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Designing hearing enhancing wearables with Nick Morgan-Jones

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Tina Ličková Tina Ličková
•  29.08.2023
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Nick Morgan-Jones is a Senior Product Designer based in Berlin, experienced in solving design challenges for startups, consultancies, agencies, and corporates.

Introducing UX Research Geeks, a podcast diving into the world of UX research. In this first episode, we explore Nick’s journey of creating Decibels, hearing enhancing wearables that challenge social stigma and revolutionize communication for the hearing loss community.

Episode highlights

  • 00:03:38 – Understanding Societal Stigma and Hearing Aids
  • 00:07:09 – Redefining Hearing Aid Perception
  • 00:17:45 – Gathering Real World Feedback
  • 00:24:58 – Evolution of the Design Process
  • 00:31:09 – Changing the Perception of Hearing Technology
  • 00:38:23 – Transitioning from designer to founder

About our guest Nick Morgan-Jones

Meet Nick Morgan-Jones, a seasoned Senior Product Designer based in Berlin. Originally from the UK, Nick relocated to Germany in 2014 and has extensive experience in startups, consultancies, agencies, and corporates. With a knack for pragmatic design and problem-solving, Nick’s current focus is on his project, Overtone, formerly known as Decibels, aimed at making hearing-enhancing technology accessible and appealing. Join us in our latest podcast episode as Nick shares his journey, challenges societal norms, and discusses his innovative design research approach. Learn more about Nick on his website,or connect with him on LinkedIn.

The weird thing was, when I wasn't wearing hearing aids, I was the disabled kid. But when I was wearing them, I looked like the disabled kid, at least in my eyes.

Nick Morgan-Jones, Senior Product Designer
Nick Morgan-Jones, Senior Product Designer

Podcast transcript

[00:00:00] Tina:

Hello and welcome to UX Research Geeks. I’m your host Tina Ličková, a researcher and a strategist, and this podcast is brought to you by UXtweak, an all-in-one UX research tool.


This is the first episode of UX Research Geeks. We spoke to Nick, who is in his own words, the junior CEO of decibels hearing enhancing wearables for people who don’t wanna wear hearing aids. And as someone with hearing loss and a background in UX and UI design, this is a personally fueled project with a vision to create a solution for the wider hearing loss community too.

In this episode, you can listen to his personal as well as start-up founder’s story and the way he approached design research in the streets of Berlin.


Hello Nick, this is Tina speaking the host of UX Research Geeks, and we have Nick Morgan Jones with us. I was thinking, I came across your profile somewhere on Instagram, I don’t know, two or three years ago, and I was totally fascinated by the fact that a guy – somebody on Instagram is trying to figure out hearing aids because I have a deaf brother, so I could understand what a pain in the ass it is. But then I started to research who you are and if anybody stumbles across your profiles or across you and your videos, what would you say to them who you are? What are you trying to do? Why hear it?

[00:01:41] Nick: Thank you. Hi. Yeah, so my name’s Nick and I am working on a project called Decibels. And this is designing, hearing enhancing wearables for people who don’t want to wear hearing aids. This is like a really personal project for me, so I’ve grown up needing hearing aids. I think I found out when I was like 10 years old that I needed hearing aids and I didn’t wear hearing aids for the first 10 years up until the age of 1920 – because I just didn’t want to be someone who wears hearing aids. I was at school and I did not wanna be the kid at school wearing hearing aids.

I actually wanted to make friends, so I decided not to wear my hearing aids. But that was at the expense of being able to hear people. And I could get by without hearing aids, but honestly, today I have no idea how I did it. It’s like now that I do wear hearing aids. I have done for the last nine years, eight, nine years I realized just how transformative this technology is for my ability to communicate with people and that my social inhibitions and my reasons to not wear hearing aids were pointless in many ways. But they were the reasons why I didn’t wear it.

So the social stigma that’s attached to wearing hearing aids prevented me from wearing hearing aids and prevented so many other people from wearing hearing aids as well. So that’s what I really want to tackle, the social stigma attached with hearing loss. And I think that can be done through design.

