Why My Home Videos Are Binaural Recordings

This week’s post comes from Hooke Audio’s Head of Accessibility, Justin Thornton. Justin is a blind drummer, audiophile, tech enthusiast and all around amazing dude. We asked him about his connection to sound as a blind storyteller.

Justin with his Hooke Verse and fiance, Catherine Holland

WHAT IS THE FIRST THOUGHT THAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN ASKED, “WHAT IS SOUND?”

For me (Justin), it’s everything. I was born totally blind, so I live sound day-in and day-out. It’s how I explore and navigate the world, live independently and accomplish my dreams. Plus, it’s how I relive memories. It’s my everything and I think it should be yours, too.

My relationship with sound started at the early age of four when I started developing rhythm. That’s when I knew I’d become a drummer. I’d beat and bang on anything I could get my hands on, in time with music. Thankfully, I can relive these memories because my grandfather recorded a lot of my young drumming on VHS tapes. I often revisit these videos to remember just how far I’ve come as a drummer, and also to remember my grandfather.

Justin playing drums, 2011.

However, spacial awareness has always been a major problem inhibiting me from remembering these special moments. When I say spacial awareness, I mean the ability to recognize audio sources the way I did in the moment. Perhaps hearing a siren behind me from the window or the sounds of my cousins coming to the right of me in a nearby room. Sound is all I have to remember these moments. The way my grandfather captured these sounds, on his VHS camcorder, was equivalent to hearing with one ear. See, sound on VHS is mono, especially when recorded with a standard consumer camcorder. I have two! I wish I could remember it that way. Add to the fact that I can’t see the screen, which means I don’t know where that little boy is in the room or when he moves from one side to the other interacting with his family.


THE ABILITY TO EXPERIENCE A MOMENT IDENTICALLY TO THE WAY I ORIGINALLY HEARD IT IS VITAL FOR ME, BUT I FEEL THAT IT SHOULD BE VITAL FOR ALL. SOUND IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT IN BOTH CAPTURING AND TELLING OUR STORIES, REGARDLESS AS TO WHETHER YOU’RE BLIND OR NOT.


Thankfully this is changing (cue the binaural audio!). I can’t go back in time to re-record those memories, but from here on out, I can capture 3D audio as easily as wearing a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Now, anytime I attend an event and want to be able to relive it, and see it in my mind without having vision, I can. Anytime I attend a concert, family and friends outing, adventure -even my upcoming wedding, I can easily capture it and know I will be able to relive it again, and again. Being blind, this is groundbreaking for me, as well as it is groundbreaking for many other adventurers, musicians, and memory makers.

THE BINAURAL SOUND TECHNIQUE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR CENTURIES, SO MY QUESTION IS, “WHY IS IT NOT THE STANDARD OF TODAY’S AUDIO RECORDINGS FOR VIDEOS?”.

Justin using the Hooke Verse Mobile app in VoiceOver mode. The Hooke mobile App is completely accessible to blind users using VoiceOver on iOS and Talkback on Android.

For me, it’s like the ultra 4K quality of today’s[KB1]  television content; just as vivid and crystal clear. Plus, you don’t have to turn around or adjust your eyes to enjoy full 360 degree binaural audio. Your hearing, in this case, is way more capable than your sight! We should be demanding the same clarity out of audio as we do video. I truly think binaural has the ability to wake up people’s ears the same way it does for mine daily. I am excited to see where this technology can take us and I hope it connects us all in ways we never could have imagined along the way.

From One Ear To Another,
Justin Thornton, Accessibility