Summer time is the festival and concert season. Live events bring a lot of fun, but can also have consequences for our hearing. Jackson Mann from Minneapolis (US) had to learn it the hard way – and decided to develop his own earplugs. For our series INTERVIEW the successful start-up founder has told us how it happened.
Jackson, what is your connection to the topics of hearing and hearing loss?
Back in 2014, I was close to a speaker at a concert and ended up rupturing my eardrum due to the loud sound. Being a frequent concert goer, I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again. So I looked for a solution and like most people grabbed a pair of foam earplugs. After putting them in, I instantly realized they destroyed the sound quality and are not designed for music. That is why I started to do research on hearing damage during live events.
How did you come up with the idea to create your own earplugs?
My personal injury from damaging decibels was the catalyst behind Vibes. In addition to being a frequent concert goer, I also spent time in various roles within the music industry. Although some similar products existed, I realized they had never been marketed to me. Many focused heavily on the more niche market of musicians not on concert goers. Seeing this large gap in the market is what ultimately led me to develop Vibes.
What is special about your Vibes High-Fidelity earplugs?
Vibes Hi-Fi Earplugs were created to enhance the live music experience by lowering decibel levels of your sound environment without sacrificing sound clarity. This is done through a special sound tube and sound-enhancing acoustic filters that balance and modify the sound waves properly. Whether that it is a concert, sporting event, festival, or any loud venue, this wearable tech allows you to hear the music exactly the way it was intended to be heard, only without the damaging decibels that cause your ears to ring and become damaged.
You were on the TV show Shark Tank early this year. How was your experience?
Defending a business plan or making an investment pitch is nerve wracking in normal circumstances. Doing it with no notes, no slides, no pleasantries, on camera, in front of celebrity investors, on a national stage of 6 million viewers is a whole different thing. It was definitely the most intense experience of my life. I was able to receive an offer for investment, but rejected.
Did the show affect your business?
The exposure from the show gave us the visbility we needed. We sold out of product within a few days of airing and were on back order for months. The feedback also has helped us focus on the hearing benefits of Vibes in many other areas. Specifically for those who suffer from hypersensitivity issues as a result of autism or anxiety, work in dental offices, tend bars or use it for other occupational reasons – all where decibel levels need to be reduced, but there is still a need to hear speech clearly.
You are supporting the HTWF by donating parts of your revenue. Why?
As I was conducting research, I naturally was also becoming educated on the effects of all types of hearing impairments– especially for children. Without proper diagnosis, treatment and education, they are trapped in a cycle of improper language development, communication and learning. We see Vibes as a virtuous cycle, giving our customers the opportunity to not only protect their own hearing but also give others the power to hear.
Tips to protect your hearing at concerts and festivals:
- Always wear earplugs – good ones won’t reduce your sound experience.
- Do not stand too close to the stage or loudspeakers.
- Use smartphone apps to measure ambient noise levels.
- Avoid continuous exposure to loud noise and make a conscious effort to build in rest breaks for your ears between concerts.
- Drink enough water. This improves the flow of blood to the hair cells in the cochlea, thus helping our sense of hearing to function.
- After leaving a noisy environment, give your ears at least 10 hours time to rest.
If you experience tinnitus anyway, go and see a physician immediately if the problem persists.