Hearing Enhancement and Personalization with Software: Interview with SonicCloud’s Larry Guterman

May 24, 2022

In this week’s episode, Larry Guterman joins Dave Kemp to talk about personalized audio and how it can benefit people with and without hearing loss.

Larry is the co-founder of SonicCloud, which provides a software solution that helps custom tailor the audio experience for users on both mobile and desktop devices.

Full Episode Transcript

Dave Kemp 0:09
Okay, everyone, and welcome to another episode of This Week in Hearing, I’m joined by my good buddy, Larry Guterman. Larry, tell everybody a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Larry Guterman 0:19
Cool. Yeah. So I’m Larry Guterman. And I’m the co-founder of SonicCloud. And I have hearing loss, we’ve had it since college, mild and the low frequencies to pretty severe and the highs. And SonicCloud is a sort of technology company, whose goal is to personalize sound for people with all levels of hearing loss, and doing so on digital platforms mainly, so that computer and and the smartphone as well.

Dave Kemp 0:55
Yeah, I remember when we first met Larry was like four years ago now, which is kind of crazy to think about. And what really blew me away about SonicCloud was that, you know, I think for like a long time, the preconceived notion of a hearing aid has been like, you know, corrected audio for your ambient acoustic environment, like your real world settings. And I remember this aha moment, I had this epiphany when I was talking to you of like, you know, we spend so much time of our lives now. And this was four years ago. So this is just even more pronounced now, especially after the pandemic of in our virtual world in our digital settings. And so what I’ve always thought of SonicCloud is sort of almost like a hearing aid for your digital acoustic environments. It’s that audio augmentation for all the different sounds that come out of your computer, come out of your phone, and all that. And so wanted to just kind of bring you on today, as somebody that’s been, you know, operating in this space for a little while to get a sense of like, what’s going on at Sonic cloud these days. But I guess first, I’d ask, like, did I sum that up properly? Is that Is that a fair way to describe SonicCloud?

Larry Guterman 2:06
Yeah, I think no, that was great. And we sort of worked our way from the concept of, you know, what if you could pick, you know, the basic functionality of the, you know, $8,000 device, and for as a complement to that device, which is for the live acoustic environment, you know, have a solution that also works for digital digital platforms. And, and so the trajectory of SonicCloud really started out on mobile, but really has moved to the computer now. And that’s because of the you know, we started out with a hearing test and with sound personalization on the phone, that’s now moved to the computer, because one of the big areas that has actually been accelerated by the pandemic, is in the area of workplace accessibility during a time of remote work and hybrid work. And so, we found that employees at companies who were the CDC estimates, I think 12% of the workforce has some form of hearing loss, it makes it difficult for them to understand if they’re on Zoom calls all day long, or they’re on, you know, at call centers, with auditory fatigue or Zoom fatigue, and a certain percentage of them have hearing difficulties, that becomes an issue that can be supported and, and helped. And we provide a solution that helps in that regard. So

Dave Kemp 3:26
I think it’s cool, because, you know, when I, again, going back to when we first met, I know that like, the very first thing that you had was the desktop application. And I know, that’s like where your focus really is. But at that time, you were kind of moving toward the app and the mobile use cases. And it’s interesting that you’ve kind of pivoted back over largely to the to the computer. And I totally agree with what you’re saying here with, you know, workplace accessibility, I think is, there’s a lot of really exciting things. I think, that pertains to this type of use case, because I think like, in my opinion, one of the most, like, impactful aspects of that is that it’s this whole exposure piece. I think that, you know, one of the things with hearing loss is, you know, particularly that gradual type of hearing loss that creeps up on people. It’s not even denial, I think it’s something that’s even it precedes that it’s like just complete, you know, unawareness to what’s happening. And so I think that what’s really interesting is that workplace accessibility, I think, serves as a really interesting environment for people to be exposed to sort of like, sound augmentation in kind of get a sense of like, Oh, I’m missing more than I even realized. Do you get that sense too?

