Hackney tech start-up revolutionises sound in public spaces

Patrons eat at a restaurant during New Year's Eve celebrations in Covent Garden, London. Picture dat

Hackney-based company Mumbli's research on hearing wellness shows many people are affected by background noise levels in social spaces like restaurants, offices and bars - Credit: PA

A Hackney-based tech start-up is on a mission to transform the way people experience sound in social spaces.

Mumbli, which launched in 2018, is the brainchild of Marion Marincat.

Its technology will give accredited venues a chance to monitor sound in real-time.

It will also let members of the public build a sound profile and choose venues based on atmosphere preferences based on their unique hearing personalities.

Marion, who lives locally, experienced an 80 per cent drop in his hearing at the age of 26.

He told the Gazette: “I couldn’t hear anyone; I couldn’t hear conversations anymore and it was permanent tinnitus shouting in my brain.

“There is a depression coming with that and then once you get out of it you think: ‘I need to wear hearing devices.’"

Mumbli founder Marion Marincat at one of the start-ups Certified For Sound venues, Dream Factory, in Shoreditch

Mumbli founder Marion Marincat at one of the start-ups Certified For Sound venues, Dream Factory, in Shoreditch - Credit: Holly Chant

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But even with the “best tech in the world” in his ears, the Mumbli CEO found he “still couldn’t have social interactions in most social spaces”.

He explained how the background noise in restaurants and bars affects his hearing: “You can’t even hear what people are saying, it’s like trying to hear someone when they are in a club talking to you on a phone

“So that’s where the inspiration came from, then I founded Mumbli in 2018, and from there it evolved.”

The Mumbli founder has since been developing technology to monitor and improve sound levels in social spaces.

Shoreditch's Dream Factory has had a Mumbli device fitted in its ceiling to monitor sound levels

Content creation house Dream Factory has had a Mumbli device fitted in its ceiling to monitor sound levels, as well as special panels to absorb sound - Credit: Mumbli

He has also been working on raising awareness for hearing wellness while partnering with several universities on audiology research.

Marion told the Gazette: “The problem is that hearing is not addressed until there’s a problem.

“No one thinks about it, no one talks about it, no one wants to talk about it – it’s a taboo and stigmatised topic.”

A Mumbli survey revealed that 60 per cent of the population have a sensitivity to background noise.

This sensitivity can be linked to hearing impairments, autism spectrum disorders or Misophonia – a condition in which individuals experience strong or negative emotions when hearing certain sounds.

Marion added: “Some people have it really light and others have extreme emotion reactions to noises. I had no idea until we researched it."

Posed pic about noisy neighbours

Noisy neighbour complaints increased during the Covid lockdowns. - Credit: Paul Hewitt

The survey of more than 500 people living and working in London also found 80pc of respondents had left a restaurant, café or pub because of noise.

In addition, the European Environment Agency has reported that noise pollution causes 48,000 cases of ischemic heart disease and 12,000 premature deaths every year in Europe.

The WHO has called hearing wellness a “global health issue” and it is working on launching a global standard for venues to have sound monitoring and acoustic optimisation.

The global agency predicts that by 2050 2.5 billion people will have hearing reduction with 60pc of cases being caused by noise pollution. 

Marion described how one of Mumbli's test venues found noise levels at 92 decibels for six hours straight. 

He added: "Now to give you an idea of what 92 means, at 90 the WHO recommends your not exposed for more than six minutes."

Venues already Certified for Sound by Mumbli include Dream Factory on Rivington Street in Shoreditch, Colours Hoxton at Hoxton Square and co-working space Accelerator on Kingsland Road.

Mumbli will also be launching the world’s first hearing wellness district at Olympic Park on March 3, where it will host its hearing wellness festival on World Hearing Day.

The Five Points Brewery's new outdoor space in London Fields has opened just in time for summer.

The Five Points Brewery's new outdoor space in London Fields has opened just in time for summer. - Credit: The Five Points Brewing Company

Marion says the district and Shoreditch establishments will showcase how venues can “have hearing wellness embedded throughout their design.”

Panels which absorb sound are one of the ways soundscapes in buildings can be enhanced.

Sound monitoring devices are will be installed in the ceilings of Certified for Sound venues. The devices are kitted out with four microphones each with a range of four metres.

Marion hopes to help venues find a "sweet spot of sound": "We want our technology to be in all the venues to show venue operators the benefits of keeping the quality of conversation and noise levels at a healthy balance without making spaces quiet or without blasting sound."

Marion Marincat, founder of Mumbli, experienced significant hearing reduction at age 26 

Marion Marincat, founder of Mumbli, experienced significant hearing reduction at age 26 - Credit: Mumbli

The devices will pick up the frequencies humans can hear between 250 and 8000 Hz.

Mumbli is currently free for people to use. It is being tested in more than 88 venues in Shoreditch.

While it is developing apps for iOS and Android, its technology can currently be viewed on its website at mumbli.com