Music…it’s something we probably all take for granted, from the sound of a deep bass note to the perfect pitch of a high C. Music helps us put a soundtrack to the important (and irrelevant moments) of our lives. It colours our world with every trill and drum beat.
But imagine if that soundtrack was muted, if some notes were absent or if only the treble was present. Suddenly that soundtrack is less appealing. And that’s how it is for 3.6 million Aussies who suffer from some form of hearing loss.
What if we could change that?
That’s exactly the mission of Dr James Fielding, CEO and founder of Audeara, a full-fidelity headphone that is revolutionising the market by providing a completely personalised listening experience.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, the consumer electronics startup has announced its sound-perfecting headphones have entered the Australian retail space through a partnership with the country’s largest privately-owned audiology company, Attune Hearing.
Fielding hopes the move will allow him to bring his groundbreaking audio technology to the masses. He was inspired to found Audeara following interactions with patients whose hearing loss could have been preventable.
“We started out creating a medical device. My buddy and I were given a scholarship to try to fix the public health system in Queensland. The journey was to create a hearing test device to help people have access to hearing health information,” Fielding explains.
“In Queensland especially, people could drive ten-twelve hours to see an audiologist and sit in a room just to hear a beep, and it made no sense. So, we decided to put all the tech inside a pair of headphones so you can have a hearing test at any time.”
Whilst developing the tech, Fielding realised there was an opportunity to expand the use of the headphones to deliver a tailored audio experience for the listerner.
“We started on a prevention message rather than an identification message. I’ve been a musician all my life, I understand the damage that excessive noise can have on your hearing. We’ve all been there… Standing in front of the speakers at a concert and we come away at the end of the night with our ears ringing.”
According to Fielding that sound is your ears begging you to lay off the noise and give them a rest. And it’s this gradual hearing loss that is becoming a significant problem for generations of Australians. Noise induced hearing loss can happen to anyone, young or old and it’s a significant contributor to the haring problems of many Australians. A study by Hearing Australia showed 60 per cent of young Aussies had experienced tinnitus. That ringing sound means the noise was loud enough to damage their hearing. Fielding suggests it’s time to wise up.
“Recent stats show there are just as many 15-year-olds with hearing loss as old people with hearing loss. So, what can we do about it?” he asks.
Fielding says he is on a mission to change the way people care for their hearing. Much of the damage we do to our hearing is preventable and often caused by ignorance. Hearing Australia’s study showed 30 per cent of young Australians think their ears will heal after internal damage, and 10 per cent believe that a doctor can fix hearing loss without assistive aids. This is inaccurate, and Fielding thinks it’s time we heard the truth.
Obviously, the best cure for hearing loss is prevention – but Fielding acknowledges sometimes the damage may have already been done. And that’s where Audeara delivers some relief. Imagine headphones attuned to your personal hearing needs. Everyone hears differently. Your left ear hears differently to your right ear. Audeara allows you to test your hearing and then programs your headphones to suit your results, delivering a completely personalised audio profile for your headset.
“Using the Audeara app, we measure these differences so you can visualise and track your unique hearing profile as it changes over time. From there, your hearing profile is programmed into your Audeara headphones, which learn how to tailor the music to meet your individual needs.
“The software and algorithms behind the headphones incorporate world-class technology that will not only improve the quality of music but allow users to consistently check their hearing and monitor for any sound-induced hearing loss. We put the user at the heart of the music experience by focusing on what really matters – what you can hear – to bring the joy of music to all people, regardless of their hearing capabilities.”
For first time users, the result can sometimes be overwhelming as they experience new parts in their favourite songs or hear sounds they didn’t ever realise were missing. The headphones can also be used with hearing aids and cochlear implants allowing those with more extensive hearing loss to experience music with real clarity once more.
The product has immediately taken off, finding a market with musicians, music lovers and within the hearing-impaired community.
Fielding tells KBB the product was recently accepted for registration for the NDIS meaning people with hearing impairment or other issues such as autism can now claim the cost of the headphones with the scheme.
“We’re looking forward to giving people who are living with hearing loss the chance to hear music in perfect balance.”