December 27, 2023

These Founders’ Personal Journeys Led Them To Create A Next-Gen Hearing Aid That Integrates AI

Orka, a Chicago-based health tech firm, is redefining the hearing aid industry with its innovative Orka hearing aid. 

Founded in 2018 by Ben Sun, Chauncey Lu, Linkai Li, and Xinke Liu, Orka aims not only to enhance hearing but also to make hearing aids as user-friendly and desirable as AirPods.

Birthed from personal experience

During a family visit to China in 2017, Ben Sun, CEO, observed his grandmother struggling with her hearing.

He told Forbes that after spending $1000 on hearing aids for her, she stopped using them after a month. So drawing on his experience at Apple in product development, Sun set out to create hearing aids that were user-friendly.

Orka’s co-founder and Chief Communications Officer Xinke Liu is also driven by personal experience, having developed hearing loss at the age of 15.

 As Liu did not grow up learning American Sign Language (ASL) or Chinese Sign Language (CSL), she told Forbes that she had to rely on lip-reading before finally getting cochlear implants.

Along with their other co-founders, Sun and Liu aimed to address the stigmas associated with hearing loss while delivering a technologically advanced and stylish solution.

AI Tech and Sleek Design

Orka’s AI-powered hearing aids have automatic noise reduction and environment-switching capabilities, meaning they can easily adjust to various environments.

Unlike traditional hearing aids, Orka’s hearing aids connect to devices through Bluetooth 5.3 technology, similar to the Watch app on iOS and Android.

 “Throughout my own personal journey with hearing loss, I’ve learned the importance of ongoing and personalized support, which is why Orka Two has evolved out of empathy, so we can help customers adjust to, and make the most of, their hearing devices,” said Liu.

By focusing on user-friendly design and advanced technology, Orka aims to transform hearing aids into a fashion statement, making them as cool and desirable as mainstream tech products like AirPods.

The focus is accessibility

Orka users can also access free professional in-app hearing screening, ongoing consultations, and remote adjustments tailored to their individual hearing needs.

Sun told Forbes that Orka is working on a function that would allow people to attend audiology appointments with accredited audiologists remotely.

This would help make appointments more accessible for users but also points to Orka’s potential relevance to populations with other accessibility needs.

The team is also keen to experiment more with artificial intelligence as well as explore the uses of mixed reality.

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Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)