for Project Decibel


Project Decibel is a hearing wellness initiative—a digital product that delivers custom audiological care to people in the music industry with affordability and convenience. The co-founders Jenna and Drew were audiologists who looked to expand their care and educational outreach across the nation. They tasked our UX team to improve the user experience of the Project Decibel app.


I worked within a team of three UX designers in three-week sprints: (1) User Research, (2) Concept Development and Testing (3) Reiteration, Testing, and Final Deliverable. Although the responsibilities were shared throughout the process, each designer created conducted interviews, created wireframes, led user testing, and interacted with the client.


How might we increase the depth of awareness with Project dB users so that they are informed enough to shift their attitudes and make intentional efforts to maintain a hearing wellness lifestyle?

Music professionals were aware of the risk of hearing loss in their industry, and the majority of music professionals used some sort of hearing protection. The products they chose reflected their level of seriousness and the depth of awareness towards hearing wellness. We gathered that misconception, fear, stigma, and disconnection pushed hearing wellness as a “back-of-mind” priority. As a result, they are content in their current state and unaware of the precautions necessary to protect their hearing.


Through research, ideation, prototyping, wireframing and testing, we presented a minimum viable product to our client that aligns with the client's needs and the user's needs. Our final solution built around personalization, transparency, and actionable features to empower music professionals to make hearing wellness a higher priority.
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Project Decibel desired to become first movers in the audiology industry, providing a digital product for music professionals to access audiological care.

Baseline Hearing present a comprehensive view of user’s current hearing health.
Value proposition:
Unlike most free hearing tests, this hearing test connected users to audiological care by providing actionable steps
Audiological care access connect users to music-specialized audiologists across the US.
Value proposition:
This feature offered users direct access to audiologist, without requiring traveling music professionals to move.
Hearing wellness resource offer users access to educational information and a FREE sound level meter.
Value proposition:
The app provided a centralized location to educate musicians about hearing wellness.
The product was in the very early stages of creation with initial wireframes to show features they envisioned the app to have. They wanted our team to validate their assumptions and product features with potential users.

Jenna and Drew shared the goals, scope, and current state of the project at our initial meeting.  By this point, they had worked with people in the music industry for four years and looking to scale their company. Our key takeaways about hearing wellness in the music industry from this meeting were:
The music community is at HIGH RISK for occupational hearing disorders.
OSHA requires construction workers or factory workers to wear hearing protection. The music industry is not covered by OSHA and thus, not mandated to protect their ears
Accessing specialized audiological care is costly and inconvenient.
There’s an increase in the amount of sound exposure people are consuming over the years. This increase is due to the rising number of concert tours, music festivals, and live performances.
The current audiology industry isn’t doing a great job of spreading awareness about “hearing wellness.”
The current audiology clinics are not properly equipped to take care of “musical” clients. Audiologists focus more on providing hearing loss services versus hearing prevention services.
We utilized the client’s assumptions as a starting point for our research. This directed us to four areas we wanted to learn more about from the research:
Current state of hearing wellness
How is hearing wellness talked about in the music industry? 

What does hearing wellness mean to users?
General awareness of hearing wellness
What do music professionals know about hearing wellness?

What resources are essential for them to be informed?
Accessibility of hearing wellness service
How do music professionals access audiological care? 

What types of audiological services do users need?
Competitive Audiological Service
Who are the competitors of Project Decibel? 

What do these competitors offer?


We analyzed the audiology marketplace to better familiarize ourselves with the playing field and determine where Project could stand against the existing competitors. In our hunt for differentiation, we found that competitors sat at ends of the spectrum as either product-driven or an awareness initiative. Our takeway is that no competitors offered services or addressed hearing wellness as a lifestyle from a holistic standpoint. With that in mind, we saw a gap that Project Decibel could fill: 

Project Decibel could be a hearing wellness resource that informed music professionals to have a holistic approach to hearing health.

