Soundhawk Raises $5.7 Million for Superhuman Hearing App

12-23-2013 4-28-42 PM

Soundhawk, a mobile health startup working to disrupt the hearing aid market, has raised a massive $5.7 million series A round which will be used to fund the deployment of its new smartphone-enabled hearing devices. The round was led by True Ventures, a venture firm with a long history of successful investments in consumer hardware. The company had early money in Fitbit, and MakerBot which was just acquired for $600 million.

Soundhawk was founded by serial life sciences entrepreneur Rodney Perkins, MD, who also founded Stanford University’s California Ear Institute, as well as 14 other startups over his career, three of which that have gone public. He is professor of Otology and surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine.

In this project, Perkins has designed a supplemental hearing device that will not be marketed as a formal hearing aid, meaning that it will not require FDA approval. Instead, the device will be mass marketed for casual use appropriate from those with healthy hearing, to those that may need hearing aids but have not gone through the process of getting them.

True Ventures explains, “It’s very expensive and inconvenient to get a hearing aid today. You may have to see an audiologist four or five times. And a lot of people who have some hearing issues never acknowledge their problems, because they don’t feel they have a full-blown disability.”

The smartphone-enabled hearing aid market may new, but it is not entirely unexplored. There are several hearing aid apps available in the mobile app stores that Soundhawk will have to compete with. BioAid, an app from researchers at the University of Essex, UK monitors the ambient noises, listening for and amplifying only sounds that fall within a frequency band that the user is unable to hear. The app is also capable of turning down background noise to help amplify relevant sounds.

BioAid relies on the microphone built into the smartphone to “listen” to the ambient environment. This is where Soundhawk hopes to differentiate itself. The startup has designed a wearable device that would cost a few hundred dollars, but would likely be much more powerful and result in higher quality performance. It will link with a mobile app that will give users the ability to easily fine tune its settings to achieve similar performances to that of the BioAid app.

The company will use its new capital to market its new product directly to consumers.

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