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Sonically speaking: Local company continues to make strides in sonic technology

Nevada County company Sonic Technology Products include the Super Ear hearing assistant, ElectroSensor electromagnetic field detector, and the Ultrasonic Rodent Repeller. Sonic Technology began with the rodent repeller over 20 years ago.
Photo: Elias Funez

Lowell Robertson was nothing if not an inventor.

Full of ideas, Robertson championed his own business riding on inventions that he thought were logical and beneficial.

Sonic Technology Products was one of Robertson’s brain children, a line of products that began with an ultrasonic rodent repellant.

Melanie Sullivan was a close business partner of Robertson’s and has seen the company develop into a flourishing business that creates and markets products intended to make life a little easier.

“I’ve been with the company for over 20 years and they had been there since the ‘80s,” Sullivan said. “I think I went to work around 2000-2001. There were about 15-20 people who worked there; we had an office by airport. We were selling a large amount of rodent repellants. They were in Ace, True Value, Do It Best—all the major hardware stores.”

Throughout the years Sonic dabbled in a number of different products but Sullivan said the main reason she went to work with them was based on her experience in the health care industry. All these years later, she and her team can take credit for developing and offering the SuperEar, a personal sound amplification product intended to assist those who are hard of hearing.

“I went there specifically to work on the SuperEar product,” Sullivan said. “I had been in the health care industry and so that’s why I came on board. As soon as I got there I saw the opportunity for that product.

The Ultrasonic Rodent Repeller was the product that got it all started for Sonic Technology Products. They have had much success with the rodent repeller and other products over the years.
Photo: Elias Funez

“SuperEar has been around since 1986 and it was originally developed for bird watchers. It was kind of a gadget project. (But) we made our way into the healthcare industry because of one ADA compliance, which includes language access for the hearing impaired. It was portable and an easy remedy to be able to offer people help with hearing impairment.”

A health care-related compliance video was issued in 2010 where the SuperEar was featured.

“What they discovered is that seniors have been diagnosed with cognitive impairment when in fact the problem was they just could not hear. There was no impairment.

“In that training video they used our product so you could see what it was and the genie was out of the bottle. As soon as that compliance video came out our health care sales started; we were inundated.”

“I always believed the product had a special place in health care because it helps so many people. People were not buying it for bird watching, but the majority were buying so they could hear.”

The SuperEar technology offers users an option for optimum hearing without the steep cost of purchasing hearing aids, keeping with Robertson’s unofficial motto: people before profits. Websites like Amazon keep the product in stock, where they usually retail starting at $70.

“We would rather reach more people and take less money,” said Sullivan. “The bottom line is, the most popular model is $70 and for some people $70 is not reachable. We will always work with somebody. If someone calls and says ‘I have to wait ‘til next month’ we just give them the product with whatever they can do. Not being able to hear is a public health crisis and is affecting us all.”

Sullivan said that one detail that largely goes overlooked is patient-doctor communication; if the patient is hard of hearing, communication could be impaired.

Will Robertson said his father Lowell, who passed away in 2016, was a business man through and through, all while maintaining the “people over profits” mantra.

“I think he worked for corporate America for a long time,” said Robertson. “He burned out of the corporate life. He was always very entrepreneurial. He saw business as more of a game. He took a lot of pleasure in it, just to see what he could do. But I know that he did not care for corporate culture. He felt like corporations were putting profits in front of people.”

Lowell and his wife Diane have been quite philanthropic within the region, supporting the arts and giving back to the community that helped them achieve their dreams.

“He was more concerned that everybody in the business felt comfortable and fulfilled,” said Will Robertson. “They gave back tremendously to the community.”

The Electro Sensor, an electromagnetic field detector, is a handy tool for detecting emf radiation from common appliances, wiring, and electronic devices.
Photo: Elias Funez

The younger Robertson isn’t sure what his father would have to say about Sonic Technology’s expansion into the sound amplification game, but is proud to offer the product and continue a legacy of generosity.

“He always resisted taking the company to the next level,” said Robertson. “He liked it small and manageable.”

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4232.



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