In recent months we have covererd many new over-the-counter (OTC) aids. The FDA published guidelines last fall for retail locations to sell hearing aids for mild-to-moderate hearing loss without a prescription. We wrote about OTC aids from Nuheara, Sony, and Bose, among others. Traditional hearing aid companies did not sit back, watching the show while the new class of accessible hearing devices emerged. For example, Phonak introduced new hearing aid sizing and sound quality features. In late February 2023, Starkey introduced what the company describes as its smallest, most reliable, and true-to-life sounding hearing aids.

You can’t buy Starkey Genesis AI hearing aids without a prescription. For most people the way to try and possibly buy the new Starkey aids is with a medical appointment for assessment and fitting with an audiologist. Starkey doesn’t publish prices, unlike the OTC companies, but you can count on paying more than for non-prescription hearing aids. However — especially if you have severe to profound hearing loss — you likely need the help of a qualified audiologist and powerful, AI-driven, contemporary hearing aids from a traditional manufacturer via a prescription.

What makes Starkey’s Genesis AI hearing aids so special? The Genesis AI has the ability to mimic the human cerebral cortex by “filling in” missing sound that we do not hear. According to Starkey, Genesis AI uses the all-new Starkey Neuro Processor that is up to 4 times faster than previous Starkey processors thanks to 6 times more transistors, and 5 to 10 times the computational and non-volatile memory, respectively. In addition to new sound qualities, Starkey’s Genesis AI introduces new designs plus patients can fully adjust their hearing aids with the new My Starkey App. Starkey also includes 3D sensors in the Genesis AI aids to count steps, detect falls, and send alerts. Your audiologist will also use new fitting software, Pro Fit, to adjust the hearing aids to best match your needs.

Economists Kenneth Arrow and Joseph Schumpeter generally get credit for the idea that competition spurs innovation. If that concept is correct, Starkey’s Genesis AI, replete with innovative technologies, may owe a nod to the market pressure from the OTC Hearing Aid Act. If you do have severe to profound hearing loss — you probably know already if you do — OTC devices likely aren’t for you because they may not be sufficiently powerful, sensitive, and adjustable for your needs.