Hearing Tech on A Tech Legend: Guy Kawasaki talks to Oticon Medical about Experience with Ménière’s Disease, his Ponto Plus and Social Media

Thirty years ago, Guy Kawasaki was the chief evangelist for Apple. As he explains it, “When I saw what Macintosh could do, the clouds parted and the angels started singing.” Since leaving Apple, Guy has founded several companies (including software developers ACIUS and Fog City Software, venture capital fund Garage Technology Ventures, and online magazine rack Alltop), established a career in consulting and public speaking, and written twelve books. Currently he is the chief evangelist of an online graphic design service called Canva.

Today, we’re focusing on a lesser known fact– Guy is also a Ponto user. Guy sat down with us to share more about his experience with hearing loss, his light-hearted perspective on having Ménière’s disease and his passion for social media.

If you’ve read one of Guy’s twelve books, his blog or one of the many articles he’s written or been featured in, you may have heard him mention Ménière’s disease. For Guy and many others, it came along with hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo. “I have Ménière’s disease, and one symptom is tinnitus, so I listen to ringing in my ears 24/7 x 365. But, for me, the vertigo was the worst.”

“The doctor tried typical things like less caffeine, less salt, allergy tests, less stress, and no alcohol, but the vertigo symptoms didn’t improve. A few years ago I decided to get an endolymphatic shunt, and that’s also when my doctor suggested that I look into getting a bone-anchored hearing system.” Guy agreed to get his abutment at the same time as the surgery for the endolymphatic shunt. Today, he has a Ponto Plus to assist with the hearing that is 70-80% gone in his right ear.

Guy Kawasaki, his Ponto Plus and Ponto Plus Streamer

Tinnitus: a sensation of noise (as a ringing or roaring) that is caused by a bodily condition (as a disturbance of the auditory nerve or wax in the ear) and typically is of the subjective form which can only be heard by the one affected. 

Vertigo: a sensation of motion in which the individual or the individual’s surroundings seem to whirl dizzily.

Endolymphatic Shunt: a surgical procedure to establish a communication between the endolymphatic sac and the cerebrospinal fluid space for the treatment of Ménière disease.

Since getting his Ponto, Guy has been helping to spread the word about bone anchored hearing systems. “A lot of people have not heard of the Ponto, and it can help so many. It’s incredible that some have no idea that something like this is even possible,” Guy said.

Bone anchored hearing systems are designed to use your body’s natural ability to transfer sound through bone conduction. The sound processor picks up sound, converts them into vibrations, and sends them through your skull bone, directly to your inner ear. This bypasses any problems in your ear canal or middle ear.

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Guy, who has over 1.4 million (yes, million) Twitter followers and 6,103,806 followers on Google+, just to name two of his many sharing platforms, is one of the most active social-media influencers online today. So, it’s no surprise that he agrees that social media is a great place to share information with a community who can help us spread the word. “Social media is fast, free and ubiquitous. If you build a platform because you have a reputation for providing high value content, it’s the most valuable marketing tool there is right now.”

On Guy’s social networks, you’ll pick up on his highly intelligent, yet lighthearted nature when it comes to matters such as dealing with Ménière’s.

Guy says that Ménière’s is the most challenging issue health-wise that he’s faced. But, he also calls it the worst of the best diseases. “I call Ménière’s the worst of the best diseases you can have in that it can’t kill you, but it’s a pain.” In his book Reality Check (2011), Guy even jokingly accredits his hearing loss to something else entirely. “As a venture capitalist, I have to listen to hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their companies. Most of these pitches are crap: sixty slides about a ‘patent pending,’ ‘first mover advantage,’ ‘all we have to do is get 1% of the people in China to buy our product’ startup. These pitches are so lousy that I’m losing my hearing, there’s a constant ringing in my ear, and every once in while the world starts spinning.”

His solution? “To prevent an epidemic of Ménière’s in the venture capital community, I am evangelizing the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”

From topics ranging from PowerPoint and social media to Ménière’s disease and his Ponto, Guy’s advice, experience and accomplishments are inspiring– especially to our own growing community of online influencers. Here are some additional resources, if you’d like to dive into more from Guy:

Guy’s TEDx talk, Lessons of Steve Jobs
Guy’s history, in his own words
Guy’s latest book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

Learn more about the Ponto Plus here.
Learn more about Bone Anchored Hearing Systems here.

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