There’s nothing particularly sexy about the prospect of wearing a hearing aid. That is, not unless that aid is the sleek, chic brainchild of club owner and music aficionado Ronnie Madra. The co-founder of 1Oak and Up&Down, after making a name for himself in the music industry as a renowned DJ and club owner, is now making waves on the tech stage with his latest project, EAROS ONE. The in-ear gadget allows for total hearing protection while offering up the the highest quality sound by filtering and attenuating sound to protect your hearing from dangerously high decibels. Here, Madra shares the story behind EAROS ONE, the product totally revolutionizing the way we enjoy concerts, go to clubs, and, the way Madra sees it, the way we just have a killer good time.
This journey obviously started with your own love for music. How did you get started in the industry?
I used to be a DJ before it went viral the way it is today. We were lugging vinyl around, you know what I mean. I played in a lot of clubs around the world and I DJ’ed at my own gigs where I produced events. Soon, it evolved from being an event producer and DJ to more just club promotions. Then I opened up my first club – 1Oak – in 2007 with my partners Richie Akiva, Scott Sartiano, and Jeffrey Jah.
When did you really start turning your attention to music and sound from a health standpoint?
As we get older, we tend to become more conscious of our health and our mortality. I was told about ten years ago that if I didn’t protect my hearing because of what I do, that I’d have hearing damage, and I didn’t listen to it. It wasn’t an immediate problem. I’ve just always been a very firm believer in having a good time, and I’ve created many experiences not just domestically but globally. And these environments have been amazing at one level – really rewarding and exciting and fun – but then the one thing that stuck around is tinnitus, which is this ringing in the ears.
So this all kind of started with your own experience dealing with hearing problems in the music industry. This is different, I assume, from the hearing loss that we’re mostly familiar with, which is more age-related, right?
It is. You have MIHL, which is music-induced hearing loss, and you have NIHL, which is noise-induced hearing loss. And these things occur in different times and moments of people’s lives. City living, concerts, festivals, theaters – anything that has a lot of sound and music can be an issue. And this is something that hasn’t really been addressed. It’s not a really cool thing to say that you’re losing your hearing, especially when you’re a rock star, or a musician or a DJ, because the image is that you’re cool – you’re immortal; untouchable.
Okay, so you went through this experience, and then decided you wanted to work on something to address this issue. What were some of your first thoughts here?
I knew I needed everything to fall under several categories. I wanted to have acoustical resonance, fidelity, clarity, protection, comfort, price effectiveness, and accessibility. And I wanted all of that without sacrificing visual style.
What was the process of actually developing EAROS ONE like once you guys got started?
I was told by many people that it couldn’t be done. They said that you could not get the highest level of protection without compromising the full spectrum of sound. But we have the smartest minds in audiology, engineering, and acoustics working on this. We work with a very impressive company out of MIT called Acentech that basically did all the treatments and testing on placement and materials. And it’s cool because this doesn’t have any batteries or wires. There’s just a lot of really amazing things that we did to get the product to be as functional as it is.
In addition to the components you mentioned before, was there anything else that was especially important for you to do right during the development process?
Getting the right manufacturer domestically was a very important part of this project. EAROS ONE is made in New York, and the product really is basically for people who come into our midst as New Yorkers. We’re known to be tough and loud, and rock really hard.
How is this really different than other products like it that are currently on the market?
We’re trying to get away from the word “earplug.” We are not an earplug company. That’s an ugly word, and we don’t want to plug anything; we don’t want to isolate anything. We want to enhance and protect.
How has launching a Kickstarter campaign around EAROS ONE helped bring this vision to fruition?
Kickstarter is basically a marketing tool to kind of gage how the general public feels about it. Everyone in my database – all of my friends, family, investors, and backers – loves it. My entire company, which is 750 people, all prescribe to it. We’ve already gotten a ton of traction on the campaign (with 22 days to go, EAROS ONE has already reached its campaign funding goal of $99,000, with almost 700 backers to date) and we really want to go viral now. We want this to hit the masses, and for people to see that this is affordable and accessible. EAROS ONE really is for everybody who likes to have a good time, whether you’re 15 years old or 45.
What do you hope to accomplish with EAROS ONE?
This company isn’t about making money. This is all about education, and to put a responsible product onto the market – one that happens to also look really cool. I don’t want to be a fear monger or use scare tactics to make people buy this. I don’t want to tell people, “Don’t go out and do this,” or “Don’t do that, because you’ll lose your hearing.” What I want to answer is the question, “How can we maintain what we’re doing and what we love to do, but do it safely?” I want people to have a little more foresight, which I didn’t have before but now have thanks to my experience. But how we can spread that perspective without waiting for people to have the same experience? That’s why the level of education and awareness is very important. I mean, some of our most memorable moments are loud. Let’s keep those moments coming, but do it right.
To show your love for the product revolutionizing hearing protection (and to snag your own EAROS ONE!), visit kickstarter.com
And to learn more about EAROS ONE and how the product filters sound to let you enjoy the loudest moments you love without compromising safety and style, visit earosacoustic.com.