[00:03:13] Tina: And let me get a little bit deeper into the reasons why you didn’t wanna wear it. I think I know the reasons, but I am also not having a hearing loss or hearing disability. I observed my brother because it just looked like you said you’re a kid and it’s huge or whatever, but what about your reasons? Was it aesthetic or if you could get into this one?

[00:03:38] Nick: Yeah, so I think a lot of it comes down to people’s preconceptions of what it means to wear certain things. I think we make decisions with everything that we wear, like clothes, jewelry, hearing aids and others based on how we want other people to see us.

And I had in my head, and I think a lot of other people do have in their head that wearing hearing aids means that you’re disabled. Or if a bit older it is that you are aging and it’s ultimately a sign of maybe inability to connect with people. And this just wasn’t something I wanted to be associated with.

I didn’t want to be seen at school as the kid who was disabled in a way. And the weird thing was when I wasn’t wearing them, I was the disabled kid. But when I was wearing them, I looked like the disabled kid, at least in my eyes. And interestingly, going through that very transformative period of my life, how I looked was almost more important than how I was.

And I think that’s a natural social tribal aspect of growing up when you’re at school, you are in this kind of environment where you’ve got lots of other people like for lack of a better word, judging who you are in certain ways. And it takes an incredible amount of confidence to overcome other people’s opinions of you.

And of course a lot of people when they’re young, but the whole way through their life, they’re very self-conscious of how they look in their tribe. And I just felt that I didn’t want to be different to other people. I wanted to be the same, and it felt like the only thing which made me different was having these things on my ears and by simply taking them off I felt like I was, again, normal and part of the tribe, but then there were repercussions of that I couldn’t hear as well as I would like to. And so I just found myself in so many embarrassing situations where I couldn’t hear precisely what people were saying. People would call my name and I wouldn’t even hear, and it makes it look like I’ve, my head’s in the clouds and I was just maybe lazy or stupid for not hearing things.

But strangely enough, in my head, it seemed to be okay to deal with that. At least I didn’t look like I had a hearing problem. And this sounds maybe oh, okay, so Nick just had this problem. But it really seems to be that everyone, or at least a very large proportion of the hearing loss community have gone through a very similar story.

So it takes, on average, 10 years for people to go from the point where they find out they need hearing aids to actually wearing them. That’s a 10 year process where they could have got it on day one, but they’ve decided not to. And that’s a process of denial that I don’t actually have this problem. And ultimately accept that, maybe I do have this problem and I’m going to, I’m gonna concede and I’m gonna get hearing aids and hopefully that will improve my life.

But that’s a 10 year period on average. And that was what it was for me. I was about 10 when I found out, and 19 when I finally got hearing aids. So nine, ten years where I decided not to. So I’m not the only one who’s gone through that process. So as dramatic as it might sound, it seems to be very common in the way that a lot of people approach their hearing ability.

[00:07:09] Tina: What did change in your mind when you were like 19 and suddenly, okay, I’m going for hearing aids.

[00:07:17] Nick: So what actually happened is that I got access to hearing aids that no one could see.

[00:07:21] Tina: Ah, okay.

[00:07:22] Nick: Yeah. And to start with, I had two ways of dreaming about how the world could be better, and one was, I wish hearing aids were invisible so no one could see me wear them.

And I can go on with my life. But I guess at the same time, and how I feel now is I don’t want hearing aids to be invisible. They can be visible. I just don’t want people to think badly when people are wearing hearing aids. And I want people who are wearing hearing aids to feel confident and comfortable wearing hearing aids that are visible.

And like when I got to that point, I found this pair of hearing aids, which they’re like contact lenses for hearing aids. So they’re completely invisible. They sit quite deep in my air canal and they amplify the sounds that they need to, and they’ve massively improved my life. Over the last eight years that I’ve worn them.

But they haven’t solved the problem of feeling embarrassed or ashamed about having hearing loss. And that’s really the crux of the problem that I want to solve here. It’s not just keep sweeping it under the rug and keep hiding the problem as much as you can to get rid of it, because it won’t go away.

