I had the opportunity to check out a local company here in Fort Collins, Colorado, called Decibullz. A friend introduced me to the company, as they wanted to reach into the Audiology community for feedback and input on their product line. The name initially caught my attention, but as I began to investigate, the company WHY and the products themselves caused me to look at them more closely with an Audiologist’s eye.
Kyle Kirkpatrick, CEO and Founder of Decibullz, sat me down and told me the story of how he grew up a gymnast. He explained how he was never able to keep any type of comfortable earbuds in his ears during activities, which frustrated him. He came up with an idea to mold his own earbuds and adjust them to create a good fit, and voila! – a solution to a problem and a company was born!
As I examined their current products, my son’s moldable mouthpiece used for football was the best way I could relate to how this innovative product works. Using a thermoplastic patented material, Decibullz products include a moldable (and RE-moldable) piece that sits in the concha area of the ear, as well as insert eartips of varying sizes that fit most ears. This type of system creates a safe solution for consumers, allowing them to have an immediate, somewhat custom fit. Initially offering a hard-wired earbud solution, Decibullz currently offers both earplug and Bluetooth wireless earbud products.
HOW IT WORKS:
The Decibullz molds have to be heated, and it is recommended to boil water up to 150-170 degrees. The mold is placed into the hot water for 5 minutes, removed and cooled off for 30 seconds, and then inserted in the ear for custom molding. Once molded, the earbud/plugs can be modified using a heating lamp, heating gun, or a hairdryer, OR placed back into boiling water for remolding.
Advantages and key points of discussion include:
- The ability to have a quick and immediate solution for a custom fit earplug with an NRR 31 rating and custom wireless earbuds without having to wait 1-2 weeks for production
- Re-moldable in case of growth of ears and any difficulty in initial molding process
- Modular design to interchange one set of Decibullz molds to be used with multiple Decibullz products (i.e. earplugs AND earbuds)
HOW I SEE IT FIT INTO AUDIOLOGY:
Currently, these innovative earplugs and wireless earbuds are available at Decibullz.com and sold direct-to-consumer at the suggested retail price of $25.99 and $119.99 respectively. An Internet search will quickly reveal that these same products may be purchased at Amazon.com, Cabela’s, and other hunting and outdoor sporting goods stores. Since the material is re-moldable, audiologists have an immediate opportunity to offer consumers a service where the product may either be molded for them or, in the case of a poor do-it-yourself outcome, remolded to achieve an optimal fit and charge an office visit fee.
If this product were made available to audiologists at a discounted price for resale, an innovative product like Decibullz could positively impact a clinical practice in several ways as it will:
- help differentiate your practice from only selling hearing aids
- provide an immediate, custom hearing protection and listening solution for your patients and consumers
- Solve other clinical needs, including expanding the scope of same day services ranging from custom earplugs for pressure-equalization tube placements to providing other earplug solutions for musicians, security, and dry ear precaution situations
- offer new opportunities for chargeable office visits to assist consumers who need help to create a better custom fit they could achieve on their own
Furthermore, if Audiology practices were able to be listed as preferred fitting centers and had the accessibility of providing multiple products for 1 set of earplugs (to purchase direct-to-consumer you would have to purchase the whole kit for each device), this could be a way to get consumers in the door to your office for very little time and very little cost to overhead and supplies. Another option would be to allow the Audiologist to have access to different materials to include multiple colors for swirling, glitter, and glow-in-the-dark materials that only an Audiologist would be able to provide.
All in all, Decibullz earplugs have been ranked as one of the best (Top 5) earplugs for shooting and also have one of the highest noise reduction ratings of 31 NRR for custom earplugs. As far as sound quality, Decibullz’ wired earbuds were voted the best earphones of 2015 and won a Consumer Electronics Show Innovation Award in 2014 and 2016. Decibullz has a very promising list of products that I feel I can incorporate into my clinic immediately. Their collaborative efforts with the Audiology industry also demonstrates that they are interested in providing more products that will work for both consumers and providers. Stay tuned for their entrance into the industry and check them out at the upcoming Audiology Now in Indianapolis on April 5-8, 2017!
Dr. Natalie Phillips is the Senior Audiologist with Advanced Otolaryngology and Audiology in Fort Collins, Colorado and Director of Audiology with EarQ. Dr. Phillips has served on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Academy of Audiology and on various convention committees for the American Academy of Audiology as well as the Support Personnel Task Force. She is a founding sister of Women Unite, a group of women who’s mission is to inspire, ignite, and assist other women achieve their potential in today’s professional setting. Dr. Phillips is currently serving as a Global Ambassador and on the Legacy Project Steering Committee for Empowering A Billion Women by 2020 (EBW2020), a global initiative and movement to provide the tools, technology, and resources to empower women as leaders and successful entrepreneurs.
Dr. Phillips has experience developing early hearing detection programs in various hospitals throughout the state of Texas. Her work then took her to Southern California, where she collaborated with a neurotologist, taking over the practice of Dr. William House. She has participated in research within the field of audiology, including cochlear implants, tinnitus devices and a fully implantable hearing system. Dr. Phillips is particularly interested in tinnitus and has been providing tinnitus and sound sensitivity therapy options to patients for the past 18 years. She continues to pursue opportunities to participate in humanitarian audiology as well as believes in connecting with people both inside and outside of the hearing industry to be able to make a bigger impact in the world.