Larry Guterman 4:55
Absolutely. Yeah. So it’s sort of like you say, the boiling frog syndrome where people are developing almost unconsciously coping mechanisms and strategies while they’re just very slowly losing their hearing you know whether they’re cricking their neck in a, in a live situation or whether they’re, you know, turning the volume up on their, their headphones. They’re, and they’re starting to lose a little bit of clarity, but they’re not quite perceiving the nature of it. Yeah. So I think there are people, I think there are like several co several use cases in the work environment is the Zoom call that we’re having right now. There’s online training, there’s call centers, there’s, you know, if you’re taking a break music appreciation, whatever, whatever it is, you know, and then the cohorts themselves are the people, you have one set of folks who self identify with hearing loss, who will actively proactively go out for accommodations, those are people who, you know, their ADA guideline for those folks and you know, you should go out you should get captions you should get SonicCloud, you should, you know, that’s a very small percentage of people who actually could benefit from sound personalization. First of all, there are people who are going to be if they know they have hearing loss, but they may also be afraid to acknowledge it in the work environment, they’re afraid they’re gonna lose their job. I mean, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who said, you know, gosh, you know, I know somebody who lost their job because their manager. And even though they said they were their performance was great, not the manager. But the, the employee said, no, no, I was performing to what the expectations were, the manager fired them. And they don’t even know like, was it because they have hearing loss of people that are afraid that’s one thing, and that the landscape of that is changing, by the way, and it’s different at different companies, we’re sort of different different degrees of maturation among companies, some companies, for example, are very open about providing accommodations, some companies actually have a secret team in the accessibility division, who helped people with accommodations, so that their managers don’t even know that they’re getting the accommodation, which is sort of the most advanced, most mature version of that. And then other companies are in between, and some companies don’t have any combination. So it’s sort of that whole landscape is changing, so that people would self identify. There are people who have auditory fatigue, they’re sitting on a call all day long. And they’re cranking up the volume on their headsets, which is the worst thing you can do, as we know if you have hearing loss, because what you want to do is tailor the response to the actual curve based on the hearing loss, you don’t want to turn up the whole spectrum, the whole power spectrum. And that’s only going to exacerbate the problem number one, too, it may actually exacerbate things like tinnitus, for example. Then there are people with Zoom fatigue, which is a Stanford study about zoom fatigue, they talk all about the impact that the ergonomic impact of visual impact everything. Again, people with tinnitus, didn’t they’re people who have their sort of normal hearing, according to the standard presentation on an audiogram. But they might have hidden hearing loss, right? Yeah. That recent, that recent discovery that when you go to the restaurant, and your speech to noise ratio is not good enough, and you can’t extract, you know, speech from the background noise. Well, even though you present normally on your audiogram, that might be an issue. And then finally, there are people who are just playing in denial, like, like we see so many people who obviously should be wearing hearing aids in live environments, and they’re not. They have moderate loss, they have severe sloping loss, and they do not have hearing aids. It’s amazing that there’s, as we know, there’s this think it’s like a 20% penetration in terms of the percentage of folks who could benefit from hearing enhancement. So we see this people that are in the workplace environment. They’re getting on these calls, and they’re really frustrated. And they’re maybe even what’s the word dissuaded from wanting to even be on these on these conference calls. And they come in, they use a solution like SonicCloud, and they say, not only am I not scared of getting on the call, I actually enjoy participating. And in some cases, I’m actually helping others understand. So there’s a whole there’s a whole range of folks. And there’s a whole psychology that applies to that. I’m sure everyone in your audience is very aware of working with patients with hearing loss. But we’re, we, I think appeal to a broader range of user broader user base in the in the employee environment, in the workplace environment, who can benefit from it, we actually have 15% of the folks who use SonicCloud have quote unquote, normal hearing, and they just enjoy the the control that they can get of the sound. So

