Introducing Phonak Venture: More Processing Power, Reduced Battery Consumption and Better Performance to Address Patient Needs
Carolyn Smaka: Gavin and Thomas, thank you for having me here today to discuss Venture, the latest platform from Phonak. What was your goal in the development of this new platform?
Gavin Buddis: The new Venture platform was very much driven from a consumer needs perspective. We did a study at the beginning of this year with almost 2,000 consumers, asking about their primary listening needs and what they seek in hearing solutions. The results provided some of the inspiration for this new platform. In addition, we drew upon a number of other studies we had done previously in terms of listening environments. We know that we can drive user satisfaction when technology covers not only basic needs, but performs well in many relevant listening situations. From there, we looked to see what opportunities we would have to address those needs with an innovative new platform.
Carolyn: What products are launched on the Venture platform?
Gavin: There are four Receiver-in-Canal (RIC) devices at four performance levels in the new Audéo V product family. In addition, there are new wireless accessories, updates to existing wireless accessories, and a new counseling tool. It’s a portfolio that covers from mild to severe hearing loss and will fit the majority of patients walking in to the clinic seeking a hearing solution today.
The RIC form factors include a 10 battery, a 312, a 312 with a Tcoil, and a 13. They are all wireless – even the 10, which also includes a push button.
The Venture platform has twice as much processing power than its predecessor and at the same time a 30% reduced battery consumption when streaming. We know streaming is important - both our Binaural VoiceStreamTechnology™ and also streaming via wireless accessories. Longer battery life in the hearing aids is also a big advantage. Double the processing power gives us an opportunity to introduce new functionalities like a new operating system, AutoSense OS to cope with the complexity of everyday sounds. As you know, people rarely use a manual program – if they have one in their hearing aid, they rarely press the button or engage it. AutoSense OS handles the automatic operation of the hearing aid, which is what most people are using most of the time. This not only means less interaction for the wearer but ensures them best hearing performance, all the time.
Carolyn: You mentioned these products would cover most people seeking a hearing solution in a typical hearing care practice. Can you expand on candidacy?
Gavin: The RICs are the fastest growing form factor; from a hearing loss perspective they fit mild to severe losses. Venture uses the same receivers that we have used in the past, which keeps the logistics very easy for hearing care professionals. The three receivers are standard, power, and super power plus. The super power plus that was previously only compatible with the Naida RIC is now compatible with the Audéo V RICs, so a bit more powerful than in the past.
Carolyn: What does the Venture platform offer for first time hearing aid users?
Gavin: A lot of the needs we considered in the product development were from first time users. Discreetness is important for first time users, so you will see that addressed in the designs of the devices. In addition, we have carried through all the colors that were introduced with the Quest platform to the Venture devices.
We also introduced a new counseling tool called the Virtual Mirror. This supports the first time user’s need to have a discreet hearing device, by enabling the candidate to see how the various colors look on their ear when making a selection. A candidate can decide how much they want to show off the device, or how discreet they want it to be. It’s a simple concept, but a very effective one in supporting the client’s needs.
Spontaneous acceptance is another important area. With Quest, we found a very positive response in terms of initial acceptance, and of course that is something that we wanted to continue, if not improve. We have managed to achieve that - spontaneous acceptance is even higher with Venture as compared to Quest.
Carolyn: In terms of performance in dynamic listening environments, Quest was already a very high performing platform. What differences would someone notice with Venture?
Gavin: One good example is when listening in a car. It is a complex environment and people may still struggle to understand. As a listener, you could be listening to speech or to the radio, it might be quiet or it might be noisy, there could be music or there might not be music. With Venture, the AutoSense OS can specifically identify this environment. It will apply settings as appropriate for the individual to help them to understand, or to provide comfort. It also gives the hearing care professional the opportunity to fine tune settings individually for the car environment.
In addition, with Venture, StereoZoom is now adaptive which means in addition to reducing noise from directly behind the user, it can now also reduce noise from the sides. In numbers, this equates to an additional 1.5 dB SRT speech understanding benefit over our previous generation StereoZoom in the most challenging listening situations.
Thomas Lang: Another area that we are really excited about and have put a lot of effort into is improving the quality of music. Research has shown that listening to music is not necessarily the primary reason why someone would purchase a hearing aid. However, often when someone gets hearing aid and then listens to music, they realize what they have been missing. With Venture, we wanted to ensure that people can enjoy music. In the new Venture chip, we have increased the input dynamic range to 101 dB, which is amazing. The high fidelity standard is an input dynamic range of 80 dB, and a compact disc is 90 dB. In addition to the benefit of a full dynamic range for music, we have changed the time constants specifically for music. Once AutoSense OS detects music, it switches both hearing aids to a dedicated program with slower time constants, a broader gain mode. This makes a noticeable difference in the quality of music. We have conducted tests in Denmark in a special laboratory that uses professional listeners to rate sound quality. The tests validated these enhancements - all the listeners that tested different hearing aids for music preferred Audéo V.
Carolyn: Tell me about the wireless accessories for Venture.
Gavin: As I mentioned, every wireless accessory has been updated and we are introducing two new wireless accessories that are very exciting. EasyCall is a universal cell phone solution that works with any phone on the market today. It is a device that can attach to any Bluetooth phone – either a smartphone or an older generation non-smartphone. EasyCall streams the phone signal to both hearing aids. Spice and Quest products are backwards compatible with EasyCall. EasyCall II works with Venture platform devices and will work with future products. So this solution is both forward and backwards compatible, regardless of which Phonak hearing aid you have, or which phone you have.
The EasyCall is a universal phone solution that works with any phone on the market today.
The other new wireless accessory is ComPilot Air II. It is a streamer without a neckloop - you wear it on your collar. It provides similar streaming benefits to ComPilot but without the neckloop.
We know today that the wireless accessories deliver significant benefit, and we wanted to make it easy for professionals to demonstrate that benefit, without the hassle of hooking them up, setting them, pairing them, etc. So we have a demonstrate button in all our accessories. You can press a button immediately to demonstrate the benefit. This gives consumers the ability to experience the benefit, and hearing is believing. Demonstration makes it very easy for professionals to offer wireless accessories.
Carolyn: This is a very comprehensive launch – new platform, products, accessories and counseling tools.
Thomas: Yes, it’s a comprehensive launch that offers simplicity for hearing care professionals. They’re able to choose the right product for their client based on individual hearing and lifestyle needs, and they have new accessories and tools that make it easy to deliver consumer satisfaction.
Carolyn: Wishing you much success with Venture! Thank you for your time.