Let’s just change the way that we look at it collectively. And I think there are certain people who have a responsibility, collective responsibility to help change consumer behavior. And these end up being the big brands in any industry really. And there’s five big brands in the hearing aid industry, and they own about 95% of the market.

But they all design what looks like pretty much the same product. They all say – hey, this is really small, this is really hidden – no one can see it as if I should be ashamed of wearing it. They’re like implying that I shouldn’t want anyone to see it. And so they’ve already created the consumer behavior of this is how you are going to behave – we are going to sell you something and tell you to hide it. And so people go, oh, I should hide this because I’m being told to by the biggest brands in the industry. And so what I’m really trying to do here is change that. Change the way of thinking from trying to hide it to instead, why don’t you wanna have something that is a desirable piece of technology?

Like we now live in a world where people will wear glasses that don’t even have lenses in purely because they want to be seen wearing them. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. People were wearing glasses and they would avoid wearing them, or they’d be called names at school for wearing glasses. But now the cases that people will wear glasses because it makes them look more intelligent or like geek chic or whatever.

And ultimately it’s a disability aid that people have changed the meaning of what it means. Now, if you take that on one side and on the other side, you look at AirPods five years ago, it wasn’t normal for people to have things in their ears all the time. Now it completely is. You know it, if you walk around any supermarket in Berlin, there’ll be probably half the people who’ve got AirPods in their ears or something similar.

And we’re now living in a world where that’s becoming normal. So you’ve got. Consumer designer eyewear on one side, showing you that disability aids can be transformed into lifestyle products, and then you’ve got audio products that people are already wearing in their ears. So why don’t we just add hearing enhancement to that. Start combining these worlds, and I think that’s where you can really create a new consumer behavior and change the way people think about hearing technology.

[00:10:56] Tina: Very interesting and I didn’t know, I actually didn’t realize that the biggest market players are playing it on the stereotypes and you’re going against it embracing it. That’s really nice. My question would be, or let me bridge here a little bit because you have a background as an industrial designer, and this is where it gets really interesting for me, not only what do you do, but how you do it. Because as an industrial designer, you decided you are going to tackle this. And this is the big question on how you do it. Where are you now in 2002? I guess that’s the year right now. 22. Yeah.

[00:11:35] Nick: 2022

[00:11:36] Tina: What do you do? Yeah. How do you do it? Yeah, let’s have a look at that one.

[00:11:42] Nick: Yeah. So yeah, I started this project at university seven or eight years ago at least. As part of my university project doing industrial design, I had the chance to redesign a medical product. So of course this was instantly the perfect project for me. I started working on this and I did that at university and it was fun, but it was within an academic environment. And so it wasn’t really real world designing.

And so once I left university, I actually decided not to go ahead with this project at the time because I was – I felt – inexperienced to really take it forward in the real world. And so I started my career as a user experience designer, designing digital products. And I moved to Berlin. I started working in startups, consultancies, agencies, designing a lot of MVPs of different types for ultimately, yeah apps for mobile and desktop. And it was only, it was last year in January that I quit my job and decided to work full-time on this and go back to my roots as an industrial designer and work on a hardware project again, and the hard part there was that I’ve spent the last seven years designing software products, and that’s an incredibly fast moving industry in comparison to hardware.

You can have an idea with software, you can do a little bit of research and you can make a prototype and you can get it out in a matter of weeks. With a hardware product, it can take months and sometimes years to produce your first product and to get feedback on it, and so it’s a slightly different design process, although ultimately it’s the same components. Some of these are a little bit more spaced apart, but I was quite keen to bring my experience in designing software products into the world of hardware as well.

When I’ve consulted as a UX designer, I preach about designing MVPs like minimum viable products and basically tell people to build the absolute minimum of a product you can, which is going to somewhat solve your problem as a user. And then once you’ve done that, Give it to your user and see if it helps them. And just in that process, you’ll learn so much and get away from this. I think it’s more like a waterfall methodology, which is to try and plan for every single case and design for every use case before you’ve even tried it.

