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. Phonak prices are difficult to cite in a review like this due to a great deal of geographic variability, but you can 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, where we add extra accessories to help improve hearing. Even an “Essential” level product will work very well in quiet settings. 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 versus eight 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 also goes up.
“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 and five 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. 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 three years. If they don't include it, you can purchase this as an add-on, which I recommend.