Musicians are renowned for being a reckless bunch. If there’s something we’re especially good at, it’s being sweaty, wearing tight pants, sticking it to the man, and playing way too loud. Often we’re too busy shredding to take care of our precious ears, or maybe you’re a hard nut who considers wearing earplugs ‘soft’. Either way, few of us stop to consider the impact that our craft as relentless noisemakers can have upon our livelihood. As a musician, you’re four times more likely to develop issues such as tinnitus in your lifetime. Are we really willing to put our ears at risk just for a bit more ‘me’ in the mix? Have we not learned from Beethoven?
“Audeara’s about trying to make music perfect for everybody,” says Dr. James Fielding, CEO of Audeara, a newly minted name in the headphone market with an emphasis on preventing hearing loss and creating a unique listening experience for every user. “Few of us realise that we all hear differently, so we tried to create a pair of headphones that would change the way people listened to music.”
Unlike other big-name headphone impresarios, Fielding is actually a real doctor, boasting an impressive background in audiology as well as being a professional musician himself. Drawing from his illustrious medical experience as well as painful onstage memories, he and co-founder Dr. Chris Jeffrey launched Audeara in 2014 with the intention to create a meticulously tailored headphone experience and educate music lovers on the woes of hearing damage.
“When we started up Audeara, it was all about making health sexy,” Fielding says. “The people who love music – musicians who play and listen to music every day – they’re the ones going deaf, and that’s what I wanted to fix. You’re going to have a better experience by knowing your hearing habits, and tailoring the sound so it fits better, not louder.”
By implementing a sophisticated software interface linked to a smartphone app, Audeara headphones run a listening test upon their first use, saving the data of the test within the headphones themselves and adjusting sound signals to suit the listener’s own hearing profile. This results in a personalised reproduction of sound to create a refined musical experience for the listener, with the headphones also saving an audiogram which can be used to track and prevent long-term hearing loss.
“Our headphones actually run a full graphic EQ hearing test, whereas most other hearing tests tend to just focus on the six point frequency range deemed important for hearing human speech,” Fielding explains. “Audeara’s hearing test can target up to 32 points per ear, so you’re basically running a mixing desk for your headphones, with the results being completely different for every single person.”
Audeara’s unique fusion of medicine and music can also be pinpointed through their use of a unique attenuation model, just like the one you use to tame your big old beefy Marshall stack. Instead of increasing overall gain and red-lining across the frequency range, Audeara’s attenuation model effectively maximises the overall intensity of your musical signal without any distortion, resulting in enhanced clarity and richness even when listening to the murkiest of mixes.
“By using an attenuation model, we’re essentially turning all the frequencies down and _ nding a perfect balance between what you hear really well and what you struggle to hear,” says Fielding. “This basically makes everything sound better without increasing the overall volume, which is obviously a precursor to prolonged hearing loss.”
In addition to designing game-changing headphones, Fielding is also determined for Audeara to crush the stigma surrounding hearing protection, appealing for musicians and audiophiles in particular to help him pave the way.
“What we want to usher in as a company is how important it is to care, because it shouldn’t have to reduce your experience – caring should make it better. There’s just as many thirty year olds with hearing problems as there is seventy year olds, and it’s just stupid ultimately, because it’s preventable,” says Fielding. “If you care about your instruments, or care about how your mix sounds, you should definitely care about your hearing. If you’ve got green tea in your dressing room, you should be wearing earplugs.”
Evidently, people are listening to the virtues extolled by Audeara, with the company’s first batch of headphones launching to huge success through crowdfunding platform Kickstarter last year. Although Audeara headphones are currently only available online and in Attune Hearing audiology clinics across Australia, Fielding expresses his desire to move into the consumer market before the release of their next models.
“Our KickStarter launched on March 1st 2017, and people really saw the value in what we were doing, which was incredible. We hit $100,000 in pledges on the first day, which was really quite amazing. Twelve months later, and we’re shipping to over 60 countries around the world. We really wanted normal people to care about their experience and get involved with us, and it obviously worked.
“Audeara’s a mix of the things I really love – medicine and music – and I’ve essentially built a job where I get to do both.”
For more information on Audeara, visit audeara.com.