One of the companies I’ve found to be very interesting to follow in the hearing healthcare space is SonicCloud. I was first introduced to SonicCloud at an industry trade show a few years ago, where Chief Customer Experience Officer, Larry Guterman, walked me through the software that the company was building, and helped to lay out the vision of what SonicCloud was aspiring to do. To really understand what SonicCloud is attempting to do, it might make sense to first know why the company started.
Larry lives with severe hearing loss. He shared with me the story from his youth when he experienced sudden hearing loss (at a very loud party in college), which has progressively depreciated over the span of his adult life. While Larry has been a hearing aid wearer for much of that time, he was frustrated by the solutions available for the more non-ambient sounds that one hears throughout the day, such as phone calls.
So, Sonitum (the makers of SonicCloud) set out on a mission to create modern solutions for various use cases tailored to people like Larry living with various degrees of hearing loss, who might find them appealing. First, the company built a highly accurate hearing assessment on the iPhone (and Android), developed in conjunction with experts in audiology and neuroscience, along with a proprietary VoIP calling application (like Skype or Whatsapp) that directly leveraged the hearing profile resulting from the hearing assessment to allow the user to personalize the sound coming from those calls.
Next came an app for Mac computers, designed to use the same hearing profile captured on the smartphone hearing assessment. The user would simply plug any type of headphone in their Mac and SonicCloud’s algorithms would go to work to personalize the sound coming from the computer to the user’s personalized hearing profile.
While the baseline test that all users must take should prove sufficient, SonicCloud provides for more granular levels of personalization. Hearing loss is about so much more than just, “turning up the volume.” Sonic Cloud’s signal processing engine and the ability for the user to hone in on specific phonemes (i.e. S’s and P’s), allows for a deep level of customization to fine-tune one’s hearing profile.
While the first use case on the iPhone allowed for the personalization of audio while using the company’s VoIP phone call service, Mac users can filter virtually all the sound coming from their computer, meaning users can watch Netflix or YouTube with their profiles turned on, or listen to music (Spotify, Pandora) podcasts and audio-books through their Mac, using their SonicCloud personalized profile. I think it’s a safe bet that the SonicCloud smartphone app will grow to encompass more sounds that can run through Sonic Cloud’s filter and personalize the sound for the user (Podcasts? Video? Etc), and that the desktop/laptop solution will expand to Windows PC’s.
As I became more familiar with SonicCloud, it finally dawned on me that the company was effectively building what I tend to think of as a, “hearing aid for your digital environment.” That’s why the recent news that Sonic Cloud can now import audiograms from Apple Health into the SonicCloud app and be used as the user’s hearing profile is so exciting to me.
From the user’s standpoint, this creates a level of consistency that people might find appealing. Hearing aid wearers can simply import the same audiogram configuration issued by their hearing care provider that is used in one’s physical hearing aids to also filter their, “digital acoustic environment.”
“We’re so excited to be able to integrate audiograms from Apple Health into our end-to-end solution, and to be able to instantly demonstrate to the user the benefit of customization” said Larry. “From our perspective it supercharges the visibility and importance of Hearing Health to the general population, given Apple’s reach.”
From the provider’s standpoint, SonicCloud might make sense to involve (or at least mention) during the fitting process as another way to extend the provider’s value on the basis of service. I can only speculate here as I am not a hearing care provider, but as we as a society become more tethered to the audio-internet – be it podcasts, TV/Movie/Music streaming, audiobooks, etc – SonicCloud can be positioned as the Yin to the hearing aid’s Yang. Whereas the hearing aid serves as one’s ambient filter, SonicCloud can filter the sounds coming from one’s digital environment.
One device, filtering two different types of acoustic environments with consistency across both.
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