Starkey-Listen Carefully was the only competitor focused on raising awareness through education and advocacy. The app targeted a younger population who listened to music loudly but they did not offer ear protection tools on the website. The majority of the competitors offered a product-driven service. Companies like Musicians Hearing Solutions, Sensaphonics, and Sound Check Audiology sold custom ear products that targeted music professionals. Mimi Hearing Technologies targeted the general public with their digital product. Their recent partnership with Beyerdynamis promoted headphones that provided customized listening experience.


On left, an audiogram of 24 year-old audio engineer student with potential hearing injury due to loud noise exposure over the years.
Jenna explained to us how she conducted an ear consultation. She broke down questions or methods she used to give a proper hearing test. Then she shared how she read the hearing test results, known as an audiogram. The audiogram indicates if a patient suffers from a hearing disorder. Jenna sought specific patterns on the audiogram that other audiologists overlook. Jenna was able to identify if a patient suffered a hearing injury due to noise exposure by looking at the audiogram and the daily sound exposure on the case history. This gave us a better idea of how patients were treated. And the patient-audiologist interaction challenged us to pinpoint areas to humanize the digital experience for our users.
“For us, it’s about learning about the person and then teaching them how to take care of their ears without compromising their job.”
—Jenna (Co-founder, Project Decibel)



Our interviews brought us many insights, and the challenge was to synthesize them all. We utilized affinity mapping to expose patterns and recurring themes. We validated our two initial assumptions that helped us dive further into the research:
Assumption 01
Most users in the music industry are generally unaware of the implications of neglecting hearing wellness.
We were wrong about our first assumption. Most people were aware of the risk of hearing loss in the music industry.

The participants who had an audiologist connected with hearing wellness on a personal level. They understood the negative consequences of neglecting their hearing.
Assumption 02
Once users are aware of the risks of hearing loss, they want to take preventative actions.
We validated our second assumption. The degree of preventative actions varied by type of users.

Between audio engineers and musicians, audio engineers were the most likely group to take preventative actions; they understood the science behind hearing loss.

Musicians who play on the smaller scale were less likely to take preventative actions because they lacked the resources to address their hearing wellness.


We interviewed 13 participants, the majority of whom had relationships with Project Decibel. It was important to reach out to people outside the project scope. I contacted acquaintances working in the music industry, to get a wider perspective. We created three personas that embodied the needs, motivations, and frustrations of our users when it comes to addressing their hearing wellness. Based on our research we found that: 

There was a distinction between musician and audio engineer's approach to hearing wellness.

We focused on Travis as the primary user of Project Decibel, an individual receptive to taking care of his hearing wellness. We learned that younger music professionals were more health conscious than those from the older generation. They saw the long-term benefit of taking care of their hearing health. The two secondary personas showcased people Project Decibel would have difficulty capturing. Bill represented the musicians who had the defeatist attitude towards hearing wellness. He lacked urgency to change his habits. Brandon represented the audio engineers who understood the consequences of hearing loss. Brandon was more prone to try Project Decibel in the future, but did not make sense to focus on for the MVP.


Not only did we validate our initial assumption, our affinity mapping revealed that misconception, fear, stigma, and disconnection pushed hearing wellness as a lower priority. Once we identified the four core barriers, we summed up our insights to this one statement: Music professionals are content in their ignorance when it comes to hearing wellness.

To dig a little deeper to THE WHY we concluded that:

Hearing wellness is not seen as a lifestyle, but just a product.


These design guidelines helped us define Project Decibel's meaning and purpose for the user. Overall, we wanted to inform our users to take actionable steps to their hearing wellness.
Make it stick
Becoming a good musician starts with practice.

We wanted the product to provide actionable options for users to start implementing that fit in their daily lives.
Meet me where I am
Musicians have particular and unique lifestyles and needs.

The overall app content should speak the user’s language and make the information approachable and understandable to their specific needs.
Don't BS me
Let’s cut to the chase; musicians only want to see what they need to see.

The information should be transparent and ultimately help users understand the reality of their current situation with minimal fear and misconception.



