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Phonak Unveils Virto Black, First Marvel Powered ITE at CES

Phonak Introduces Marvel Custom Hearing Aid at CES

Phonak has today unveiled its new Marvel powered custom device at CES in Vegas. They are calling the Virto Black a stigma bursting hearing aid designed to look like a hearable but offering so much more. They say “Virto Black is the world’s first custom-made hearing aid that directly streams from both iOS®, Android™, or virtually any other Bluetooth®-enabled audio device. It boasts up to 16 hearing performance features that work together to help wearers connect with everyone in their life. Meanwhile, its microprocessor chip runs five wireless protocols at the same time including Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth LE, Binaural VoiceStream Technology™, Airstream Technology™ and Roger, providing the wireless connectivity that today’s wearers expect.” Let’s take a look at them and what we know so far.

Limited Enough Information

So at the minute, we have limited enough information, we know that they are to be launched on February 19 in the states. They are a custom Marvel powered hearing aid that will be sold through hearing professionals. There was no discussion of the technology levels the devices will be in or whether this will be a stand-alone, stand out device.

We do know that the devices will come with all of the features and connectivity that we would expect from a high-end Marvel device. Including the proprietary BVST and the simple joy of pushing the button on the hearing aid to answer hands-free calls. They will also connect directly to Roger devices, giving custom hearing aid wearers their first-ever opportunity to use that astounding Roger Pen or Select.

Funny Colour?

Phonak have specifically picked the colour design as part of their strategy, they believe if we are to beat the stigma, we need new ideas about what’s acceptable. Most modern hearables come in Black, so a discreet black In The Ear device makes perfect sense within that context. They said:

“Virto Black was designed to blur the lines between a hearing aid and a hearable and help people seek treatment sooner thanks to the stylish design and innovative hearing aid technology designed to meet the needs of even severe hearing losses. A recent survey of more than 600 non-hearing aid wearers worldwide with hearing loss revealed a majority would choose Virto Black in comparison to traditional in-the-ear hearing aids.3 This was most prominent in the 18-56 age range, suggesting younger wearers may be more comfortable wearing a bold, stylish product like Virto Black in their ears.”

The Size

It is a little hard to tell but I would imagine the devices are no bigger than a traditional half shell and probably a little smaller than that. They appear to be run by either a size 312 or size 13 battery if the images are anything to go by. You can see in the image below that they look quite a bit smarter in the ear than many of the typical Hearables available.

On top of that, I would expect the battery life to be far better than the typical four hours that most Hearables offer. Although battery life for something like this will be interesting to see. The protocols they are running are power-hungry and we know they struggle to get much more than three to four days out of a 312 RIC.

So if it is 312 powered, it will be interesting to see what they can get out of a 312 powered custom Marvel hearing aid. We will, of course, clear up the questions as we find out more, for now, I think this a pretty cool innovation from Phonak, I for one, wasn’t 100% sure they could do it. As always, I am glad I was wrong.

It is important to remember,  a hearing aid isn’t properly fitted unless they do Real Ear Measurement. You can read the full press release from Phonak below.

Nearly 40 million Americans and 5 per cent of the world’s population has hearing loss and the average person waits seven years to seek treatment2. Despite tremendous technological advances and a growing body of research linking untreated hearing loss to more severe health conditions, hearing aids are still widely viewed as undesirable.
 
Virto Black was designed to blur the lines between a hearing aid and a hearable and help people seek treatment sooner thanks to the stylish design and innovative hearing aid technology designed to meet the needs of even severe hearing losses. A recent survey of more than 600 non-hearing aid wearers worldwide with hearing loss revealed a majority would choose Virto Black in comparison to traditional in-the-ear hearing aids.3 This was most prominent in the 18-56 age range, suggesting younger wearers may be more comfortable wearing a bold, stylish product like Virto Black in their ears.
 
Virto Black will be available to the public beginning of June 2020 through licensed hearing care professionals.

You can read the updated information on the Virto Black here.

Written by Geoffrey Cooling

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