Health Tech: Blake Cadwell On How Soundly’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall…

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Health Tech: Blake Cadwell On How Soundly’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness

Experience over technology. Focusing too much on tech-hype shifts the conversation away from experience. Soundly uses the full modern stack of tech tools and we’ve even built some custom ones but what I really hope people come away with is an experience. When I showed my mom the designs for she wasn’t interested in the tech solutions, she was just happy that it felt new and easier than what she had experienced before.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Blake Cadwell.

Blake Cadwell is the CEO and Founder of Soundly, a hearing healthcare marketplace. After suffering from hearing loss for nearly two decades and finding the process for getting help confusing and antiquated, he set out to found Soundly.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I’m a 31-year-old entrepreneur, who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with my wife (a fellow entrepreneur) and our daughter. I was born in Wisconsin surrounded by a large family, where I was one of nine children. I grew up with a mother who was diagnosed with hereditary hearing loss in her early 40s, which heightened my awareness of the issue at a young age. Not long after, my younger brother and I became aware of our own mid-frequency hearing loss.* My brother started to wear hearing aids quickly after his detection but I chose to go down a different path.

As I finished school and began my career in brand marketing I honed my ability to read lips and often asked for people to raise their volume. I learned early in my career that if I spoke loudly in a meeting others often followed. My hearing loss had a day-to-day impact on me but every time I got close to treatment I couldn’t get past the stigma and confusing process. So I waited.

Then, at age 30, COVID-19 came to the U.S. and everyone put on masks. It was enough to make me realize it was time to take my hearing seriously.

Like most people, I started with a search for “hearing aids.” What I found was incredibly confusing, and it took me a full day to figure out my options. The idea of Soundly (and the brand’s name) was born out of conversations with my wife who has spent years creating online communities at scale. Through our conversations it became obvious that there had to be a better way.

That’s when I decided to start Soundly.

*an uncommon audiometric finding with a reported prevalence of less than 1%

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’m a big Seth Godin fan. A few years ago I was talking with my wife about the emergence of the term “social entrepreneurship”. We found Seth’s contact online and cold emailed him for his take. The next day he replied with a link to this. That was very cool.

I’ve loved working on and around the internet where it feels that anything can happen. TikToks can go viral, impossible connections can be made and people can learn about topics they’ve never thought about. This is one reason I’m excited that hearing health is moving online. The shift opens so many possibilities.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So many people I could mention here.

I spent the last 7 years working at Day One, a creative communications agency, where I joined as an early employee. I learned so much from each of the founders from how to hail a cab in NYC to growth and management of a scaling company. In some of my earliest years at the agency I spent a lot of time with Rob Longert who taught me so much about the power of relationships. Rob knows everyone in New York and takes time to check in on people. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without Josh Rosenberg, Brad Laney and Rob Longert.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Little decisions make a big difference.”

It’s something I try to remind myself of regularly. Most of all of our work days are spent making small decisions vs. big leaps. Together all of the emails, judgment calls and check-in texts add up.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

When I hire, I ask for three things and I try to live by them myself.

  1. Be nice — because why not.
  2. Work with curiosity — it’s the only way to do anything interesting.
  3. No ego — no job is too big or too small.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?

There is still a stigma around the issue that affects 1 in 10 people in the US. This stigma, along with an incredibly difficult research process and confusing pricing structure, means people are often waiting up to 10 years to purchase hearing aids.

Soundly is here to radically change that by modernizing the process of finding help — making it simple, transparent and destigmatized — so that finding the right hearing aids can be as easy as finding new eyeglasses.

How do you think your technology can address this?

As a first-of-its kind company, Soundly allows users to sort quality products with the help of modern shopping technology. is designed to help consumers find products, compare prices and gain access to the most robust, consumer-friendly database of audiologists online. It is the only place where consumers can compare and shop for over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids side-by-side, and I’ve worked with several audiologists on the project to ensure that every product meets quality standards.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Hearing loss is something I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid, as my mom, my younger brother and I all experience it. However, it wasn’t until the pandemic started, when meetings when virtual and masks became prevalent, that I started realizing how much I was relying on lip reading in my daily life.

As I began searching for hearing aids, I realized the system was broken. The process was extremely confusing and frustrating. It was at that moment Soundly was born.

How do you think this might change the world?

Soundly brings light to a nationwide issue and offers a unique customer experience that dramatically changes how people access hearing health- hopefully making it as simple as purchasing glasses.

My goal is that Soundly will be a welcoming platform to the hearing health community and will provide the resources I wish I had when I began my search. I want Soundly to modernize and destigmatize the process of purchasing hearing aids by making it simple and transparent.

At the end of the day, my hope is that customers of any age have access to the hearing support they need without waiting decades and missing out on important moments of their lives because of it.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

As healthcare of all kinds moves online there will be a lot that we learn. The upside is increased access, decreased cost and more consumer control. The downside is relying too much on technology and losing sight of the valuable role that doctors play in our care.

For this reason I’ve worked closely with audiologists in the creation of Soundly and a significant part of the platform helps patients connect to professionals vs. cutting them out of the process. Soundly is about giving consumers back some of the power without distancing them from experts.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

  1. Experience over technology. Focusing too much on tech-hype shifts the conversation away from experience. Soundly uses the full modern stack of tech tools and we’ve even built some custom ones but what I really hope people come away with is an experience. When I showed my mom the designs for she wasn’t interested in the tech solutions, she was just happy that it felt new and easier than what she had experienced before.
  2. Make it personal. Soundly is personal for me but I’ve also talked with dozens of people with hearing loss to understand what they need from a platform. I’ve had a lot of calls that could have been emails through my career but I’ve never once regretted a conversation with a customer.
  3. Find the thing no one is talking about. I’ve found it incredibly fulfilling and interesting to work on a project in an area that 1 in 10 people experience but very few people talk about. As I’ve shared about Soundly I’ve had so many people approach me and share that they or someone they love has had the same struggles that I had at the onset of my hearing aid search. Many of these people I talk to regularly, but wouldn’t have known that we had a shared experience. Hearing loss is a brand new conversation topic for most people and that’s exciting to be a part of.
  4. Find partners who want to be there. Launching something brand new takes a lot of imagination and resolve. Finding the right community of partners was critical for Soundly. I knew that we needed to work with people who were technically good but we also needed partners who could imagine the experience and outcome we are reaching for. The art director, Celina Pereira, who led Soundly’s brand development and photography saw the vision from the beginning. She was pushing me instead of the other way around.
  5. The launch is never done. This week’s launch of is truly just the beginning. We have lots of exciting ideas for where the experience will go over the next months and years. We are already getting valuable feedback from customers and are planning new features to meet their needs. In June Soundly will launch its own online hearing test that has been a collaboration with sound engineers, audiologists and technologists. The test will take just 3 minutes to complete and will help early shoppers understand their needs before they seek care.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Be curious about your surroundings and pay attention to the problems you have. There might be an opportunity to do something about them. Also, never underestimate the value of long-term relationships.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I want to talk to someone at Gucci or LVMH about creating a fashion hearing aid. There are lots of glasses from fashion houses and there should be a hearing aid. The move would connect with a lot of people. Delphine Arnault, Alessandro Michele, Anna Wintour if you are listening, breakfast on me!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Starting Monday, May 23, 2022, will be available to consumers to explore and learn more. is the only place online to compare prescription and over-the-counter hearing aids side by side — and is the fastest way to find hearing aids, compare prices and connect to care.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

Health Tech: Blake Cadwell On How Soundly’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.