And the research tends to show that if you spend too much time preparing and designing for something, a year away, then by the time you get to releasing it, it’s going to be, it’s gonna be too far away from what you actually want to achieve. So I wanted to try and design something and get feedback on it as quickly as possible.

And so I actually started in March last year making videos about this. So I wanted to get a bit of feedback from people. I wanted to raise a bit of awareness around what I was doing, but at the same time, I wanted to design a new hearing aid that looked different and had a different service around it.

And it was really hard to do those two things at the same time. And I was speaking to a friend and had an idea of, why don’t I just build this project, this product, and try and blog the experience at the same time? And that way I can get a bit of attention from people on the outside while I’m still trying to make the product myself.

So I made a video saying, Hey, I’m Nick and I’m gonna design my own pair of hearing aids in my bedroom. And loads of people started following and I got a bit scared because I was like, oh God, now I have to actually do it. But it was the best thing that had happened in many ways because I was able to start designing, like even sketching ideas of how something could look.

And, I’d make a video of the sketches that I did and I would put these videos out to the world and I would get some feedback from people. People would say, oh, I really like the more circular one, or, I really like the more triangular one. And this was a way of really getting other people involved in the design process as early as possible.

And. No, I think we were talking before about how much research you actually do before doing this. And as a hearing aid user myself, I think I base so much of this on my own experience, so I just wanted to design a product for myself first and then go forward. And as I’m getting feedback from other people, I can start tweaking and changing the product based on how other people react to what I’ve done. So I guess fast forward a year later, and I’ve been video blogging, the whole product development experience we’re now at a point where we have a design, which we’ve tested with other people. I think it looks great, it fits well, it’s secure, it doesn’t fall off the ear.

And it’s now ready to have some electronics inside it. And we’re pushing it out and getting some real feedback of who would actually also want to buy the product. We’ve just opened a reservation kind of deposit list so anyone who wants the product is able to leave a deposit.

We’ve got a really good bit of feedback already from those who’re interested in it. And we’re taking this information, going to investors and saying: Hey, this is not just for me, but there’s loads of other people who also wanna buy this product as well. And we are continuing to blog the experience. So it’s good fun.

[00:17:14] Tina: Okay. And then yeah, the videos. Which you’re doing. They’re just great because you give a lot of insights on where you are. What really got my attention as a, you, as a researcher, because that’s why where my heart really beats is that you got the balls, let me say it. Yeah. I don’t like to say it like this, but let me say it like that. To go out to the streets and ask people for feedback and before you were talking to some experts, so maybe could you give us more insight about that?

[00:17:45] Nick: Yeah, definitely. So I think obviously get real feedback from people as soon as you can, it’s the hardest thing that anyone wants to do. And I think as a designer, this, I really struggled doing that early on in my career asking people for feedback because design is an incredibly subjective kind of work like you design something in the way that you think that it needs to be designed and a lot of your passion and a lot of your personality goes into the way that you design it.

And then when you show it to someone and they reject it as the idea, they say, I don’t like it. You can often feel personally rejected. And I think this is a big reason why a lot of people struggle to put their ideas out as early as possible. And over the last years I’ve been trying to push myself as much as possible to do that because I know.

You will learn the most if you just show people what you’re doing. And sometimes it’s not the most pleasant thing to do, but it is definitely one of the most valuable things to do. So after I had decided how I think I would like this new hearing device to look, we three D printed a few different prototypes of, let’s call it like 70%, this is how it might look. And I wore them and then I just went out in the streets in Berlin and spoke to people and then asked ’em some questions. And it’s incredibly embarrassing and it’s incredibly – yeah, it is challenging in many ways, but I learned so much really in a very short space of time talking to people, wearing these kind of odd looking devices around my ears.

And I just said to first people, I just said, Hey, blah, blah, blah. Did you realize that I was wearing these? Some said no they just didn’t, they weren’t aware that I was wearing something and others said yes straight away. And I said, does it bother you that I’m wearing them? And some people said, yeah, it looks like you’re wearing headphones and you’re not listening to me while you’re talking to me.

