Phonak unveils Virto Black at CES: a fully-connected hearing aid shaped like a hearable

Stigma-busting Virto Black combines exceptional sound quality, universal Bluetooth® streaming, and up to 10x better-than-normal hearing with Roger® technology

Stäfa, Switzerland / Las Vegas, USA, January 6, 2020 – Leading hearing health care brand Phonak is challenging perceptions of hearing aids at CES 2020 with the world premiere of Phonak Virto Black, a fully-connected in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid that combines breakthrough Marvel hearing technology with the style of a modern hearable.

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, 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.¹

A world of connectivity

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.

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.

Customized on the outside, personalized on the inside

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 loved ones instead of limiting the wearer to a typically one-way consumption of streamed content that’s common with some hearables.

Confronting the hearing aid stigma

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.² 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 February 19 in the U.S. through licensed hearing care professionals.

Notes

  1. Thibodeau, L. (2014). Comparison of speech recognition with adaptive digital and FM wireless technology by listeners who use hearing aids. American Journal of Audiology, 23(2), 201-210
  2. Deafness and hearing loss: World Health Organization; 2019. Retrieved from Deafness and hearing loss
  3. Stockton, R. (2018) Market Research ID1345. Please contact marketinsight@phonak.com if you are interested in further information.

Bluetooth® word mark is a registered trademark owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such mark by Sonova AG is under license.

IOS is a trademark of Cisco Technology, Inc.

Android is a trademark of Google LLC.

*CES media attendees who would like a hands-on demonstration to learn more about Virto Black can visit Phonak Sound Experience Club, January 6-9 at The Venetian, Suite 30-326. Appointments are recommended but not required. Phonak will also demonstrate Virto Black on January 6 at Pepcom’s Digital Experience! from 7:00-10:00 p.m. at The Mirage and on January 7 at ShowStoppers! from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. at The Wynn. For general information, please visit www.virtoblack.com.

Media Relations Contacts:

Global

Florence Camenzind
Phone +41 58 928 33 25
Email florence.camenzind@sonova.com

U.S.

John Urbaniak
Phone +1 331 204 2799
Email john.urbaniak@sonova.com

Asia/Pacific

Heidi Zhang
Phone +86 13001271545
Email heidi.zhang@sonova.com

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About Phonak

Headquartered near Zurich, Switzerland, Phonak, a member of the Sonova Group, was created in 1947 out of a passion for taking on the most difficult hearing challenges. Seventy years later, this passion remains. As the industry’s leading innovator, we offer the broadest portfolio of life-changing hearing solutions. From pediatric to profound hearing loss, we remain committed to creating hearing solutions that change people’s lives to thrive socially and emotionally. We believe in creating a world where ‘Life is on’ for everyone.

At Phonak, we believe that hearing well is essential to living life to the fullest. For more than 70 years, we have remained true to our mission by developing pioneering hearing solutions that change people’s lives to thrive socially and emotionally. Life is on.

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Wow. While I was not impressed with the Phonak Marvel trial but this could be another leap to future of IIC which can cover up to sever hearing loss. This is a good step of Phonak and I expect it will push all other manufacturers to do so

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I hope it comes in other colors, because small, black hearing aids are so easy to lose in the dark.

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:laughing:

That made me laugh, but seems like a legitimate concern.

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Hi! It comes in other colors. Source: www.virtoblack.com

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What’s the price plus the Roger Pen?

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Whatever the market will bear. I’d guess including a new Roger Pen that it would be tough to beat $8000 and I could imagine closer to $10k in some markets. They’re just guesses though.

I doubt it will be that high. Apparently it will be available at all tech levels… Right now this is our data for average retail price on Marvel (per pair):

I quickly got over the “stigma” of wearing hearing aids. I soon found that hardly anyone ever noticed I was wearing hearing aids.

What they did notice is the reduction in the “huh, what?” questions.

Understanding audible communication is the bottom line.

Jeff

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But don’t customs tend to run slightly more? And given $6500+ for a M90 and add in likely a $1000 plus for a Roger iN Pen and it seems one is pretty close to $8k.

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Sure, but he didn’t say he needed m90…

Granted, but it seems like people who are interested in the latest and greatest want the premium level, but you’re right–not always.

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Engadget is normally gadgets for geeks. Laptops, cameras, cellphones, Segways, eScooters… You get the idea that all their writers are young, hip, and with-it. (Like me… 40 years ago.)

Today they ran a story on Phonak’s Virto Black.
“…the noisy background of slot machines and desperation, combined with my one-sided hearing loss usually renders what listening ability I do have useless. Today, however, I’m wearing the Virto Black hearing aid from Phonak and it’s kinda blowing my mind.”

I don’t get the sense that the Blacks are revolutionary. Rather highly-evolved and properly set-up for this guy’s hearing, so they worked well in a very challenging situation, and he was impressed.

My main point is HAs getting attention outside “our circle”.

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They look like Darth Vader’s hearing aids.

I was offered ITE aids- the first aids I was offered- in the then-standard bone colour and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Ok, the 10 grand was a bit of a turn-off as well. I’d wear these if I had to.

I just had an epiphany. Aids with flashing lights when you put them into Lost Mode. Could I patent that?

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This is great marketing by Phonak to make an ITE device seem cool. They’ve been late to the game with a wireless/bluetooth ITE. Now they have one, and they used a differentiated platform (CES vs. an Audiology conference) to launch it. The tech press - looking for new things to cover at the show - jumped at this, and Phonak has received lots of free publicity. Had they launched it the traditional way, the response would have been fine but definitely more “ho hum - what took you so long?”.

I admire good marketing so take my hat off to them. I’m also glad they now have a wireless ITE within the Marvel platform. I’ll bet it will sell well (though maybe not so much in the black color!).

Chris

That awkward moment after you have boarded an airplane and you get asked to remove your earbuds so you can listen to the pre-flight safety announcement.

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that happened to me about 15 years ago while wearing my first set of hearing aids that was ITE aids, but they said I had to take out my ear plugs. I laughed and told them with my hearing aids out I could not hear a damn thing.

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Do you guys know if this Virto Marvel Black supports UP? I can’t seem to find any info related to the frequency range it covers. Is this hearing aid for me based on my hearing loss?

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I would say no. The specs is for up to a severe hearing loss