Dave Kemp 9:50
yeah, I mean, I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent here, but it’s just really top of mind for me right now, because I just wrote an article about this that’s going to be published later and you know, One of the big things that I was reading about was this whole notion of like, you know, like touching on the penetration rates, and, you know, really trying to unpack like, Why? Why they’ve been so stagnant historically, for so long. And, you know, one of the really interesting things is that the actual self reported, User satisfaction, like ratings of device owners is actually pretty high. And so the people that ultimately decide to seek treatment and different solutions, like end up to be pretty happy with them, but you have this massive amount of people as you were describing that, like, they don’t even really fit into this current total addressable market that, like we hear about often in the, in the hearing health industry, it’s bigger than even that, you know, because you’re, you’re right, like you’re mentioning, like the people that are either in denial, so they don’t even think that they’re in this or they’re, you know, the Hidden Hearing Loss folks and all this. And so, one of the things I always keep coming back to is like, you know, you, it’s the notion of like, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. We’ve been doing that for a really long time in this industry of just sort of like saying, like, you need to get hearing aids, you need to do this, you need to do that. Not really letting people come to this on their own terms. And the problem is that people, it’s been really hard to facilitate that like, process of them coming to it on their own terms. And that’s what makes me really excited about your technology. And especially as it proliferates, in places like the workplace, where it is something that, you know, we’re all on these video conference calls all the time, where if you look around at all the different types of office jobs that have prolonged periods, where you’re on the phone, like those are perfect gestation, you know, places for that type of thought process to start percolating in people’s minds and get them realizing on their own terms, solutions exist. Hearing augmentation exists, that you can hear the world in a restorative way, like, you’re not going to be able to just restore your hearing, per se, but there’s technology that at least can help to get you partially there in a myriad of ways. And so I think that like, this is really, really exciting to me is the idea of providing people with a whole lot more exposure to these types of functionalities, in places where it makes a lot of sense to have it be something that’s, you know, implemented across the board, like I would love for big fortune 500 companies to really set the tone here and say, like, this is part of our accessibility suite, is we’re going to make it so that you have the ability, you know, we’re going to buy a whole bunch of SonicCloud licenses or whatever hearing augmentation licenses, so that this is just an option that you can have in making people aware of it. I just think we can’t underestimate the power of what that would do to increase people’s willingness to want to engage with the whole hearing health health care model to begin with.

Larry Guterman 13:07
Yeah, it was so very well said. In fact, a lot of the words out of my mouth. A couple of points, sort of as I look at the bullets that you kind of laid out there. One is, yes, there’s a big transformation happening, obviously, I mean, in corporate America, and this all kind of falls under the rubric of DEI also, but it’s also accessibility, right? So, so there’s an understanding in corporate America that it’s important to be inclusive, and it’s important to provide opportunity and what what better, but more deserving cohort of people than folks who suffer from a disability, to be able to have the playing field level for them. And in this case, it’s a hearing disability. So we’re working with banks, like PNC Bank and other big banks, other top 10 banks, we’re working with defense contractors like Boeing, we’re working with insurance companies, we’re working with Fortune 50 and 100. Firm, the tech giants. So we’re doing we’re doing this. And the beauty of that is that they can then be the ones rather than SonicCloud spending $2 million on a commercial for the Super Bowl, which we’re not going to do right now. One day maybe. Right? Yeah. But yeah, the company is doing the work. And the work is important work. I mean, they’re reaching out to their employees, there is a percentage that that 12% from the CDC is a real number $4,200 per year in annual productivity loss due to hearing loss, according to study at Denmark, which of course is the world capital of hearing loss technology. So that is so so that’s so you know, that’s what we’re looking at. So even from the point of view of a company, it makes total economic sense and business sense to invest a little bit to be able to recoup and then some I mean, the ROI is 3-4, 4x when you’re talking about 4 to $5,000, a year in in productivity loss. So there’s that, by the way, we’re also working with closely we’ve been greatly set courted by Jabra in North America as well, in terms of their discovery, their revelation, that when they talk to companies, and they talk to HR departments and they text accessibility divisions, they come to them and say, Look, we need a solution that can really help our employees who have hearing loss in the workplace, whether or not they were hearing it. Because it’s difficult sometimes to combine that headset over the enterprise headset. With the hearing aid, you’re talking about double processing, you’re talking about Bluetooth Bluetooth, you’re talking about routing, you’ve got all kinds of issues that may come up. So one of the things that that we’re able to do, by the way, is Asana cloud will work in tandem with someone who wears a hearing aid, they can just make more subtle adjustments it’ll work with we actually work with folks who work cochlear implants, and they find that they are able to make again, nuanced adjustments. So allow them to get more richness or naturalism to the sound, that typically getting really good speech discrim from from cochlear implants is, you know, we were lauded by Apple, it’s coming up to Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we were lauded by Apple for our technology, along with three other disability apps, neurodiversity mobility and vision, and we were the one for hearing, in which I think it was Tim Cook, who tweeted something like, you know, life changing accessibility apps referring to the four of us. So there’s definitely Oh, and I should mention one other thing, actually. So the world of accessibility in the workplace is something that’s really gotten traction for us. And the other area is technology integration. And so just recently at CSUN, at the CSUN accessibility conference, we were prototype that we built for Sony was debuted, where there’s a Sony next speaker, that can connect to the TV and you have your hearing profile inside that next speaker, and you can watch content and your partner who’s sitting watching can listen to it through the signal bifurcated and they can listen to it through the regular speaker, so you can get personalized, by way, it works great. When I used it, I watched West Side Story and I watched The Princess Bride. Let’s West Side Story for the music and the Princess Bride for the dialogue. And I laughed the whole time in Princess Bride and loved the music for West Side Story and was able to get kind of great personalized tuning. And it works. It works better than actually wearing my hearing aids through the air listening to the TV because you still have that high frequency loss through the air, whereas this is a direct signal. So So you know, I basically use both I use my hearing aids when I need to talk to people in a live situation. And I use SonicCloud, for example on this on this call right now. But But yes, so I think I think I think you’re right, I think that the transformation in the landscape. This, this creates an awareness among folks with hearing loss, it does exactly what you said, it makes them realize, wait a second,

