Phonak Launches Marvel 2.0

RogerDirectTM, Improved Bluetooth® Pairing, and More

When I visited Phonak HQ in 2018 to preview Marvel, I was expecting Phonak to launch yet another Made-For-iPhone (MFi) hearing aid. Instead, they surprised me by unveiling the world’s first true Bluetooth hearing aid—capable of streaming stereo audio directly to and from any Bluetooth-enabled audio device. This meant there was finally a universal wireless solution for hearing aid users that would work for both iPhone AND Android™.

Somewhat unsurprisingly given Android’s 85% global market share, Marvel has been a runaway success. Marvel is currently ranked the #1 hearing aid on Hearing Tracker’s hearing aid directory, and Sonova, the Swiss parent company of Phonak, has seen their stock price increase over 40% since Marvel was announced.

Marvel 2.0 improvements

When Phonak launched Marvel in late 2018, the company made its customers a promise—that Marvel would receive a compatibility upgrade in fall 2019 to enable wireless connectivity with the Phonak suite of Roger™ wireless microphone products. Phonak is making good on that promise with the release of RogerDirect, which delivers significant, tangible advances in Marvel users' ability to understand speech in noise, especially from a distance.

Phonak Marvel 2.0 Hearing Aids and Accessories

Phonak Marvel™ hearing aids include (from left to right), the Audéo M, the Bolero M, and the Sky M pediatric hearing aid. New RogerDirect microphones include the Roger Select™ iN, the Roger Pen™ iN, and the Roger Table Mic II iN.

Aside from delivering RogerDirect, Phonak has also revealed that the 2.0 update will make it easier to pair Marvel hearing aids with two Bluetooth devices. Users of the original Marvel hearing aids noticed some issues when pairing with more than one Bluetooth device simultaneously. Phonak has resolved this issue with Marvel 2.0, and the best part is that all original Marvel hearing aids are upgradeable to Marvel 2.0 with a simple firmware upgrade procedure at their hearing care provider’s office.

Marvel 2.0 Hearing Aids

The new Phonak Marvel 2.0 Audéo M-RT, Bolero M and Sky M hearing aids are all small enough to fit snugly and discreetly behind the ear.

Phonak has also revealed two brand-new product families: Bolero M and Sky M. Phonak “Made For All” Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids will reach a much larger market of potential users, both in age and hearing performance.

News highlights

  • RogerDirect: Phonak has improved its popular Roger wireless microphones by enabling them to communicate directly with Marvel hearing aids, without attaching external receivers. This huge improvement will make Roger far easier for people to use and for providers to support. Plus, it keeps the Marvel hearing aids small and lightweight.
  • New Marvel Product Families: The Phonak Bolero™ Marvel is a new, behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid family for adults, and the Phonak Sky™ Marvel is a new, BTE hearing aid family designed for children. Both directly stream audio content from all Bluetooth devices as well as iOS® and Android™ phones. They also work seamlessly with Phonak high-performance Roger remote microphones.
  • Rechargeable Telecoil-enabled Marvel: The new Audéo M-RT model provides both rechargeability and hearing-loop access for consumers who want all the bells and whistles. More on this below.
  • Improved Bluetooth Pairing: Marvel 2.0 now easily pairs with two devices at one time. Keep reading to see why this improvement is so significant from a user perspective.

There is a lot to unpack here, so I'll cover these announcements one at a time.

Marvel technology will reach even more consumers

Until now, the Phonak Audéo™ Marvel family included both a rechargeable model and a telecoil-enabled model, but not a rechargeable telecoil-enabled model. This meant customers wanting both rechargeability and hearing-loop access had a difficult decision to make. This issue has been resolved with the release of the new Audéo M-RT. (Audéo 90M-RT will be available in August; the remaining will be available in Fall 2019.)

Phonak Audéo Marvel

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Listed prices are for a pair of hearing aids in US dollars unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and may vary by region.

As a fan of both rechargeability (mainly because of the convenience and eco-impact) and telecoils (who doesn’t love hearing loops?), I can confidently say the decision is now a no-brainer. If you are in the market for a new hearing aid, please consider the M-RT model. Be sure to ask your audiologist how to get the most out of your new telecoil!

Bolero M: Marvel tech in a standard BTE

For those with more severe hearing losses, receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids (like Audéo Marvel) may not be a suitable. Enter the new Phonak Bolero M, a family of discreet BTEs that stream audio directly from iPhone, Android, and most other Bluetooth devices. The rechargeable Bolero M gives wearers a full day of hearing, including streaming, on a single charge. And Phonak says the batteries are engineered to last at least six years. The Bolero M also delivers all the performance of AutoSense OS™ 3.0, the Marvel sound processing system that senses your surroundings and automatically adjusts in real-time.

Phonak Sky M: Marvel tech for kids

The Sky M product family is designed for the special requirements of children with hearing loss. Children benefit from unique hearing aid sound processing and generally need access to remote microphones both in the home and in classroom settings. Adequate amplification and strong noise reduction are especially important for those little ones developing their speech and language skills.

Phonak says it offers "the first and only operating system designed for children," with the Sky M products, which they claim provides 24% better speech understanding in noise. The Sky M lineup is available in a wide range of colors and sizes, so kids can mix and match colors to fit their preferences. Its rechargeable battery lasts all day, even while streaming.

