Phonak’s launch of their Marvel platform in November 2018 was something of a landmark for hearing care professionals because it set a new standard for hearing aid wearers. Phonak is doing it again with the release of their latest Marvel platform custom hearing aid. The Phonak Virto M-312 blurs the lines between a hearing rehabilitation device and consumer electronics product without compromising either.
A ‘custom’ hearing aid refers to an aid which is individually moulded to fit into the users’ ear. Custom hearing aids aren’t new, however, a product that can stream audio from virtually any Bluetooth device, with the rich clear sound Marvel is known for, in a custom device, that hasn’t been done before.
A Better Ear attended last week’s product launch hosted by the managing director of Phonak parent company, Sonova, Aaron Thompson. He and the team spoke of a desire to break away from hearing aid norms by offering this device in black! That may not sound like much (and by itself, it isn’t) but it is a strategic distinction designed to appeal to a specific group of consumers. The Virto M-312 looks more like a pair of wireless earbuds than something someone with hearing loss would be prescribed.
Phonak believes a black device will resonate with younger tech-savvy consumers who are fashion and lifestyle orientated. I think they’re onto something. Phonak’s Audiology & Product Manager Peter Mulas, was wearing a pair at the launch and they really catch your eye. In the flesh, they look like a wearable. You wouldn’t know how powerful a clinical tool they are unless you were told.
It’s worth noting, the Virto M-312 will also be available in traditional flesh tones for those interested in a discrete device. There will be those who have heard about Marvel, know what the technology is capable of, and expect that in a hearing aid, but they don’t want others to know they’re wearing it. Either way, anything that helps people seek help for their hearing loss early is a plus for them and those around them.
Bear in mind, it’s not just about looks. First and foremost, the Marvel platform is about hearing better. In this regard, its already proven itself amply. Penelope has fitted dozens of Phonak Marvel’s in our Redland hearing clinic, at all levels, and patient satisfaction is extremely high and consistent. The flagship M-90 is arguably the finest hearing aid on the world market today (although Starkey’s Livio AI is also an extremely high performing device in a range of complex sound environments).
The Virto M-312 can stream audio from virtually any Bluetooth device. So long as your phone uses Bluetooth Classic protocol, you’ll be able to stream directly. They also communicate via Bluetooth low energy with your smartphone so you can control your hearing aids using the myPhonak app (a staple of the existing Marvel ecosystem which continues to receive support and upgrades) and they are compatible with the full range of Roger Wireless devices. Probably the single most practical application, however, is streaming phone calls bilaterally. You’d be amazed by the transformation we’ve seen in people who do this for the first time!
Currently, there is no rechargeable option for custom hearing aids anywhere, so batteries are your only option right now. Word on the street, however, is that Sonova, Starkey, Sivantos and others are working on a solution in this space as we speak. Imagine dropping your custom hearing aids into a custom recharging unit at the end of the day.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in hearing care. For people looking for a hearing solution that genuinely integrates with their technology and looks amazing, there is now one clear choice.