the only leading hearing aid manufacturer based in the U.S. The brand makes popular products like Starkey Evolv AI and they are widely viewed as the leader in custom-molded devices.  

Recently Starkey announced an OTC hearing aid called Start Hearing one. The product comes with some significant caveats.

Here's what we know.

Starkey is Not a Big Fan of OTC Hearing Aids

leading OTC hearing aids

Starkey has been publicly reluctant about the FDA's recent move to allow over-the-counter hearing aids. In a recent interview, the CEO of Starkey, Brandon Sawalich, clarified the company's position.

"Personally, I don't believe in OTCs; it's a way of getting around audiologists...These devices do not fit with the Starkey philosophy, but we will manufacture them. It will be one more option for our patients."

As Sony, Jabra, Bose, and other leading companies lend their name to new OTC devices, Starkey is joining the party with Start Hearing one. Start Hearing One is a simple hearing aid that could be compared to Lexie B1 Powered by Bose or Sontro (more on the differences below).

In theory, Start Hearing one is a promising OTC hearing aid option since it comes from one of the most respected names in hearing health.

But there are some caveats.

Start Hearing One is Only Available At Local Hearing Clinics

If you go to the Start Hearing website, you'll find that Start Hearing One is unavailable. Instead, you'll be prompted to enter your zip code to find a local provider.

I called the Start Hearing team, and they shared that Starkey currently only sells these lower-priced hearing aids through local audiology offices instead of retailers like Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS. Right now, you can't buy Start Hearing One online.

Ultimately this "OTC" hearing aid isn't really available unless you visit a doctor.

I respect Starkey's commitment to the audiologist's role in the hearing aid process. While I think the term "OTC" is a stretch, I'm confident that wearers who end up in the device will have excellent service and respectable underlying technology.

So Are Start Hearing One Hearing Aids Good?

Starkey OTC hearing aid app and device

Start Hearing one hearing aids come from one of the world's most respected names in hearing. The devices offer Bluetooth streaming from some phones and come with dual microphones.

The big drawback to Start Hearing one is that the devices are not customizable to your hearing loss.

Bose, Sony, Jabra, Eargo, and other OTC leaders have built-in technology that allows personalization based on your specific hearing loss needs. In contrast, Start Hearing one offers four pre-set sound settings.

Start Hearing one devices use a disposable battery that will need to be replaced every 5-7 days.

Final thoughts

Close up of Start Hearing one OTC hearing aids from Starkey

I respect Starkey for its history of innovations and ongoing leadership in custom-molded devices. I also like that Starkey is U.S. based.

In time Starkey will continue to explore new models of care and price options, but Start Hearing one isn't a product I'd be quick to suggest to friends or family. It's probably ok, but I wouldn't choose Start one over the other exciting options on the market.

I hope you've found this information helpful! If you've tried Start Hearing one we'd love to hear from you—send me a note at [email protected].

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