Few People Will Ever Revolutionize An Industry. Asius Technologies’ Founder Has Done It Twice.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Stephen Ambrose, founder of Asius Technologies, was a successful stage musician. During his free time he began devising earpieces that would eventually become the first in-ear monitor. Through extensive research, testing and nearly two decades touring with musician Stevie Wonder, Ambrose found that IEMs and similar devices can lead to major hearing loss. Though IEMs remain the industry standard, Ambrose hopes Asius Technologies will change that.
Our ears have a defense mechanism called the acoustic reflex that is triggered when our ear is sealed off. When our ear is sealed, the reflex creates pressure inside. Asius Technologies has engineered an inflatable ear bud called the Ambrose Diaphonic Ear Lens, which acts as a second eardrum, effectively taking the pressure off the user’s actual eardrums. The result is an ear bud that allows us to hear music just as loudly as we normally would but at a quarter or even 1/16th of the volume. (Confused? Watch this video to see how it works.)
The earpiece can be inflated during loud songs to protect the musician’s hearing. If a musician wants to hear his or her ambient sound—say, between sets—all he or she has to do is click his or her teeth and the earpiece deflates. Click teeth again, and it re-inflates.
Asius Technologies won the health category of the Denver Challenge Cup. Following the competition, Ambrose sat down to talk with 1776 about Asius and what it takes to disrupt an industry—for the second time.
When did you first recognize the acoustic reflex and why did you set about trying to solve the problem?
I was in the studio with Stevie Wonder, and when we put the mold in his ear and drilled out the hole, someone kicked the kick drum and I saw a bunch of dust fly out. That’s when I first realized that there was this pneumatic pressure created by the ear monitors. Sound doesn’t do that. Sound doesn’t blow over a sailboat. It’s the pneumatic pressure that made the dust fly out.
That’s when I began to worry that I could cost the world something great, because Stevie Wonder is more than just a great musician. I was with him when he was lobbying in the 1970s. He was doing a lot for mankind and he sees the world through his ears. I didn’t want to cost the world one of their greats by making him lose his hearing.
Later we found that when you listen to ear buds (headphones) you trigger these muscles, the acoustic reflex. When these reflexes are fully engaged, they’re kind of like shock absorbers on our car. When you hit a bump, the shock absorber is supposed to absorb the energy so you don’t break the axle. That’s the point of the reflex in our ear, too. It’s supposed to absorb some of the sound.
When things are sealed, though, they respond much differently why we get the pneumatic pressure in our ear. With the ADEL as a second eardrum, we take the pressure off our actual eardrum.
Are you partnered with any earphone companies? How are they responding to your research?
Right now we’re licensed with hearing aid manufacturers. We’re currently talking to Samsung. If you look at Apple, the largest company in the world, it’s built on ear buds that cause hearing loss. We show our technology to them and you can see that it works in the video. No one questions that it works.
Yet, because of vested interest in the industry they don’t want to change if they don’t have to. They were afraid. They were afraid they were going to get sued because of all this research that suggests that their ear buds are harmful and can cause hearing loss. But they just didn’t know. We weren’t blaming them because they didn’t know. Our discoveries and technology is starting to be accepted. My invention ended up getting the industry to take notice and we get to do it right this time.
You mentioned that politicians and regulators are also starting to take notice?
Yes. Mayor Bloomberg … started this campaign, “Hear today, gone tomorrow.” He tried to pass this legislation that would make it illegal to walk across streets wearing ear buds; not only are they causing hearing loss, but they’re also dangerous. We can’t hear ambulances or ambient noise with the volume up so loud. I fought those legislations because it’s long handed. It regulates by telling people to turn down without telling them why they should turn down. Our bodies’ protection is so good at absorbing the noise that we don’t even notice there’s a problem. There are adults who don’t even like skateboards that listen too loud. Just telling people to turn down their music isn’t going to be enough.