I thought I was getting all the benefit I could I got that gaming headset to work to get on these zoom calls, or these team calls. I wasn’t getting all the benefit I could get now that I’m using Sonic cloud I am. And by the way, it’s also true that folks with hearing loss, if they can have multiple what you want to call them crutches, they’ll use them, they’ll use captions, teams have great captions, they use Sonic cloud sound personalization, they’ll use their hearing aids when they’re in a live situation, it should be normalized, that there are going to be these solutions out there. Use them for different use cases, you know, use the best ones. And I think once people are aware of this, and there’s no stigma around it, you know, it’ll start to start to proliferate, like you said,

Dave Kemp 18:45
I think that whole notion of like, it’s so bizarre to me that that this is still stigmatized as it is in given how pervasive it is. And so I think that this is also part of my big hope is that this stigmatization is being it’s being chipped away at like on lots of different fronts. And I think that this is a really compelling front of workplaces and environments where, again, it’s not like the quote unquote, burden of the customer or the patient, whatever you want to refer to them as isn’t as high because you don’t have to go into the medical channel, scheduled time to see a hearing healthcare professional and pay the price to get fit with a hearing aid. You know, with this, it’s like you can still get sort of the same result. For a different use case for a zoom call for your Netflix for your music, streaming, whatever. You can get that kind of corrected audio, but you’re still it’s kind of a means to the to an end because at the end of the day, you’re still kind of it’s that leading Horse to Water and you can’t make a drink like people have to come to terms with this on their own. I think that’s probably one of the big takeaways that we should all be looking at for Um, that mounds of data that, you know, shows market penetration rates is like, if anything, we need to probably start to draw some conclusions. And for me personally, I think one of the conclusions is like, people just simply aren’t finding this all that compelling in the current paradigm. And so I think that what’s, again, really exciting is like, there’s lots of new solutions and options, to just give people a taste of it. And I think that that’s like, the whole key to everything is you need people to come to this on their own terms. And when you give them a semblance of like, here’s kind of what it sounds like, again, like I always use the analogy for, you know, when it’s like live ambient acoustics of like, you know, some sort of hirable that has like some sort of audio augmentation, and you’re hearing the birds chirping, again, with, with your use cases, it might be something more like you’re hearing, like high fidelity sounds, and you’re hearing like instruments in, in songs that you’ve been listening to over and over, you’re like, I had forgotten that there was, you know, like a brass component to this, you know, there’s like a, you know, whatever it might be. So that’s the kind of stuff though, that, you know, incrementally and like, as as, like a whole is going to, I think be really impactful, widely speaking.

