In Norway alone, almost 30 percent of musicians struggle with tinnitus and hearing impairment. For the founders of Minuendo, the solution was obvious: providing a way for musicians to protect their ears better.
It’s a proven fact that musicians are prone to hearing damage – it is, after all, the most common occupational injury in the world, not exclusive to the music industry. Besides the lack of awareness around the topic, the reality is that avoiding loud sound is not always possible, nor necessarily desirable.
With the problem at hand, Tom Trones and three other co-founders of Minuendo worked on making adjustable earplugs to contribute to reducing hearing damage.
“Experiencing music physically is very emotionally powerful – having the kick drum surge in your chest at a concert is a feeling that is hard to beat.” Tom himself has done live sound engineering at concerts, but while he understands the satisfaction of “blasting it”, he still needs to keep it at safe levels.
With passion for music, art and technology, our friends at Minuendo have developed a device that protects your ears without compromising on sound quality.
Tom Trones: We met when we were separately recruited to commercialize research done at one of Europe’s largest research institutions, SINTEF. We didn’t really know each other that well, but we clicked right away on a personal level.
Besides myself, the co-founders include Olav Kvaløy, Chief Scientist at Minuendo – over the last several decades he’s worked on some of the world’s most advanced hearing protection technologies and solutions; Håkon Breivik, VP Engineering, who was the key to Minuendo receiving the prestigious Red Dot Design award; and last but not least, CEO Stian Aldrin, a serial entrepreneur and the person who keeps us on our feet as a company.
TT: I played guitar in a metal band from the age of fifteen and we had extremely loud rehearsals. I used regular cheap foam earplugs, but the sound quality just ruined the experience. Luckily, I invested in custom-molded hearing protectors, which was the best option at the time, but they have their own challenges. I’ve written about my experiences with custom-molded earplugs here.
I see many musicians and others in the industry, including those whom I personally know, struggle with using hearing protection. Most are very particular about not interfering with their tone and expression.
“I see many musicians… struggle with using hearing protection. Most are very particular about not interfering with their tone and expression.”
Many concert goers also cannot tolerate loud sound, or have tinnitus but still want to attend the concerts and experience the sound the way it is supposed to be heard, just at a lower volume. So there is a definite need for earplugs that are as transparent as possible, to meet the needs of both the performers, and the concert-goers who choose to protect their hearing. And that has been one of our design goals at Minuendo.
TT: We started the company with blueprints from the research project, which included a design that was validated to a certain extent.
3D printing was essential to our process, and the technology had just been able to reach the precision and accuracy that we needed. After close to one hundred prototypes, we had managed to create a design that was miniaturized, simplified, more robust, elegant, and designed for manufacturing.
TT: Our ambition is to be the leading provider of systems that care for and enrich the sense of hearing. It is such an important sense, and one that is generally overlooked. We believe we are well-positioned to make a real impact on this significant problem of hearing protection.
TT: We launched in Norway in late 2020, and we’ve been receiving wonderful feedback ever since. Positive comments are coming from some of Norway’s most prominent musicians, from various genres such as classical music, jazz and progressive metal.
“We were amazed to discover that some professional sound engineers, without any link to our brand, have written detailed reviews.”
Based on the comments we are already noticing, we’re very happy and proud of where we are today. It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work to get to this point, so it feels great to see our labor has been well-received and already helping people mitigate hearing loss. From what we’re hearing from users, the best is yet to come.
Since their launch in Norway, Minuendo has been receiving inquiries from all over the world, asking about how customers can purchase outside of Norway.
Soundbrenner team is helping to facilitate international sales and reach the wider market, especially to the community of musicians.
Want to know how to prevent hearing damage?
Check out this article
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