Phonak Hearing Aid Reviews

50+ Years in Business
100+ Markets Worldwide
Overall Rating:
5 of 5
See Pricing
A+ BBB Rating
$1,2000 Starting Price

My first exposure to hearing aids came from my uncle Angelo, who after losing his hearing to a near-fatal mastoid infection, worked in my father's pharmacy. Between stocking shelves and being one of the first pharmacy technicians, he also sold and serviced hearing aids. I started graduate school for Audiology in 1988. The following year, I started an externship and was handed a Tupperware container with eight hearing aids. My task was to get the “ears” of a prominent Deaf family back up and running after the summer. All eight were made by Phonak. None of them needed more than a good cleaning.

Since then I've seen Phonak (part of Sonova, one of the “big 6” multinational hearing aid companies)1 continue to break ground. Back in the early days, their focus was on meeting the needs of those with severe to profound hearing loss and children. More recently their products have also focused on adults with hearing loss across the spectrum from mild to profound. Over the years, I've probably fit a few thousand hearing aids. At least 75% have been Phonak.

Their current family of products is called Marvel, and no, you don't need to wear a cape and spandex to use them. You might, however, feel like a hearing hero when you can finally give up the TV remote, and your family stops wearing earplugs when you watch the news.

Overall, what I like most about Marvel is Phonak's return to an integrated receiver for remote microphones. See our hearing aid buyers guide for more on why this is important, but in doing this Phonak makes a statement rare in the hearing aid industry that the hearing aid hanging on our ear is part of a system and not the whole megillah. My only peeve with the Marvel is that Phonak changed the speaker for their Audeo Receiver In Canal (RIC) device from a design that has been around (and in my stock) for years. Not a deal-breaker, and I understand their argument (better sound quality and durability), but my supply closet has too many tackle boxes as it is. Enough kvetching, here we go with my review of the Phonak Marvel.

What’s New with Marvel?

Phonak has long been an innovator in hearing technology and Marvel represents a leap forward in user experience. Some of its key features include:

  • Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries
  • Integrated Roger receivers in some models
  • Direct streaming to both Apple (iOS) and Android devices
  • AirStreamTM technology for TV and Audio streaming

Not new, but significant:

  • Binaural Voicestream Technology allows the two hearing aids to exchange information. This allows for convenience features like synchronized volume and program control (adjusting one hearing aid makes the same change on the other side). More importantly for communication, this feature allows the hearing aids to determine which ear has more speech and then copy that cleaner signal to the other hearing aid. This is implemented to reduce the negative effects of background noise (Speech in Loud Noise), wind (WindBlock), and reverberant rooms (EchoBlock). Some of these features are only available in higher technology levels, but the basics of synchronized controls are available across levels.

Current Marvel Models

Marvel is available in all styles with a special series just for kids called Sky. One of their unique offerings is the titanium IIC (Invisible in the Canal). Using titanium allows Phonak to make the casing (called a shell) much thinner while remaining durable. This lets them pack more features into a smaller form factor.

The Audeo Receiver In the Canal (RIC) and Bolero Behind The Ear (BTE) versions are available with either traditional Zinc-Air or rechargeable power systems.

A new trend in hearing aids for Phonak as well as other manufacturers is offering their Virto In The Ear (ITE) hearing aids in black to make the hearing aid appear like a high tech Bluetooth earbud, which is quite a paradigm shift from decades of manufacturers doing everything imaginable to hide them.

Here's a quick look at the Marvel form factors:

Audeo Receiver in the Canal Key Features and Benefits
Audeo Receiver in the Canal · Small and lightweight
· Discreet with several colors to blend with hair color
· Able to fit hearing loss from mild to severe
· Manual onboard controls
· Standard fit domes or custom earmolds available
· All Marvel features available:
· Direct Bluetooth Streaming
· Roger Direct
· Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery
· Telecoil
Virto In The Ear (ITE) Key Features and Benefits
Virto In The Ear · Small and lightweight
· Flesh tones or high-tech black color
· Able to fit hearing loss from mild to severe
· Multi-function button depending on size of ear
· Standard fit domes or custom earmolds available
· Telecoil available depending on ear size
Bolero Behind the Ear (BTE) Key Features and Benefits
Bolero Behind the Ear · Small and lightweight
· Discreet with several colors to blend with hair color
· Able to fit hearing loss from mild to severe
· Manual onboard controls
· Standard fit domes or custom earmolds available
· All Marvel features available:
· Direct Bluetooth Streaming
· Roger Direct
· Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery
· Telecoil
Naida Behind the Ear (BTE) Key Features and Benefits
Naida Behind the Ear · Some of the most powerful hearing aids on the market
· Discreet with several colors to blend with hair color
· Able to fit hearing loss from mild to profound
· Manual onboard controls
· All Marvel features available:
· Direct Bluetooth Streaming
· Roger Direct
· Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery
· Telecoil
Sky Behind the Ear (BTE) Key Features and Benefits
Sky Behind the Ear · Small and lightweight
· Wide range of colors from hair-blending to fun and bright
· Able to fit hearing loss from mild to profound
· Manual onboard controls
· All Marvel features available:
· Direct Bluetooth Streaming
· Roger Direct
· Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery
· Telecoil
· Tamper-resistant and remote monitoring features originally designed for kids can also be helpful for older adults with memory difficult

