The irony of life as a musician is that with more and more exposure to sound, your hearing deteriorates. It’s a sad and cruel truth, but a truth none the less. History would tell you that Australians, like they do with most things, have typically had a lax attitude toward hearing loss prevention. Fortunately, that’s all set to change, with one of the world’s leaders in musician specific hearing loss prevention poised to hit the Australian music playing community in a big way. From Chicago to Melbourne, and via Japan, Sensaphonics is a truly global brand, and the opening of their manufacturing lab and office in the Victorian capital marks the next bold step for the company. Operating under the name of Sensaphonics AU, directors Ryota Tanaka and Miko Raimundo have set out to save Australia’s hearing from the clutches of irreparable damage.
Upon arriving at the Sensaphonics AU headquarters in Melbourne I was surprised to find that the new manufacturing lab was also located in the same room. What I had envisioned to be a larger factory-like operation is in reality three desks where Ryota plies his trade, each in-ear monitor and earplug by hand. It might seem a laborious, but this is a man who is incredibly passionate about his work, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think it’s kind of [Sensaphonic’s] style. We [are] small and have a warm, family-style feeling,” says Ryota, as Miko chimes in; “As opposed to massively corporate sort of set ups, which goes hand in hand with the personalised, customised nature of the product itself as well.”
The small operation does not mean that they are slower to manufacture their products than other overseas competitors though. When the lab is fully operational, Sensaphonics AU will be able to have a one month turnaround from when an order is placed to when it is fulfilled. When ordering from overseas it can take up to two months, and sometimes even longer. Being a local Australian business is something that Miko takes pride in and he hopes that the customers can take pride in their product being Australian made as well. Upon making the decision to expand the business, Ryota felt that Australia, where he had graduated from high school, would be as good a place as any to set up shop based on a number of factors.
“I was really good friends with his then girlfriend, now wife, and I knew about [Ryota], and we met once at an after party of a high school formal, but we never really talked before. Long story short, seven years later I get a message from his girlfriend saying that he’s coming down to Melbourne, so we caught up and I saw him again. Ryota also sighted Australian culture as a reason to bring Sensaphonics down under, with a societal focus on a healthy lifestyle - hearing protection omitted from this focus - and a ‘generational’ interest in concert going both part of it. “There needs to be a big cultural shift in order for people in Australia to really realise how dangerous some of these [sound] levels can be,” says Miko.
“Australian culture likes healthy food, people care about their health more than other countries,” says Ryota before Miko follows on, “So why not your aural health as well?” Sensaphonics AU is hoping to make this ‘cavalier’ attitude towards hearing health disappear, as Ryota notes “as we expand [in Australia], it will probably be quicker than in other countries.” When questioned on whether good hearing health habits could become standard, Miko responded: “Why not? If you’re going to say that about your body internally, well the ear is part of your body as well, right?”
Ryota Tanaka has a long history with Sensaphonics, and his commitment and passion for protecting hearing has led him all around the globe. Since finishing high school in Victoria he has turned a full circle, landing back in Melbourne with Sensaphonics AU. His interest in speakers led him to study acoustics and sound engineering at Columbia College in Chicago, which is where he met Sensaphonics founder and audiologist Michael Santucci. He then returned to his home country, where he handled the marketing for Sensaphonics Japan, a role he was selected for because of his background in acoustics and sound engineering. As the brand continues to expand worldwide, Ryota finds himself back in Melbourne heading up the team at Sensaphonics AU.
The main goal of Ryota and Miko in Australia is to spread awareness about aural health and the need to protect the ears, especially those of a musician. Since its formation in Chicago in 1985 Sensaphonics has always been focused on the protection of hearing, a passion that is best seen through their ‘Softer & Safer’ policy, which their entire company is based around. They use medical-grade silicon to make their in-ear monitors and earplugs, ensuring premium-hearing protection in all conditions. These products aren’t just for musicians though, Sensaphonics works with NASA and professional car racing teams as well as providing communications equipment for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board Options Exchange, and The Chicago Board of Trade. Most importantly, Sensaphonics AU works to ensure that we can enjoy our music at a sustainable level without ruining our hearing. “The point is to protect your hearing, and to not go deaf from listening to great music,” says Miko.
For more information about Sensaphonics head to www.sensaphonics.com.au.