Larry Guterman 21:19
Well, let me tell you, it’s funny, you should say that because first of all, that was my experience. That was Robert Sweetow, who tried out SonicCloud a while back, there’s a little video of him talking about how he here is hearing. background vocals in a Beatles song he’s never heard before, while he’s using SonicCloud. And then we looked up, he had a compendium of Beatles trivia, we looked it up 500 pages, but it was some obscure song I had never heard. And sure enough, there’s a description of the three teenage girls who used to hang around Abbey Road Studios, who would come in and record background vocals for that particular song. And they did it for that song, I should share this with you. Because your point about sort of habituating people to the notion of hearing enhancement and how it can really reduce the cognitive load and reduce the stress on you is really is really the case with what SonicCloud can do. And what’s interesting about it is it’s something we’ve talked about, I’m gonna screen share with you in a second. But something we talked about is it’s also the perfect tool for demonstrating the power of sound personalization to the user, so that they can experience it in real time instantly. And then say, You know what, I realized I’m going to need a device to help me in my live ambient situation. So for example, I’m going to screen share this with you. That’s okay, this is the SonicCloud user interface on the computer. What did we do? originally, we captured tons and tons and tons of hearing profiles, from self tuning preferences, and from from measurements. And we captured we captured, you know, as much information as we could. From that we created seven sample profiles that cover the range that we thought was important. And I don’t know if you can see this. But you see 1234567 There, okay. Now under the hood, there’s 150 parameters, there’s all kinds of stuff going on, that’s fancy, that I’m sure that DSP our fantastic DSP scientists could could speak to. And we have, we have a couple of great ones. And, but basically, those 150 parameters are sort of reduced or collapsed into these seven sample profiles. And then the parameters themselves, let’s say, so if your use on a cloud, and you have some kind of hearing loss, let’s say, you may select one of the profiles and say, Oh, that’s pretty good. It’s in the ballpark. And then you say, You know what, in my right ear, I want to adjust it make a little sharper and my left, I want to make it a little richer. Now you can do that. And now you can say that that profile. Okay, now you’ve saved let’s call this, let’s call this this this week, profile one, this week test. Now I’ve got my this week test. And I can toggle back and forth between that one and the one that I started out with almost like in the optometrist office, is this better? Is that better? And you’re getting closer. So we basically took the learnings from tons and tons of profiles that were captured based on hearing tests. And we optimized the results per seven samples. So we took the domain knowledge of all that and pick the best and again, we looked at the compression we looked at the gains we look at everything. And by narrowing it down. We found in enterprise now that folks don’t need to take a hearing test. They use one of the seven sample profiles to make the small self fitting adjustments like you would when you go back to the audiologist and you make an adjustment and they save up profiles and what do we find out that they’re doing? They’re saving multiple profiles. Maybe three or four they’re saving one for man’s voice one for a woman’s voice, one for their managers voice and to our shock and surprise, for accents for different foreign accents consistently at all these different fortune 50 100, 500 companies, it’s amazing. By the way, we also have fantastic resellers on call one in the US and census in Canada, who were introduced to us by Jabra because of Jabra’s excitement, North America’s excitement about what we were doing, so they’re out there now, combining packages of headsets with SonicCloud for the enterprise environment. So someone comes onto this gets installed, it gets on a cloud installed, they pick one of seven profiles that they think is pretty good, or in the ballpark, they make a couple of adjustments, and in eight minutes, they’re saying we’re no longer discouraged and disheartened about going on these calls, we’re now enthusiasticly participating, and going on these calls. So that’s sort of so my point, actually, my original point was, if you could show in five minutes, to a potential hearing aid wearer

what sound personalization is going to be like for them and how they’re going to get enhancement and clarity and naturalism, and understanding and discrimination. How great would that be? And then then they can kind of make a mental leap to what it’s going to be like, in a live environment. I think that speaks somewhat to your point.

Dave Kemp 26:22
No, it totally does. I completely agree with you. Again, it’s it’s that like sampling, it’s like giving people a taste of what this all means what this all sounds like. I mean, we can I think, as an industry, like speak to the perceived value, and the upside of this, too, we’re all blue in the face, but like, a lot of people like there’s a little bit of an inherent disconnect, you know, and so I think that people have, you know, hearing health is for, you know, I think better or worse, it’s so deeply connotated with hearing aids and hearing aids are so connotated in people’s minds with lots of baggage, you know, for, again, like, I wish this wasn’t the case, but people associat it with growing old and feeling feeble, and whatever that might be. So it’s like, the, it’s this really weird thing, because you’re in this, we’re all kind of operating with, like this thing that, you know, you can even see it in the product design, like all the product designs are to be as discreet and as visible and invisible as possible. You know, you have these people that you’re talking with in their workplace setting where they’re trying to hide this from their managers. You know, like, we have this, like, shame that’s associated with this. And I don’t understand why that is. So it’s so persistent. Like even today, like I really want to break through this. And so I think that it’s not something that can just happen overnight. But I continue to believe that probably the most positive thing that’s going in favor of really dramatically breaking down this stigmatization is this whole notion of like, first off the realization that this is a really widespread thing, like and it varies like some people have it worse than others. But it’s normal. And second of all, I think that normalizing solutions is another really big aspect of this. And so that’s why I’m like, I was really excited to hear about what you all are doing in the enterprise space, because in my mind, that makes a ton of sense of just again, getting more and more people exposed to the to the benefits of this, if it means doing so in non traditional ways, like through an office headset, as opposed to a hearing aid.