And this was an incredible learning where I basically found out that if you have something that is like covering the ear, And you’re talking to someone like wearing AirPods or anything like this, then they’re probably thinking that you’re listening to music or listening to a podcast like this fantastic podcast.

[00:20:05] Tina: Thank you for that.

[00:20:05] Nick: Instead of listening to them and yeah this became a really important thing because with many products, there’s more than one user and this product, That is very much the case, and I think I know what the correct word would be, whether it’s user or secondary user or something.

But ultimately the primary user would be me or like another hearing aid wearer. But the secondary user is the person who sees you wearing it and that the product can influence your relationship if they think that you’re not listening to them because you’re wearing this product. If they think that you’re being rude and you’re listening to music, then the product has influenced your life in a negative way there.

And so it was really important to go out and get the opinion of other people as quick as possible. I think it was a couple weeks later that I made some changes. We decided to change the color from black to a more transparent color. We realized that if it was black people thought it was headphones.

If we made it a transparent color, people were like, Ooh, I don’t really know what that is – and it was interesting. And so I decided to wear these for a full weekend and just see if anyone said anything. And so these are prototypes which have no electronics in, they were just pretty much pieces of plastic sitting just in front of my ear.

And some people eventually asked questions. They’d like, oh, hey, what are they? And I spoke to a number of different people and I’ve got a lot of different feedback and it was just incredibly valuable to go out in the real world, make yourself vulnerable to an extent. And learn about how you’re progressing with your product.

[00:21:39] Tina: And you mentioned, you’re mentioning a lot of feedback, a lot of discussion that you had with people. And you are also mentioning that what, how much research is enough? And this is where I ask you as the UX designer, if you would compare now the experience as a startup founder, which you are, and a UX designer working for consultancies. How different is the research?

[00:22:05] Nick: So I think there’s a lot of differences. Maybe let’s think about similarities first. I think there is a general way products are designed like as, I mean there can be so many different routes, but there are, there is the process of doing some research trying to understand what problem it is that you’re solving and then there will be, and maybe coming up with some first concepts and getting some feedback and then moving forward into development and stuff.

I think I just often find in the working world where I’ve done this professionally, that these different stages of design tend to be commoditized as here is the research phase of your project. It costs 10,000 euros and we will achieve these goals. And then you move forward into the concept phase and then you move forward into the development phase.

And all of these are subsequent phases. So once you’ve done the user research and then you move on to the concepting phase, then that’s all the user research done. And you do no more, and then you move forward to development, and then you do no more concepting. And this tends to be the way that some design agencies will sell design as a service, that it is a very linear path that you do one thing and then you move on to the next.

I think in the real world, in many ways, you never stop doing each part. And design consultancies will also tell you this. It’s more of a circular thing. You do some research, you learn something, you go back, you make some changes, you put it out again, you get some more feedback. And the great thing about just doing it alone is that you get to do that with absolute flexibility. There, there is. I don’t have a client who’s saying, hey, I wanna see results super quick. And so you have to move forward into development before you finish your research. And that’s great freedom as a designer to be able to really take your time exploring these things. I guess there’s always gonna be the element of there, there will always be a timeline and a deadline, and I think that’s important ultimately.

I will personally run out of money if I just keep doing this forever and I don’t move forward. I still have to be sensible to an extent, but I get to work at my own speed largely when it comes to designing. So I think there’s really some, I think there’s some key differences in the design process. But it’s. No, it’s most about just having complete flexibility and just letting your mind go wherever it goes. Try out some different things. Make some mistakes. And making a mistake in the design process is not gonna cost you a client if you are your own client. And I think that’s a really enjoyable part of this for me, that I can really take my time to explore things.

Open up a door and then realize there’s nothing there and that’s completely fine. Nothing lost.

[00:24:58] Tina: Last question to this part. If, because I come from my own experience where some of my friends are approaching me having startups and asking me, could you please help run a research for us? What would you advise a researcher working for projects like you? Joining the team for a while or for extended time, what would be your advice to these people?

[00:25:26] Nick: Wow. Yeah, it’s a really hard question. The way that I look at it is that there are some topics that you already know a lot about because you might be the user yourself.