Before we tackled the defined problem, we revisited the four core research insights to define the scope of work. This ensured that our design solutions were solving our users' needs and our client's business needs.

We focused on prioritization, transparency, education to ideate on design solutions. We felt that the concept of disconnection was out of scope for us to solve due to the business constraints we foresaw. We did see Project Decibel tackling the “disconnect” in the future, but we wanted to make sure our project focus was viable given the timeframe.


During concept ideation, I led my team in a whiteboard session to generate as many potential ideas with little limitations. We started branching out ideas from the three high-level solutions—prioritization, transparency, education–we wanted to explore.

We had so many possible routes for our solution, but the priority matrix narrowed our focus. We wanted to make sure we were proceeding with concepts that addressed our problem and fitted within the client’s business goals. The priority matrix helped us narrow down our concepts. We moved forward with the concepts that had high impact and were a top need for the client, but more importantly the user. This led us to two areas of divergence:
Divergence 01: Onboarding
Onboarding was the first thing a new Project Decibel user saw. We explored how to best bring them into the app with three approaches. Each designer tackle one onboading concept.
(My concept)
Educative Approach
My concept was purely information-based. This concept provided basic information on why it's important to care about hearing wellness.
(Teammate concept)
Upfront Value
This concept provided the users with an upfront look into the features available within the product.
(Teammate concept)
Profile Personalization
This concept allowed users to personalize their account for the app to cater to their needs and inform the app of their current situation.
Overall takeaways from concept testing:
  • Digestible // The language should be digestible for users to take in the information. Educative concept was well-received during testing because the concept presented information in bite-sized content. Testers were less engaged when there was too much content.
  • Personalizable // The experience should allow users to personalize the informatio nto fit their unique situation. Testers responded positively to concept #3.  We learned that musicians took pride in their work and enjoyed sharing what they do for a living.
  • Value-driven // The value of the product needed to be transparent. Testers felt concept #2 presented the product offering the clearest. Onboarding should tell users why they need the product.
Divergence 02: Feature concepts
The features needed to be engaging for a user to incorporate it into their wellness. We wanted to see how much value a user drew from each feature.
(My concept)
Conduct a hearing test
This feature allowed users to understand the reality of their hearing situation, then provided post-result options.
(Teammate concept)
Message an audiologist
This feature allowed users to maintain personal and direct access to an audiologist with convenience.
(Teammate concept)
Browse the resources
This feature provided educational videos and articles in a centralized location to increase hearing wellness awareness.
Overall takeaways from concept testing:
  • Actionable // Actionable items allowed users to take control of their hearing wellness. The app needed to guide users on what to do next, but give users options to empower them.
  • Transparent // Transparency is essential to a user’s willingness to risk time, money, and personal data. The app should communicate why it helped users take care of their hearing. Users were less likely to use a feature if the app didn’t communicate the value of why they need it.
  • Human // The language needed to feel relevant to the user's current situation. There were opportunities to humanize the experience through the copy and language of the app.



We synthesized all the feedback from concept testing into three key areas of opportunities for Project Decibel users—not only did this helped us converge to a final concept, but we saw these opportunities as potential drivers for the app to increase user engagement and ultimately make hearing wellness a higher priority.


As we move towards convergence, the app map ensured we delivered a cohesive concept with a seamless flow for our client. We utilized the app map to get a high level overview of the proposed app structure. This helped us plan an intuitive navigation by pinpoint where to place the actionable options.


The Project dB app equips users with the tools and resources they need to protect their hearing. 

The app not only communicates about the product offerings, but also informs the importance of hearing wellness and creates actionable items to maintain hearing wellness lifestyle.

01/ 03: 
The onboarding communicates the upfront value of users receive with the app.
The onboarding allows users to personalize their accounts to unique fit who they are.
The onboarding asks the right questions to understand the users' unique hearing needs.

Tell Project Decibel about your hearing lifestyle.

An onboarding experience that encourage user engagement. It allows users to learn the product offerings upfront and personalize their information about their hearing wellness needs. 