Larry Guterman 28:40
Yeah, no, that’s a great point. Um, it’s interesting. I was talking to the woman, her name is Sian Heder. She’s the director of CODA, which, you know, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. And she she won the Oscar for screenplay, because she also wrote the screenplay. And that my background is that I also directed movies before all this. So I guess I didn’t put that in there. So that was the connector. I was at screening theory directed Ants, Ants and Cats and Dogs and some other films. And I was at a screening at the Directors Guild and of the movie, which I loved. It’s obviously not about folks with hearing loss. It’s about folks who are completely Deaf. But you know, there’s some crossover there. And she even said to me, I mean, she recognized out of the gate, because everyone at the screening was wearing masks, you know, how difficult it is when you have hearing loss? Not just because I told her I have hearing loss and a director. And she said, Gosh, it’s got to be so difficult with those masks insurance. Absolutely. And I bet she she wasn’t because I wouldn’t have been able to understand her at all. Your point about normalizing. So normalizing the notion I mean, in the general public the distinction between profoundly deaf or you know, having to use sign language not be able to benefit from hearing enhancement of hearing aids but either requiring cochlear implants or not being able to benefit at all, and people with the range of hearing loss from mild to severe, severe profound that distinction is, is quite esoteric and is not, you know, to the general public. But just the notion of normalizing and mainstreaming the idea that, you know, people are human beings, whether they have hearing loss or not, and they can function, they’re smart, they can, they can thrive, and they can produce in the workplace environment, just as well as anybody else. And in some cases, I mean, it’s not just we’ve had several people say, I’m now helping recap, zoom and teams calls to my colleagues that previously I had to have completely recapped to me. So to be able to, to be able to provide that kind of support for folks and allow them to thrive and do their job the way they may be used to if they have progressive hearing loss. You know, it’s great, to your point about music. By the way, when I first tried the desktop personalization application, I listened to music from like the 40s to today, so like 60-80 years of music, right? Frank Sinatra, and then I listened to the guitar solo in Hotel California, the Eagles and I could, I could hear the plucks of the guitar solos in the high notes that I hadn’t heard for 25 years. And then I listened to Sinead O’Connor, nothing compared to you remember that song from the early 90s. And she does this just enough. And she does this very high trill. And I could hear it in all its glory in its richness. I could understand jokes. At the end of a Saturday night, during the Saturday Night Live sketch, when they were being delivered, and instead of being late or wrong with captions are often wrong, or they’re late. So you’re sitting there and you’re like, is was that funny? I’m looking at my wife is that what was fun? Wait, what’s the cap, wait then on to the next joke, but to be able to experience the joke when the performer delivering it, because you can actually hear it when I was using our solution was like mind blowing, because it’s a small things, also, that make a difference, not just the high stress things, and not just the things that are the high stakes, like you’re interviewing for a job, and you can’t understand what the question is. It’s also the small things in those small little joys, you know, so and I think being able to perceive that and experience that and enjoy content like that, or being able to do a two way communication session with something like Sonic cloud, and have that demonstrate to a person, wow, you can have that in all aspects of your life, including the live ambient aspect of your life, I think could be really powerful, you know, for for not only for people with hearing loss, but for the people who make hearing solutions

