- Published on 10 January 2020
The stigma of being seen to wear a hearing aid has been a brick wall for producers and has persisted through generations of hypoacusis sufferers unhappy about visibly earworn apparatus and their accessories. But the smart money must now be on this wall disappearing without so much as a puff of smoke.
Hearables such as all kinds of earbuds and Airpods are suddenly becoming de rigueur for young people. Sit on a bus full of 15-year-olds and you'll see how the kids without anything attached to their ears might be feeling left out—yep, even stigmatised—by their not sporting a trendy, crafted piece of technological hardware around their lugholes.
It is a rage, and not just for kids. So making hearing aids that resemble hearable devices certainly looks like a move of evolutionary significance in the hearing aid market. Sonova's Phonak brand launched just such a package—Virto Black—at the recent CES consumer technology fair in Las Vegas. And part of the impact that is now rocking the marketplace is the way that the Switzerland-based firm has, in its own words, designed Virto Black "to blur the lines 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."
This is no gimmick, and certainly not at a price for its February 19 US release in the range of $6,000. You can read the full claims and details here of what is a fully connected device with universal Bluetooth streaming, the benefits of Phonak Marvel technology and, says Phonak, a "10x better-than-normal hearing in noisy situations and over distance" through use of one of the brand's older standard-bearers, the Roger signal.
But what really stands out about this launch is the speed with which Virto Black has been carried on to the wave that everybody wanted to come along. It will symbolise the end of a stigma many people would have expected to continue for years. The power of fashion, when it takes hold of a generation, is indeed impressive. And Phonak has done its research in order to catch this fashion wave: "A recent survey of more than 600 people worldwide revealed that, for non-owners, individuals would choose Virto Black in comparison to traditional in-the-ear hearing aids," says the firm. "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," continues the launch press release for Virto Black.