Phonak Unveils Virto Black Fully-Connected Hearing Aid Designed to Look Like a Hearable

January 14 2020, 10:10
Hearing health care brand Phonak is challenging perceptions of hearing aids at CES 2020 with the world premiere of the Phonak Virto Black, a fully-connected in-the-ear hearing aid that combines the brand's Marvel hearing technology with the style of a modern hearable. In practice, the Phonak Virto Black will be able to do everything that standard true wireless earbuds allow, just that it is also a tunable hearing-aid, using hearing-aid non-rechargeable batteries and it will also cost a whole lot more.

Virto Black is Phonak’s first custom-made hearing aid with the benefits of Marvel technology, including universal Bluetooth streaming, hands-free phone calls, and a personalized hearing experience via the myPhonak app. When paired with a Roger accessory (an external microphone accessory from Phonak), Virto Black wearers can also experience up to 10x better-than-normal hearing in noisy situations and over distance by streaming the Roger signal directly into both ears.

As the Swiss company explains, 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 (2.4GHz TV connection) and Roger, providing the wireless connectivity that today’s wearers expect.

With Virto Black, hearing aid wearers can answer, end, or reject a phone call with a simple push of a button while keeping their phone in their pocket, purse, or on a nearby table. On-board microphones allow wearers to use their devices as wireless headsets, resulting in truly hands-free conversations.

All Virto Black hearing aids are custom-made using state-of-the-art 3D printing technology and then expertly assembled by hand. On the inside, Virto Black delivers a personalized hearing experience thanks to Biometric Calibration, which analyzes 1,600 unique data points from a person’s ear impressions to optimize directional microphone placement and ensure an exact fit.

Unlike traditional hearables, Virto Black’s custom fit means the devices can be comfortably worn all day and won’t fall out during exercise. Its advanced hearing technology facilitates better communication with friends and family instead of limiting the wearer to a typically one-way consumption of streamed content that’s common with some hearables.
Phonak wants consumers to view the Virto Black hearing-aid as they would any other consumer product category.

"Nearly 40 million Americans and 5 percent of the world’s population has hearing loss and the average person waits seven years to seek treatment. 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," Phonak states in its promotional material for the Virto Black.

"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 (Stockton, R. (2018) Market Research ID1345). 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.

But while challenging the traditional hearing-aid designs, Phonak will not challenge its traditional Channel. The new Virto Black is scheduled to be available to the public beginning February 19 in the U.S. through licensed hearing care professionals. | |
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