Phonak Hearing Aids for Children

Sky M and RogerDirect

Sky M also incorporates the new RogerDirect wireless technology that connects Roger microphones directly to the hearing aids, without external receivers or streamers. Teachers who have Roger devices in their classrooms have always regarded them as a godsend for students with hearing loss. Phonak says one of the only hurdles to wider usage has been the need for the audio streaming accessories that connect hearing aids and remote mics. Managing the extra parts and pieces can be time-consuming and confusing, especially for children. But now RogerDirect eliminates the intermediary devices, enabling Roger microphones to transmit audio directly to all Marvel hearing aids with Roger receivers installed.

RogerDirect: A breakthrough in understanding speech in noise, even from a distance

Since 2013, Roger technology has been a top-tier proprietary 2.4 GHz streaming solution that sends wireless audio from Roger microphones to Phonak hearing aids. By eliminating intermediary streamers and receivers, the new RogerDirect technology makes using the Roger microphones easier than ever. And now, once installed, it's available with all Marvel hearing aids, including all Audéo M, Bolero M, and Sky M models.

Roger Pen and EasyPen are multifunctional remote microphones that fit in your pocket. Roger Select is a small disk that can fit in the palm of your hand, clip to a conversation partner's collar, or sit on a conference table. Its array of directional microphones provides 360-degree hearing in meetings in addition to focusing on speech while suppressing background noise. And for kids in classrooms, there are additional Roger microphones designed for teachers and students to provide better speech understanding in multiple challenging environments.

Phonak Roger Select Tabletop Hearing Aid Mic

Roger Select features a 360-degree array of directional microphones that improve understanding of speech in noise with wireless RogerDirect transmission to Marvel 2.0 hearing aids. The tabletop remote-mic accessory is also small enough to be clipped to a shirt collar for individual use.

Smaller aids, bigger battery life

Previously, hearing aid wearers had to plug an extra receiver and/or audio shoe into their Phonak hearing aids, or use an intermediary streamer, to receive audio from Roger microphones. Now, without the extra attached receiver, Phonak says the Marvel hearing aids are 42% smaller than the last generation of Roger-compatible hearing aids.

The RogerDirect feature is available for all Marvel hearing aids, not just the newly announced models. That's because Roger receivers can be wirelessly installed directly into your Marvel hearing aids. So, if you bought one of the original Audéo M hearing aids, your audiologist will be able to wirelessly install Roger receivers into your Marvel hearing aids in the office.

RogerDirect delivers one additional benefit. Phonak says the external receivers, and audio shoes previously required extra power from hearing aid's batteries. Through RogerDirect and the SWORD 3.0 chip, Phonak has reportedly reduced the battery drain by an average of 27% for hearing aids streaming from Roger microphones. This is fantastic news for those who want all-day battery life, rechargeability, and access to Roger audio streaming.

Better Bluetooth pairing

In addition to proprietary 2.4 GHz audio streaming, the Marvel SWORD chip includes protocols to connect with devices through Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE). But the original Audéo M Bluetooth hearing aids were only able to pair with one Bluetooth-enabled device at a time. So if your hearing aids were paired with your smartphone but you wanted to conduct a Skype call from your computer, you had to unpair from the smartphone and re-pair to the computer. It was a bit of a hassle, and one of the few limitations of Marvel reported by members of our forum.

Phonak Marvel SWORD Chip

Phonak's SWORD platform saves battery power by integrating multiple Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz communication protocols on a single chip—eliminating intermediate shoes, receivers and streamers that previously were required for wireless transmission to the hearing aids.

Marvel 2.0 solves the problem by letting you pair with two Bluetooth devices at once. Now it's easy to switch between your phone and that Skype call on your computer. And, like the RogerDirect capabilities now available, current Audéo M users can have their hearing care professional add the improved pairing capability with a simple firmware upgrade to their existing hearing aids.

Marvel technology platform matures

If I were a current owner of Phonak Marvel hearing aids (I don’t use hearing aids myself), I would be rejoicing in the news that RogerDirect is being delivered on time and that Phonak has done something to address the single-device Bluetooth pairing issue. It’s rare that a hearing aid company provides significant upgrades to existing products, especially of this magnitude, so my recommendation is that all current owners take advantage of the news, and book an appointment to have your hearing aids upgraded!

Regarding the addition of RogerDirect, this is a real benefit for all current and future Marvel owners. Remote microphones provide access to clearer speech in noisy environments, and there is plenty of science to prove it. As an audiologist myself, I have always been a huge advocate for remote microphones for my entire career, and my hope is that this announcement will lead more consumers to investigate their options!

And, we can't ignore the impact the new Marvel 2.0 hearing aid models will have on two new sets of customers: people with complex issues or more severe loss who need robust, behind-the-ear hearing aids, and especially children of all ages. Phonak is extending the benefits of better connectivity, better understanding of speech in challenging listening environments, and better communication overall to even more of the people who need it most.

The Rapid Advancement of Hearing Aid Technology - Phonak Marvel 2.0 [Video]

Dr Cliff, AuD reviews the Marvel 2.0 news, providing additional perspective on the press release. For more check out his original Marvel review.

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MyPhonak Smartphone App Review

Dr. Cliff Olson, Audiologist and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix Arizona, reviews the NEW Marvel 2.0 myPhonak Hearing Aid Smartphone App.

Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.