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Earplugs invented for rock concerts are godsend to those with autism


Zelda Caldwell - published on 07/27/17

The inventor discovered an unintended market among those who wanted something that would lower the volume without distorting the sound.

A Minnesota entrepreneur’s mission to create an earplug to be worn at rock concerts is being hailed as a major breakthrough for those who suffer from autism.

After rupturing an ear drum while attending a rock concert, Jackson Mann began his search for an ear plug that would protect his hearing, but wouldn’t distort the music.

“That was the real catalyst, to me, to try to create something that allowed people to still hear the sound of music clearly, just at a lower decibel where your ears weren’t becoming damaged or strained,” Mann told Minnesota’s CBS News station.

The result was “Vibes,” a high-fideltity, discreet earplug, created with the help of the University of Minnesota’s sound lab. Rather than blocking out the sound, a pair of Vibes just lowers the volume.

The earplugs were a hit with an unintended audience. Emails began to pour in from customers who were using them to help deal with sensory issues. One email, from the father of an autistic boy in Dayton, Ohio, brought Mann to tears.

He wrote to say that his son Noah hears noises much louder than most people, so he tried them out on his son at a play — a place where Noah would normally be made too uncomfortable by the noise to stay seated.

“I got him to put them in, and literally not another issue the whole time,” Zinkiewicz said. “So I’m literally texting my wife, ‘Hey they’re working! He’s sitting here, not even budging with them at all.’ So it was really cool.”

The Autism Society of Minnesota has partnered with Vibes and is recommending the earplugs to its clients who until now, would have to use bulky headphones to protect their ears.

“To have something that isn’t quite as obvious, that maybe just fits in the ear, could help someone get what they need as far as blocking out sound, but also just navigate the world in a more normal, less outstanding sort of way,” the Jonah Weinburg, the organization’s director told CBS.  

Mann’s mission to help concertgoers has taken an unexpected turn, and he couldn’t be happier.

“This was a discovery for us as much as it has been for other people, in terms of finding out that our product can really work in their lives to make it better,” he said.

To learn more about Vibes or purchase a pair ($23.99), click here.

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