An Internet video made the rounds a year ago showing a deaf woman who, with help from a hearing aid, heard herself for the first time and began to laugh, then cry.
Music industry professional Bridget Hilton saw the video this spring and said the joy on the woman’s face inspired her to help bring the sense of sound to many more people who are hard of hearing.
Last month, Hilton launched LSTN Inc., a headphones company in her home in North Hollywood. She donates part of the proceeds to a hearing-aid charity.
LSTN designs and sells headphones made from scraps of recycled exotic woods such as ebony and cherry that she gets for free from a furniture manufacturer.
But viral videos weren’t Hilton’s only inspiration. She also looks to L.A. shoe company Toms Shoes, which donates a pair of shoes for each pair sold.
For every pair of headphones sold, LSTN donates money to London non-profit Sound Seekers to get hearing aids to hearing-impaired children around the world.
LSTN is only the latest Toms copycat to spring up in recent months. Earlier this summer, L.A. mattress company Sleep With a Purpose launched with the promise of donating for each sale a mattress to organizations that fight homelessness.
Hilton said she chose to partner with Sound Seekers because it provides children with comprehensive care.
“I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just dropping off hearing aids,” she said. “We give all the kids doctors’ office visits; we replace the batteries, and if they lose them we replace them for free.”
LSTN sells headphones for $95 and earbuds for $45. The company donates 15 percent to 30 percent per pair.
Hilton is the sole employee and contracts out manufacturing to China. She said the company is already profitable after its first month. She said she is pleased that her headphones have sold well so far, especially considering her years of experience in the music industry have been in marketing, not acoustics.
“I’m an avid music consumer, but I knew nothing about making headphones,” she said. “I think that was the biggest obstacle. That, and I’m just one person. I don’t have millions of dollars to spend to develop them.”
– Bethany Firnhaber
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