There’s other topics that you know nothing about. Because you’ve never been a user. So in my situation, I am my primary user. I’m someone who needs hearing aids and I don’t like them. So I already know what I like and I don’t like, and I’m using that to do that. I guess if I was hiring an external team to come on and try and research, with me or for me, I guess the important thing would be to really try and check what biases I have because I will be incredibly biased.

That is natural with anyone. I think this is why you can, you have to speak to more than one user because one user is just one person and lots of different people have different opinions. I have to be aware that as much as I am my primary user, not everyone with hearing loss will feel the same way that I do.

So maybe I would advise that team to really work out what the founders or project runners believe and really test like why do you believe that? Is this just an opinion or is there really some data behind this too, to prove it. And I’ve enjoyed that. I have a co-founder who has a lot of background design in consumer products.

And he’s fantastic to work with because he doesn’t have hearing loss and has never had hearing aids and is completely new to this world. So he challenges a lot of my thoughts and opinions. In a very healthy way because I will have very strong opinions on some things, and it means that I need to explain it in the most comprehensive way.

If I really think it’s important to explain, I. This is what it’s like to be someone with hearing loss and therefore the product needs to behave like this, then it’s my duty to be able to explain it to him, but he will also ask questions and challenge my opinions in a way that I go, wow, you’re so right.

I’ve been looking at this in the way that someone with hearing loss looks at it. But maybe I need to look at it in a slightly different light. And he’s done a fantastic job of guiding my thought process in that as well.

[00:27:48] Tina: We were talking about where are you now? I would love to hear from you. Where are you, what are you looking at? What is your vision? How do you wanna change the world? Because every startup founder is trying to change the world, and it’s certain that you are trying to go for it. And what is the vision?

[00:28:06] Nick: Definitely

[00:28:06] Tina: What kind of use cases? This is too many questions, but maybe, yeah.

[00:28:14] Nick: Maybe let’s break it up into three different steps then. So like I have, what’s the vision? Like I have a vision, which is that the world will look at hearing technology not as a detriment, but instead as a desirable piece of technology.

And that kind of comes from the idea that everyone, regardless of your hearing ability, finds themselves in situations where they can’t hear as well as they would like to. And that can be people with completely normal hearing ability being in a crowded restaurant and it is too loud. And they want to focus on the people at their table, their family, their friends, people that matter the most to them, but they are unable to engage in meaningful conversation because there’s too much background noise and this is a problem that we’re in the process. When I say we, I’m more referring to the hearing industry in the process of solving. There are other companies working on software to completely remove background noise from speech and make it easier to understand what someone in front of you is saying.

And so this means that anyone, regardless of their hearing ability, can benefit from hearing technology. And I think that is really the end result. And as decibels as a brand, what we’re trying to do is carve the way to that end result. We want to change the way people think about hearing technology so that eventually anyone, regardless of their hearing ability can benefit from it.

To come back like one step, like what are we doing now? What are we doing in the next couple of years? And this is really about changing the way people with hearing loss can access hearing technology. So at the moment about 80% of people who have hearing loss don’t wear hearing aids. And worldwide, this is about 338 million people, I think, if I got those numbers correct. But over 300 million people could benefit from hearing tech but don’t there’s a number of reasons why, but a large reason why is the social stigma. No one wants to wear hearing aids. And that’s really what we’re trying to solve first.

Can we design a product that people who already have hearing problems, Change their mind about what hearing tech is and can really benefit from it. And just transform their life, their ability to communicate with people in environments where most other people would be okay communicating, but people with hearing loss are really struggling.

I want to design a product for these people so that they can get the most out of life. So yeah, that’s our first step, but our vision of world domination is to be in everyone’s ears.

[00:31:07] Tina: Okay.

[00:31:08] Nick: At some, at some point.

[00:31:09] Tina: That’s a nice one. Businesswise, what is the vision? It’s of course tied to this one, but Businesswise, where are you now? Where are you heading to?

