Say What? How One Hard of Hearing Music Producer Is Changing the Sound of Music

In The Beginning There Was Silence

Ethan Castro was born three months before his due date. His ears were underdeveloped and he experienced ear infections so gruesome that he had to have multiple surgeries. Those surgeries left him scarred and almost completely deaf.  Remarkably, he maintained enough hearing for language learning. After years of speech therapy, you’d never know that this internationally performing DJ, drummer, UC Riverside philharmonic board member, and music producer struggles with hearing.

Let There Be Sound

Growing up, Ethan felt left out of many conversations. Music was a major outlet and he was largely attracted to bass. “It was the only element I could feel, which had a greater impact on me than the weak highs and barely perceptible mids that most speaker systems produce” says Ethan. “I remember laying down with my head right next to a subwoofer, touching it to understand what was really happening”. He was on to something. In college, Ethan used his music production studio as a speech analysis lab. He would pull clips from YouTube or recordings from his classes and watch them go through the analyzers and meters in the studio. In doing this, he could visually map what sound looked like while touching the moving drivers to map what speech felt like.  “I became so sensitive where I could feel people talk to me through my skin, or discreetly touch a nearby wall or a piece of paper to be able to pick up certain frequencies of their voice, and mix music with a clarity that no other music producer could have without decades of experience”. Talk about being in tune!

Put Your Money Where Your Ears Are

According to a John Hopkins study, over 1 in 10 people suffer from hearing loss. Ethan is working to bridge the gap. His goal is to help the hearing impaired experience music in high-fidelity without further damaging ears. This isn’t about cranking the volume as high as it can go. It’s about using modified speaker elements, called tactile transducers and exciters, to physically vibrate in order to bring physical touch to music. Physical vibrations allow listeners to unlock the power of sound through touch. Armed with a 60 million dollar research grant via his PhD program at UC Riverside, Ethan has invented a full-spectrum tactile solution. His solution features two settings: an interactive sound room and a wearable sound unit that transmits mico-vibrations to the body.   Developing next-generation audio technology to help people feel what they’ve been hearing is a gamechanger. Sound Off™ has contributed a wearable subwoofer made by Subpac to test and use on his journey. We fully support his quest  improve sound experiences not just for the deaf/hard of hearing, but for all people to experience truly clear audio. “No one should live without the beauty of music or the frequency of a loved one’s voice” says Ethan. We couldn’t agree more.

If you would like to follow his progress or even co-create magic with Ethan, follow him on Facebook.

Ethan Castro

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