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You see them more and more often at concerts or festivals: people who wear ear protection to prevent damage to their hearing. Generally not a thing of beauty, but important all the same, seeing that tinnitus is so easily contracted. The Belgian start-up Loop came up with a new hearing protection system that looks cool and has many other advantages. An interview with founder Dimitri O.

How did you come up with the idea to set up Loop?

Actually out of pure frustration. My partner Maarten Bodewes and I partied a lot for years and sometimes came home with our ears ringing. We got a touch of tinnitus, I sometimes say. We bought the hearing protection that was available, but apart from the fact that it blocked sound, it mainly had drawbacks.

Can you name a few?

The usual hearing protection is ugly, not very comfortable and – at least as important – detracts from what what you paid so much money for: the music. You only get to hear music with rather a lot of distortion, and conversation is completely out of the question.

You thought that could be done differently?

The answer was closer to home. My mom’s an audiologist. She could have a better, tailor-made protection made for €150. But we also wanted a product that looks good and can be used by everyone.

So that turned out to be Loop?

Yes. Loop has a unique round and hollow audio channel that guarantees excellent acoustics and perfect protection for your ears. The round audio channel is crucial to its excellent acoustics and defines its aesthetics. We think this is important because your ears are an important feature of your appearance. You don’t have to hide our earplugs, but they are a fashion statement. They provide a natural reproduction of acoustics that makes music and voices sound clear, just not so loud. They dampen sound by up to 20db, preventing damage to your hearing.

Was there ever a moment when you thought about giving up?

Well, at one point it was pretty tough. The first Loops came out of a 3D printer, but one of the problems was scalability. With a lot of painstaking effort, we were able to make 15,000 sets with that production technique. Subsequently, by switching to injection moulding, we were able to increase production considerably. We have sold more than 50,000 Loops since the beginning of 2019. Getting through that phase was quite a challenge, but the positive feedback from our customers pulled us through.

Where do you want to be five years from now?

We want to be easier to find on the international market and to do that we need to work hard on raising our brand awareness. We have already sold at least one set in 90 different countries, but for a genuine breakthrough we need to become even more widely known. In the future we want to work together with international artists like Beyoncé and Martin Garrix. And start selling a second or third product alongside this one. Our motto is still: improving the sound of life. Audio is one of the most underestimated qualities in life.

Does the popularity of noise cancelling devices like Apple’s Airpod and similar products from other brands aversely affect you?

No, not at all. These devices do increase awareness about sound, but they shut out the outdoor environment. That’s not the case with ours. Loop removes the dangerous edge from sound.

Want to read more about start-ups? Find all the articles in our series here.