See our hearing aid buying guide for detailed descriptions of the fits of these styles.

Pricing and Technology Levels

Phonak offers the Marvel across four “technology levels” designed to match the needs of a user's lifestyle. Below are my thoughts on each followed by a chart showing which bells and whistles are included in each level. Retail prices are difficult to cite in a review like this due to a great deal of geographic variability but expect to pay somewhere between $1000 and $3600 per instrument depending on the technology level and your location.

“Essential” devices (Marvel 30) provide a good, solid hearing aid for many people for whom cost is an issue. I see two distinct use cases for this technology level. The one often promoted by the industry is for the “stay at home” patient with very simple listening needs. While I've had some of these in my practice, the number of folks who never or even rarely venture into difficult listening environments is very small. On the other hand, there are lots of folks who have a great deal of difficulty in background noise and reverberation, who can't fork over $3000+ per ear for hearing aids. In this case, I use the “system” approach. Even an “Essential” level product will work very well in quiet. If that is coupled with a good remote microphone like the Phonak Roger Select or even a simpler solution like enabling a Telecoil for a looped house of worship, the user gets much more bang for the buck.

“Standard” products (Marvel 50) add a few more convenience features like the ability to hear a phone call in both ears (DuoPhone) and a few more “channels” for me to adjust (12 vs. 8 in the Essential). This level also adds a bit more ability to separate speech from background noise called “SNR Boost.” In clinical practice, this little bit did help enough people that I usually dropped the Essential level and adjusted my mark-up to make the “Standard” product the entry-level. These also work well in that “system” approach.

“Advanced” hearing aids (Marvel 70) starts the real use of the Binaural Voicestream features by adding WindBlock, NoiseBlock and a very fast-acting reduction for sharp, loud sounds like slamming doors called SoundRelax. The channels increase from 12 to 16 channels and the price goes up as well.

“Premium” devices (Marvel 90) have 20 channels and add “EchoBlock” to the Marvel 70 feature set. The price goes up, but it's always been hard for me to measure significant differences in my patients with just this feature. That said, some people just like to have the top of the line and can pay for it, so this level usually sells quite well in more affluent markets.

If you are a veteran who is eligible for general VA medical care, you are eligible for Premium levels hearing aids from Phonak or 5 other major manufacturers at no cost. Also, you are eligible for any needed accessories like Roger microphones and media streamers. You do not need a service connection for hearing. All you need to do is report to a VA medical center that has audiology and establish eligibility.2 You don't need a primary care physician or referral. They will complete a means test, and if your income is over a certain level, there may be a co-payment for the test and fitting, but the hearing aids themselves are an entitlement benefit.

One-year warranties are standard, but many dispensers offer up to 3 years. If they don't include it, you can purchase this as an add-on which I recommend.

The Bottom Line

In my long history working with Phonak products (I fit my first one in 1988), I've yet to find a patient that couldn't be well fit with a Phonak hearing aid. Other manufacturers have many of the same features, but Phonak's done it longer and their clinical data is very solid. They are also well-made with very good reliability and durability.

Another big plus for Phonak is its strong market penetration.3 Because Phonak hearing aids are everywhere, including the Phonak-owned chain Connect Hearing, it's usually not hard to find a local dealer to help out in a pinch when traveling, even abroad.

People ask me all the time what the “best” hearing aid is. There's no clear-cut answer, but in my nearly 30 years of clinical practice specializing in difficult to fit hearing loss, Phonak is almost always on the shortlist.

Citations
  1. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2020, June 24. Sonova.

  2. Senior Living. (2020). Veteran Care Guide.

  3. Statista. (2020) Percentage of the global hearing aid market as of 2019, by company.