TRISH DROMEY: Restored Hearing: Dublin firm breaks sound barrier

Restored Hearing is turning its focus to noise reduction aids for industry, writes Trish Dromey

Rhona Togher: CEO, Restored Hearing.

With patented, smart, acoustic insulation — designed to absorb eight times more noise than standard sound proofing materials —Dublin company Restored Hearing plans to develop global sales to the aerospace, automotive and construction industries.

Since entering the market with Sound Bounce last year, the company has successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign for a noise reduction headset and also signed up customers in both Europe and the US who are building Sound Bounce into insulation panels for buildings and car components in order to reduce noise.

Restored Hearing operates by licensing its technology to acoustic materials manufacturing companies and also to end users.

“We are now working on integration projects with companies that make car parts and generators as well as construction companies,’’ said Restored Hearing co-founder and chief executive Rhona Togher.

The company has already started work on four projects and has 10 more in the pipeline for the next 18 months. In a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, the company presold 400 headsets, raised €16,000 and also generated publicity for the Sound Bounce technology.

The company’s long-term aim is to be a global leader in acoustic insulation. “We want to make Sound Bounce the acoustic material of choice for every single industry that uses acoustic material to reduce environmental noise,” Ms Togher said.

The main focus of the company now is noise reduction, but when it started out in 2009 its first product was Sound Relief, an audio treatment for tinnitus. This treatment, which is available on an app, started out as a BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition entry for Ms Togher and her co-founder Eimear O’Carroll, who is Restored Hearing’s chief technical officer.

With the support of Sligo Local Enterprise Office, the two 18-year-old entrepreneurs set up Restored Hearing in May, just one month before their Leaving Cert. When they went on to study physics at third level, they continued to develop both the technology and the company.

The development of Sound Bounce came about in 2011 when the founders switched their focus from the treatment of hearing damage to prevention.

“We started looking at the causes of hearing damage and realised that it often occurred because people were working in noisy environments without proper protection,” said Ms Togher.

This research led to the creation of innovative new material which Ms Togher said has the ability to respond proportionally to its noise environment. “Sound Bounce material can be tuned to optimally absorb different kinds of noise. This enables us to make targeted acoustic materials for automotive components or building insulation.” Patenting the material in 2011 and getting it independently tested in 2012, the founders identified significant applications for the new material across a wide spectrum of industries and have subsequently worked on forging licensing partnerships in a variety of sectors.

In 2013 they raised €500,000 in investment capital from SOS Ventures, recruited three additional staff and continued with R&D. Winning a place in the national finals of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition, Restored Hearing also secured €50,000 in Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland.

The development of the Sound Bounce technology was followed by the development of a Sound Bounce headset. Ms Togher said this is significantly more effective than standard headsets which use foam, and significantly less expensive than electronic noise cancelling headsets. “Electronic headsets cost around €300 — ours cost €30”.

When the company launched the Kickstarter campaign it planned to have headsets manufactured in China, but is now finalising an agreement with a US manufacturer.

“This will give us a better quality headset,’’ said Ms Togher, who plans to start shipping out the pre-orders at the end of the year.

While the headset launch has generated publicity for Restored Hearing, the more significant opportunities are in licensing to heavy industry.

“Between 50% and 70% of our turnover comes from integration projects,” said Ms Togher who expects to double turnover this year.


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