Jun 5, 2016 | By Tess

Going to a concert to see your favorite band can be a truly life changing experience, for better and for worse. While you may be wowed by the lead singer’s charisma, and the guitar player’s amazing riffs, or a hypnotic bass beat, there is one thing many people do not think of when they attend live concerts: hearing loss. That buzzing sound in your ears after a loud concert can actually be signs of damage to your ear drum, which in the long run could even result in deafness. Up until now, the only solutions to keeping your ears safe was to forego live shows (unfathomable) or to stuff your ears up with cotton or foam earplugs, which works to block and muffle the nuances in the music. In other words, not the best solutions.

Fortunately for all of us, innovator Jack Mann, who ruptured his own eardrum at a concert a couple of years ago, has developed a way to both protect concert-goers’ ears and to optimize the quality of music. Mann’s solution is a product called Vibes Hi-Fi Earplugs, which he developed with the help of 3D printing.

Vibes Hi-Fi Earplugs, which Mann researched and developed over the past year, have now been on the market for four months and retail for the reasonable price of $23.99 - a small price to pay for keeping your hearing in tact while raging at loud concerts. In designing the small earbuds, Mann first researched how sound can be filtered, and consulted with a number of sound professionals to find an optimal design.

The earplugs, whose prototypes were made using 3D printing, are designed to effectively lower decibel levels of sound without affecting sound quality or clarity. As explained on the product’s website, this was achieved with special inner and outer sound tubes and sound-enhancing acoustic filters that are capable of lowering decibel levels for bass and treble equally.

As Mann explains, 3D printing was a crucial part of developing his innovative product. He says, “If this process had taken place before the availability of 3D printing technology, this product would have never existed. The costs to produce parts would have been far too high.” Once printed, the prototypes underwent a number of sound tests at the University of Minnesota’s Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences Department, and once the results were optimal, the earplugs were ready for final production.

For manufacturing the final product, Mann had to outsource some of the production to Asia, because of the limited availability of a key component, but the packaging and design was done locally in Minneapolis. Vibes has also recently announced a partnership with Swiss company Sonova AG, which is not only one of the leading manufacturers of hearing care products, but also runs the Hear the World Foundation, a charitable effort to raise money for hearing aids and hearing related treatments for people around the world. With the agreement, part of Vibes’ revenues will be donated to the charity.

Mann’s products have the potential to revolutionize concert-going experiences, making them an altogether safer source of entertainment. With reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) stating that about 440 million teens and young adults are at risk of suffering from hearing damage and loss because of live entertainment, Mann’s Vibes Hi-Fi Earplugs may be just the thing the market needs. He concludes, “Although foam earplugs have been widely distributed, their overall use by concert-goers remains low. This is the core of the problem. People aren’t protecting themselves because the foam earplugs diminish the experience. The introduction of Vibes Hi-Fi Earplugs will increase the overall use of hearing protection for concert-goers, and once available at a broader scale, this could greatly impact this growing hearing health issue.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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