How's my hearing? 

"My hearing" feature is a centralized location to address users' hearing wellness from understanding their current hearing health to connecting with an audiologist with convenience.
01/ 03: 
"My Ears" displays information to address their current hearing health.
The hearing test engages and guides the users with questions that audiologists would ask.
Hearing test gives users actionable options to address their hearing wellness.
01/ 03: 
Easy access to resources that encourages a healthy hearing wellness lifestyle.
User are provided with actionable options at the end of resource content.
Bookmark option allows users to save resources they can easily return to.

What do I want to know about hearing health?

"Resources" encourages exploration to topics that betters informs and guide users on addressing their hearing wellness.
“If I had significant hearing loss, that would be loss of my career, my leisure, my favorite pastimes and my ability to communicate with my friends, which is paramount to my happiness.”
—Adam (Studio Audio Engineer, Shure)



We presented a final concept that delivered a complete working prototype with an entire user flow. Project Decibel was thrilled to see what was accomplished in three weeks. We received confirming from our creative director that they planned to incorporate a custom earplug marketplace as part of their MVP and looked to continue working with DESIGNATION to develop the UI for the app. In the meantime, they used our designs as part of their MVP to pitch to investors.
On October 9, 2017 our co-founder Jenna took the stage to present Project Decibel at the WISTEM C5 Showcase. WiSTEM helps women entrepreneurs start their business with a 12-week, curriculum-based program.


Due to the short timeline and broad scope of the project, there were still a lot of opportunities for iteration or development. We approached testing as a combination of usability and concept testing with our final design. Our testing feedback was very similar to the feedback from concept testing. With that in mind, we compiled a list of future recommendations for our client to help move their product forward.
Iterating and testing
Challenge: With limited time and resources, we weren’t able performed enough rounds of iteration and testing around “My Ears” category and the components in the home screen.
Our recommendations:
  • Continue iteration on the prototypes and concepts from user feedback and input.
  • Keep testing the prototype with users.
Skewed user base
Challenge: The majority of participants had an existing relationship with our clients, which potentially skewed our insights. The team wanted to make sure we captured the diverse perspectives of the music industry.
Our recommendations:
  • Continue further testing on users that more closely match potential users
  • Consider pushing recommendations within the product that are more relevant to a wider user audience (i.e. offering entry-level hearing protection products)
Content strategy
Challenge: Our team had difficulty in determining how to display the content to different users with different mental models with varying age and background.
Our recommendations:
  • Consolidate language used to accommodate all types of users.
  • Explore different means of educating users about hearing wellness to determine the most effective way to deepen awareness.
Distinct value for users
Challenge: There wasn’t a clear understanding of the business value proposition from users.
Our recommendations:
  • With so many cheap alternative hearing tests and a lack of understanding, it will be crucial for Project Decibel to communicate how their product is unique and valuable.
  • Test where the paywall best fits within the product to determine at which point the users understand the value of purchasing a premium version.


I’m proud of my team for what we were able to present to our client over the course of three weeks.
  • We were able to establish our UX expertise with our client, who was unfamiliar with UX and design processes. During meetings, I was able to clarify our clients’ expectations and questions with confidence.
  • I learned to advocate for our users and also consider the unique business needs for this project. This area helped me improve my critical thinking to ensure the product we presented to the client recognized the real-world challenges that exist in this domain.
On a personal level, my attitude changed while working on this project. I lack awareness in the various noise exposures I surrounded myself in. I’m someone who dangerously blasted music through my headphones; who has played the drums in jazz band without ear protection; and who has failed to cover my ears when an ambulance zooms by. Project Decibel was a gratifying experience for me because I learned a lot about this domain. I look to develop healthier habits for my hearing wellness. I plan to prioritize my ears in loud settings and spread awareness of this issue in my circle. I’m in an industry centered around the art of listening and observing people. My ears and my eyes are the tools I use to empathize and design. I don't want to take them for granted.