[00:31:19] Nick: Yeah, so I’ve done a lot to not call this a business because I like calling this a project. It makes everything a lot easier to manage in my head. If I am like I’m just working on a project, I’m like, oh, I know that If I say I’m working on a business, I’m like, oh my God, that sounds terrifying.

It’s a bit easier than that, but regardless, we’ve incorporated a company a couple of weeks ago, so we are, I’m now technically a founder and we are at the beginning of fundraising to manufacture our first batch of Decibels products. And this is a journey in itself. I’m a first time founder doing first time fundraising.

And we are looking at different accelerator programs, looking at speaking to different investors who can support us in, yeah, in getting off the ground with our first product. Going forward, we’re really keen to change the whole service model around hearing technology, because I think there’s, one part of this is changing the design of hearing technology, changing the brand and making it more desirable and less medical.

But the other part is what’s everything in between? How do you buy this product? How do you get it? How do you fit it to your hearing? At the moment when you get hearing aids, you go see a hearing professional. So an audiologist and they take a hearing test in an office and you hear a series of beeps, and then they say, you should buy some hearing aids.

And then they try to sell you hearing aids and they’re incredibly expensive. And then eventually some people will buy them and then they’ll program these hearing aids and then send you off on your way. And you will have to go back to this hearing professional in order to do this. And ultimately I can speak for myself, but I think for a lot of other people as well this is not a very pleasant experience. This is an experience where, you know, I’ve just, I’ve gone 10 years convincing myself I don’t actually need hearing aids. And then eventually I have to go into an audiologist’s office with a medical professional. And then I just feel more and more disabled because oh, I’m getting help from a medical professional.

And I just think this experience isn’t delightful. It’s not fun. It’s not something that people want to do. It’s something that people have to do. And that in itself, I think can be changed. So we are really looking at how we can cut these corners and change these barriers that are preventing people from getting hearing technology.

And one of those things is removing the audiologist from the whole chain. I think these people are really important. However, there’s a lot of things with the purchase of a hearing aid that I believe don’t require an audiologist. You can buy a hearing aid online. You can do a hearing test on your phone.

You can program your hearing aid over Bluetooth and off you go, you’re good. Now, this is not gonna be the case for every single person with hearing loss, but through about 80% of people. I think that’s a pretty solid solution. So this is what we wanna put forward. This means transforming the business around hearing technology from being a conversation between medical, professional and patient.

Instead of a dialogue between brand and user. And this changes the whole atmosphere around hearing technology from being something that people have to admit they need ultimately into something that people want. We want to build a product that people want because it improves their life.

It’s as simple as that, and that shouldn’t sound crazy because that’s how every other consumer product is made. You buy products because they improve your life. Why do we not do the same with hearing technology? That’s what we’re doing.

[00:35:04] Tina: I love to hear it. I love to hear, what are you up to, because this is really a big game changer. Looking back at the journey you went through, what would you do differently? What would you advise any other startup founder, maybe in health Tech to do differently than you did so they can learn from your mistakes?

[00:35:25] Nick: I’ve definitely not been perfect every step of the way for sure. I think like one thing that, maybe, one thing that I’m proud of, I guess is the way of. Building a product publicly. I really have benefited from this, and it’s something that scares a lot of people because I was scared at the beginning. If you are designing a product and you’ve got an idea in your head, everyone is telling you not to share that idea with the world because someone’s gonna steal it.

Someone’s gonna run away with your idea. But the reality is, that’s probably not gonna happen. I’m trying to touch wood. There is no wood around me, but I’m hoping that no one steals my idea. But I, they, a lot of people will say ideas are worth nothing. Execution is everything.

And I quickly overcame that concept of not trying to hide everything. And I designed everything incredibly publicly and it’s been super valuable because it’s ultimately meant that I’ve got feedback from potential users right from the beginning all the way up until now, that we’re one year in.

And that’s something, not something that I think I would change or do differently. That’s something I would maybe advise more people to do design in public rather than in secret. I think there’s so many mistakes that I’ve made, but a lot of them are more about being a first time founder rather than a designer.