Dave Kemp 32:45
Yeah, I think it’s, I love that whole part too, about, you know, what you said about like these team members, and they’re the ones now recapping the calls for their colleagues and stuff like that, like, that’s so profound, because this one from something that people were avoiding, because they were so embarrassed, or so fearful of the fact that they weren’t going to be able to hear properly. And now like, this is kind of what I’m getting at is like that turn, you just went from having people that are that are really avoiding this whole scenario to now they’re giant proponents of it. Like they’re actively championing the technology and this like newfound ability. That’s not stigma, like that’s those people have transcended that in a really big way. And so I think that, like, that’s kind of the point here is that people aren’t uninterested in these types of solutions in these types of technologies, it’s just a matter of, they need to come to the, on their own terms, they need to see these things through their own eyes hear through their own ears. And I think that that’s like, that’s really transformative. And, you know, that’s kind of the cool thing about your technology is like, I remember when I first met you like, thinking like, because you were telling me about how you just watched YouTube all the time, you know, because it makes sense. It’s like, it’s like, you’re, you know, it’s like you, it’s a newfound thing again, for you, right, you’re reclaiming all the last time that you’ve had, right, and you’re making up for it and, and I think that’s actually really powerful though, because like, that’s kind of like that training wheel effect of like, you know, you can do it in the comfort of just like it can be a one way thing, you can just read, you know, hear this, like restored the sense of sound in music and Saturday Night Live, like whatever you want, and then you can move on to the to a thing where you’re having conversations over these different video conferences and stuff. And I think that it’s like it’s a ladder, like it’s a journey that people are on where, you know, they’re going to some will, will want to be more aggressive with how they, you know, pursue, you know, higher levels of sophistication and, you know, I want to now maybe, you know, graduate into hearing aids like I want that as part of my, my suite of solutions that I use for All of the different environments that I am involved in throughout my day to day. And so I just think that this is a it’s a testament of like, you know how technology can really help to reduce the barriers of adoption, not necessarily by becoming cheaper or more effective, or, you know, all the different bells and whistles with the latest and greatest technology. I love that stuff. Like, that’s a lot of the stuff that I write about and research and stuff. But a lot of it kind of comes back to the really basic things like just giving people making it more widely available, so that in more form factors and for design for different use cases, so that you’re just giving more and more people a sense of like, what this even is.

Larry Guterman 35:49
Right, right. Yeah, that’s, that’s great. They’re going to say, I don’t know, I have a little video here.

Dave Kemp 35:56
Let’s close with this video.

Larry Guterman 35:58
Oh, yeah.

So just just just to preamble it. So to Joe, who is depicted in the video was referred to us via one of the big centers in Washington as a particularly difficult case, I guess you would say, somebody who might be able to benefit, or they were hoping would be able to benefit from being able to use SonicCloud. So why don’t I go ahead, and we can play that now.

Joe Schweitzer 36:40
In combat,

the, you know, I can’t signal directs. And so I had, like, in my grenade pouch, which would normally store grenades, I had, you know, three or four hearing aids. I have two big screen TVs, one down in the living room one up in the bedroom, I don’t use them anymore. severe, severe hearing loss. You know, just it makes me uncomfortable to having to ask people to repeat themselves and, and to do it all the time. I mean, this is amazing and wonderful. I mean, it’s an absolute game changer. I’m hearing music in a way I don’t ever remember hearing it before. My name is Joe Schweitzer. And I was in the army for 23 years, served most of my time, as a combat engineer, retired as a colonel. I’m currently the president of a construction company, we build US embassies overseas, I can’t hear out of my left ear at all. The prosthesis that I have in my right ear has slipped out of that slot. And sure enough, there was a degradation of pretty profound degradation in hearing. If you know, the stapes surgery failed in the right ear, I’d be completely deaf. The audiologist I started off with is now the head of audiology at Walter Reed. And she told me about this platform. What does SonicCloud done for me, I mean, it’s an absolute game changer. My morning is filled with calls and meetings with our folks overseas. Prior to SonicCloud, I would have to go to someone and ask them, you know, after the meeting, what did this individual say? I wasn’t tracking one bit of that, even with the speakers and the volume is in the highest setting. You know, we’ll get on a call and there might be 15 people on the call. Everybody else can hear him, but I can’t. I mean it has profoundly changed how I hear and the richness. And when when you have a gradual hearing loss, you sort of forget, you know, the nuances or the beauty of sound. I’m no longer having to go to one of my colleagues and say, I didn’t hear a thing this person said, Can you give me a recap? I can even hear at least as well. And I’d argue maybe even better than many of my peers. As I walk away from my laptop and go to lunch with my folks. There isn’t a significant and noticeable difference. If you love music, if you love, you know, TV shows, if you love operas, you know, I’ve gone back and I rewatched Hamilton, I actually got Disney plus and I listened to it with the hearing aid now. You know, I went back and I watched it with Sonic cloud. And you know, I was just floored almost in tears. SonicCloud brings -you hear each distinct sound each distinct note and you hear them blended in you hear them in their richness. I would like to get this in the hands of every veteran And I would like for the military medical centers the VA, to know about this and to inform their hearing impaired patients about this product. And, you know, I think if it’s service connected disability, make it available to them at no cost to the veteran. For me, I would want anybody with hearing issues to be able to recover or regain that experience. Totally different experience. Yeah, are enriched my life music alone. You know, I don’t remember hearing music the way I now hear it through SonicCloud, and it’s beautiful.

