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Phonak

Contributed by , President of Healthy Hearing

Phonak's mission is to develop a world where everyone has access to the tools they need for their best hearing. The brand's parent company, Sonova, works toward this goal by providing one of the broadest ranges of product types in the industry to offer an ideal solution for every person with hearing loss.

Today, Sonova has a global presence, with headquarters and operation centers in the U.S., Europe and East Asia, and distribution centers around the world. The company values innovation, engagement with customers' differing needs and responsibility toward people with hearing loss - especially those who cannot afford sufficient treatment worldwide - through its Hear the World Foundation. 

Phonak is one of Sonova's strongest brands. The company also owns Advanced Bionics, Unitron and Connect Hearing Group - a global professional network.

History of Sonova (formerly Phonak Holding AG)

Early history

Phonak_headquartersThe company was first founded as AG für Elektroakustik by French-Belgian investors. Its headquarters were in Zurich. However, just 18 years later, all of the company's shares were purchased by Ernst Rihs. He was joined in the next few years by family members and Beda Diethelm. It wasn't until 1978 that the company produced its first very successful product: The SuperFront, which had the highest amplification of any hearing aids on the market at the time. The company also introduced adjustments for children on the SuperFront device, during a time when experts were beginning to fully understand the supreme importance of hearing during childhood.

The late 1970s and 1980s were a time when globalization was in full swing. Phonak wanted to be part of the movement and increase its global presence, so it opened marketing companies in both France and Germany. In 1985, Phonak Holding AG was formed as the holding company for Phonak Group, and in 1987 the company moved its headquarters to the small city of Stafa on Lake Zurich. In 1989, the company expanded its marketing reach to the United States, six years after President Ronald Reagan began wearing hearing aids publicly, which sparked other Americans to cast off the stigma and embrace better hearing through technology.

The 1990s were a time of innovation for Phonak. In 1992, the company very successfully launched the PiCS Hearing Computer, which was an ideal option when FM systems weren't available. Phonak Group's sales exceeded $100 million in 1994 and 20 percent of the shares were available for public purchase, setting the company up for further success.

In the mid-1990s, Phonak continued to develop and enhance its remote-controlled PiCS hearing computer, including the development of multiple microphone technology called AudioZoom that allowed users to choose form different programs to suit their listening needs and environment. In 1996, the company acquired Phonak Stephenson, which was located in Norway. It also launched MicroLink, the smallest FM receiver in the world at the time. Due to its recent technological successes, the company realized that technology was the way forward, and it opened a new centerfor tech and innovation in Stafa in 1997.

The technology center paid off. In 1999, Phonak issues its first ever fully digital hearing aid - the Claro - which had a built-in MicroLink FM receiver, used AudioZoom technology and could be controlled very discreetly using a remote control.

Recent history

In 2003, Phonak opened its first production facility in China, and it also launched the SmartLink hearing aid - the first on the market to utilize the nascent Bluetooth technology. In 2004, the company developed the Savia, a hearing aid that was designed to provide effortless, natural hearing for its wearers by using bionic systems and digital technology. The year 2004 also so the launch of the Perseo Open - a hearing aid developed to address the issues that come from blocking the ear canal and muffling the sound, and 2005 saw the development of several lines of hearing aids for diverse needs.

In 2006, people with severe hearing loss - a group that often has difficulty wearing the majority of hearing aids - could take advantage of Phonak's new microPower hearing aid using canal receiver technology. That same year, perhaps with the rise of mp3 players and other personal listening devices, Phonak introduced its Hear the World initiative to raise global awareness about the social and psychological consequences of hearing loss and the importance of protecting ourselves from hearing damage.

Phonak Holding AG had a brand makeover when it was renamed Sonova Holding AG in 2007. However, Phonak remained the brand name for hearing aids sold by the company. The company also opened a production plant in Vietnam and formed the Phonak Acoustic Implants group in Lausanne, Switzerland, to work on research and development for a middle ear implant.

The Naida in 2008 was the first water-resistant hearing aid for severe hearing loss. It was well-received, as was the Audeo YES in 2009, which is well-designed and more modern. In 2010, the company had two interesting innovations: The Spice Generation microchip and Dynamic SoundField. Spice Generation contained a whopping 16 million transistors in a 65-nonmeter chip that processed more than 200 million operations per second and had very large memory space. The head spinning specs of Spice Generation set the standard for future microchip technology. Also, Dynamic SoundField is a program that allows speech understanding in noisy places like classrooms.

Phonak today

Today, Phonak offers an impressive range of hearing aids to fit the needs of both adults and children. Some are nearly completely invisible - disappearing into the ear canal, while others are dust and water resistant, perfect for difficult listening environments or engineered for both quality and affordability.

Phonak's hearing aids have these important technological features:

  • NoiseBlock - to obscure traffic noise or other things that affect understanding
  • WhistelBlock - to eliminate whistling feedback
  • Speech in Wind technology - to reduce wind interference
  • DuoPhone - allows sound to be heard in both hearing aids while you are on the phone, facilitating better understanding
  • auto StereoZoom - focuses in on the voice you want to hear during a conversation in a loud place
  • SoundRecover - makes high-pitched sounds audible again, like chirping birds or children's voices

This content was last reviewed on: July 7th, 2014

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Thursday, January 7th 2010

Phonak Successfully Hosts Hearing Care for Adults 2009 Conference

Wednesday, December 9th 2009

Sonova Announces the Acquisition of Advanced Bionics Corporation Expanding its Position as the Leading Provider of Hearing Healt

Tuesday, November 10th 2009

Phonak Launches New Websites for Partners and End Users

Friday, October 30th 2009

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Thursday, April 23rd 2009

Interview with Hugh McDermott

Monday, March 23rd 2009

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