 I dunno how similarly these worlds collide, but I feel like I could have been more efficient in a lot of different ways. I really feel that sometimes I wasn’t working as quickly as I would like to. I think sometimes I was nervous to share ideas. I think sometimes I wait too long to feel comfortable about something.

Instead of just doing it if I don’t understand something instead of just trying it, I’ll try to spend so much time trying to understand it instead. And I feel like sometimes these obstacles that are in front of you can hold you back from developing going forward. I know it wasn’t a very clear answer, but I’m not sure if I have it super clear in my head yet either.

I wish that I’d moved a bit faster. And the only thing holding me back was myself. And I think that’s just a kind of part of a learning process of working on a project yourself. Ultimately trying to be a founder. I’m a relatively experienced designer, but I am a completely brand new CEO. I’m a brand new marketer. I’m a brand new developer. I’m brand new everything else. So I’m at a junior level in all of these other respects. And I think that is always gonna come with not being as efficient as you would like to be and having maybe not quite as much output as you desire.

[00:38:23] Tina: Yeah, I really loved when you called yourself junior CEO.

[00:38:27] Nick: I’m, I am. I might even be an intern CEO. I thought of a working student CEO. I’m really quite low down the ladder at the moment, but CEO trainee, train yourself apprentice trainee. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:38:43] Tina: Okay. Incredible journey. Incredible product. I really hope for the best for this product. And for you, for the company, where can people follow you and check out on your progress?

[00:38:55] Nick: Yeah if anyone wants to follow the videos then like we’re on pretty much every social media platform and the handle is at Butterfly Audio. This is actually the previous kind of brand name we had, which I actually really like.

I think Butterfly Audio is a nice brand name. The product itself is called Decibels. The Social Handle of Butterfly Audio underscore that’s on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook I’m quite vocal on LinkedIn as well. And our website is Decibels.so, and on there you can see the product.

If you like it, you can also reserve your product and get a discount when we release it. This will just really help us convince investors that we’re designing something that people actually want to buy. So the more support we get, the better. And yeah, if you have any questions or just wanna reach out, then Nick at Decibels. That’s my email address.

[00:39:50] Tina: Nice. Really you are living in transparency. Last question, I promise. Is there anything that you would say – oh, Tina, why didn’t you ask me this? I really wanna share this with the world.

[00:40:03] Nick: No, I’ve gotta be the interviewer. Oh my God. I hadn’t really thought about that.

No, I think you’ve asked a lot of fantastic questions and I think we’ve covered a lot of different things. Yeah, I think maybe if there’s one thing that I could say to anyone else who’s listening or maybe thinking of working on their own project, just go ahead and do it. Because I’ve been thinking about working on this project for so many years, and it wasn’t until last year that I finally cut the cord and jumped ship and did it.

And it’s the best thing that I’ve done in terms of personal growth and learning and I would advise anyone else who is considering maybe working on their own business or anything like that – give it a go. I think one of the fears I had before starting was that my career is already on a trajectory. If I quit my job now and start something else, then I’m losing time and progress that I would’ve had in my previous job. But the reality is that I’ve quit that job or that career trajectory and started working as a founder. And I’ve learned more in the last year than I think I have in the last five years in previous jobs, so I don’t think it is a tool, a case of stepping back. And starting again. I think you’re just developing so many new skills in different disciplines. Maybe I would’ve proceeded to be an even better designer, but I’ve learned to be a junior CEO and a junior developer and a junior marketer all in the same year.

And this has been incredibly valuable for me and I would recommend anyone else considering doing it to take the benefits of going out on your own and learning all these new things as well.

[00:41:49] Tina: Beautiful. Nothing to add on this one because I was just destroyed. Thank you very much for talking to you. Thank you very much for your story and your effort to change the world of hearing.

[00:41:59] Nick: Thank you very much.

[00:42:03] Tina: Thank you for listening to UX Research Geeks. If you like this episode, don’t forget to share it with your friends. Leave a review on your favorite podcast platform and subscribe to stay updated when a new episode comes out. 

💡 This podcast was brought to you by UXtweak, an all-in-one UX research software.

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