Dave Kemp 40:48
Yeah, that’s a it’s a great video. Really, really, really neat stuff. And I appreciate you sharing that with us.

Larry Guterman 40:55
Yeah, yeah. No, he Joe is great. He’s using SonicCloud now daily, you know, to communicate with his teams overseas and in the US. And, but I love his little comment about Hamilton. Well, I thought Hamilton was great, too, but I saw it on TV from a distance. So I was just reading captions and kind of listening to music that he was experiencing it like, you know, full on the entire experience as, as the filmmaker or the theater creator intended, right. So I mean, you know, they, they seem really they wrapped really fast. And I

Dave Kemp 41:33
actually just saw it for the first time this weekend. It’s funny that you should mention this. I loved it. It’s amazing. I haven’t watched the Disney Plus version yet, but I know that that’s available for anyone

Larry Guterman 41:44
Okay. Yes. He was talking about it. Exactly. Yeah, so that’s a particularly difficult one as all audio audiologists watching this will know. But, but yeah, he’s. He’s thrilled. I also love his comment about putting his hearing aids in his hand grenade pouch is a more difficult, more difficult use case. Right. Like being in the middle of the desert, trying to, I can’t even begin to imagine but anyway, yeah. So. So yeah, there you go.

Dave Kemp 42:16
So I really appreciate you coming on. This has been an awesome chat. Where can people connect with you any closing thoughts? You know, just kind of wrapping up here.

Larry Guterman 42:25
Sure. Yeah. No, we have an amazing team that’s really been growing and we have CEO JC Kirillov, Head of Business Development, Mark Segal, you can reach out to us at enterprise at Soniccloud.com If someone wants to reach me for some reason, it’s just [email protected] And you know, that’s that’s probably the best way or if you’re trying the application, you need support. It’s just [email protected] our website, www.soniccloud.com Plenty of information there as well, FAQs and so forth. So yeah, reach out. There’s obviously the desktop sound personalization, as distinct from the smartphone mobile application.

Dave Kemp 43:10
Awesome, Larry. Well, thanks so much for coming on today. Thanks for everybody who tuned in here to the end. We’ll chat with you next time.

Larry Guterman 43:15
All right. Take care.

Be sure to subscribe to the TWIH YouTube channel for the latest episodes each week and follow This Week in Hearing on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Prefer to listen on the go? Tune into the TWIH Podcast on your favorite podcast streaming service, including AppleSpotify, Google and more.


About the Panel

Larry Guterman is the Co-Founder of SonicCloud. After receiving a physics degree from Harvard and an MA in film production from the University of Southern California, Guterman directed hit films including Antz (1998) and Cats & Dogs (2001). Beginning in college, Guterman experienced worsening hearing loss, which eventually led him to seek out alternatives to expensive hearing aids–especially when it came to phone calls. In 2012, he and his college roommate, John Lederman, set out to create a smartphone app that could use cloud-based signal processing to improve the audibility of phone calls for those with hearing loss. After raising $4 million in funding, SonicCloud was launched in 2017, with its sights set on the millions of people worldwide who can’t afford hearing aids–but who already own a smartphone.


Dave Kemp is the Director of Business Development & Marketing at Oaktree Products and the Founder & Editor of Future Ear. In 2017, Dave launched his blog, FutureEar.co, where he writes about what’s happening at the intersection of voice technology, wearables and hearing healthcare. In 2019, Dave started the Future Ear Radio podcast, where he and his guests discuss emerging technology pertaining to hearing aids and consumer hearables. He has been published in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored the book, “Voice Technology in Healthcare,” writes frequently for the prominent voice technology website, Voicebot.ai, and has been featured on NPR’s Marketplace.

Leave a Reply