Phonak announced the world premiere, at CES 2020, of Phonak Virto Black,
described as “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 said to be Phonak’s first custom-made hearing aid with Marvel technology, including universal Bluetooth streaming, hands-free phone calls, and a personalized hearing experience via the myPhonak app. According to the company, 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 reportedly “the world’s first custom-made hearing aid that directly streams from both iOS, Android, or virtually any other Bluetooth -enabled audio device.” According to Phonak, 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.

With Virto Black, hearing aid wearers can answer, end, or reject a phone call with the push of a button while keeping their phone in their pocket, purse, or on a nearby table. On-board microphones help allow wearers to use their devices as wireless headsets, resulting in hands-free conversations. Additionally, all Virto Black hearing aids are custom-made using 3D printing technology and then assembled by hand. On the inside, Virto Black helps deliver “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,” says the company.

According to Phonak’s announcement, Virto Black’s custom fit means the devices can be “comfortably worn all day and won’t fall out during exercise, and its “advanced hearing technology helps facilitate 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% of the world’s population has hearing loss and the average person waits seven years to seek treatment. 2 Despite technological advances and a growing body of research linking untreated hearing loss to more severe health conditions, hearing aids are still viewed as undesirable.

According to Phonak, 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 US through licensed hearing care professionals.

  1. Thibodeau L. Comparison of speech recognition with adaptive digital and FM remote microphone hearing assistance technology by listeners who use hearing aids. American Journal of Audiology. 2014;23(2):201-210.
  2. World Health Organization (WHO). Deafness and hearing loss fact sheet. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss. Published March 20, 2019.
  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.

Note
*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 pm at The Mirage and on January 7 at ShowStoppers! from 6-10 pm at The Wynn. For general information, please visit: www.virtoblack.com.

Source: Phonak

Images: Phonak