Prior Fiscal: $2.77 Billion
Percentage Change: +9.8%
No. of Employees: 7,000
Global Headquarters: Stäfa, Switzerland
Arnd Kaldowski, CEO
Hartwig Grevener, CFO
Claude Diversi, GVP Hearing Instruments Wholesale
Victoria E. Carr-Brendel, GVP Cochlear Implants
Chistophe Fond, GVP Audiological Care
Martin Grieder, GVP Hearing Instruments Marketing
Claudio Bartesaghi, GVP Corporate HRM & Communications
Ludger Althoff, GVP Operations
Andi Vonlathen, GVP Research & Development
Six-year-old Enhui Dui shakes hands with Dr. Jianxin Qiu, who runs the ENT clinic at the First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University in Hefei, China, before answering his questions, all the while clutching her stuffed dolphin. She loves music and dancing and joins other children with cochlear implants once a week to sing in the “Little Dolphin Choir” founded by Advanced Bionics, a cochlear implant maker and part of global hearing technology maker Sonova.
“Seventy percent of cochlear implant recipients in China are children—something like 35,000 babies are born with hearing loss here every year,” Fei Liu, Advanced Bionics’ Country Director, explained in Sonova’s annual report.
Cochlear implants are fitted in about 200 Chinese hospitals. Dr. Qui has been an expert in the technology since 2005, fitting over 800 implants made by Advanced Bionics alone. The joy he sees at implant wearers experiencing their lives full of sounds and previously unheard voices is a constant source of motivation.
“They are extremely grateful and are always dropping in to see us,” he said. “I’ve watched so many grow up until they tower over me.”
Little Enhui wears Advanced Bionics’ waterproof Neptune sound processor. A cochlear implant is a lifelong solution for significant or complete hearing loss, and unlike hearing aids that amplify sound, cochlear implants electrically stimulate the auditory nerve. They bypass the damaged part of the ear and a wearable processor captures sound and converts it to an electrical signal that is transmitted to the implant.
Advanced Bionics continued its strong performance in fiscal 2019, rising 3.4 percent in revenue from the prior year. The main reason behind this expansion was the continued success of the HiRes Ultra 3D cochlear implant, which lets users have MRI scans without pain or need for bandaging. However, a voluntary field corrective action to recall un-implanted HiRes Ultra and Ultra 3D cochlear implants due to reports of reduced hearing performance tempered sales in the latter part of the year.
Last March, Advanced Bionics released the Naída CI Connect receiver, a design-integrated solution that turns the Naída CI Q90 sound processor into a Bluetooth wireless headset. It features built in microphones for hands-free calling and compatibility with virtually all Bluetooth-enabled tablets, laptops, and MP3 players. Implant wearers can take hands-free phone calls and stream audio from essentially any device.
March also saw the launch of the Chorus sound processor and SoundWave 3.2 programming software. Chorus holds a charge all day thanks to a new battery design and transmits the speaker’s voice via a Roger microphone directly to the listener to understand speech understanding in noisy environments. SoundWave 3.2 software enables professionals to connect more with patients while spending less time with software.
Active Insertion Monitoring (AIM) for implant surgery and post-op launched during last July’s Symposium on Cochlear Implants in Children. The AIM system lets the implant record in real-time ECochG (electrocochlepgraphy), a measure of cochlear health, during electrode insertion to allow feedback to the surgeon. It can perform objective audiometry from 250 to 4000 Hz without patient collaboration. Objective measures like NRI, ESRT, and electrode impedances can also be tested.
Driven by both organic growth and bolt-on acquisitions, Sonova’s fiscal 2019/2020 (ended March 31) revenue increased 9.8 percent to top $3 billion for the first time. Hearing Instrument (the company’s Phonak, Hansaton, and Unitron brands) sales jumped 9.6 percent from the previous year thanks to organic growth in both Hearing Instruments and Audiological Care businesses, supplemented by bolt-on acquisitions expanding the firm’s global store network. The Phonak Marvel platform was the main driver of growth. Marvel reached the milestone 2 million devices fitted less than 16 months from launch, making in the most successful product in Sonova’s history, according to the company. Audiological Care made good progress last year, growing same-store sales and expanding global footprint through greenfield openings and bolt-on acquisitions.
Last February, Phonak expanded its Audéo Marvel hearing aid line by introducing Audéo M-312T and Audéo M-13T with telecoil (T-coil) models. The new T-coil models provide direct connection to induction-loop systems. SlimTip Titanium was also added to all Marvel devices. SlimTip Titanium is stronger than industry-standard acrylic, is hypoallergenic, and comfortable. It also increases the fit rate for smaller ears.
Marvel 2.0 hearing aids were launched last August. The new portfolio includes Audéo M-RT, an all-in-one hearing aid that combines direct connectivity with iOS and Android, T-coil, and rechargeability. RogerDirect software removes the need for extra components or accessories needed to receive the Roger signal and produces a 42 percent smaller device. Two Bluetooth audio devices can also be connected simultaneously. The Bolero Marvel and Sky Marvel hearing aids were also introduced at this time. According to Sonova, Sky Marvel is the first bespoke operating system designed for children, 24 percent better speech understanding in noise, maximum access to all speech sounds, and a rechargeable battery that lasts all day.
Hansaton’s latest receiver-in-canal hearing system with binaural features also hit the shelves in March. It can be connected to the television and any Bluetooth capable telephone. The sound SHD stream also supports binaural hearing intelligence, personalizing the hearing experience with precise language, localization, and optimization functions.
Two versions of Hansaton’s new sound XC extrenal receiver systems became available last June. Featured in the firm’s new Excite line, hearing system wearers can stream up to 11 hours of music or voice chat audio or 16 hours of TV sound. Excite systems differentiate between speech and music signals so brilliant sound quality can be enjoyed for both. Intelligent Acclimatization technology increases acceptance during initial fittings by accounting for the wearer’s level of experience.
Unitron revealed its Discover platform last April. Using machine learning, Discover recognizes, classifies, and automatically adjusts to seven different acoustic environments. New products in the Discover line include Moxi Fit with a 312 battery; and Moxi Jump R with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.
The Discover platform was broadened in October with Stride P R (behind the ear) and Moxi Jump R (receiver in canal) with telecoil. Stride P R and Moxi Jump R feature full day hearing, a recharging power pack, quick charging, and hands-free phone and video calls with audio streamed to both ears. The Remote Plus app feature, coach, prompts wearers with timely tips and advice to help acclimatize to hearing instruments.
Last March Sonova and semiconductor maker Semtech produced a jointly developed ultra-small integrated circuit component for a new generation of hearing aids. The chip supports multiple radio protocols in the 2.4 GHz band, and effectively operates on low power.
“Possible applications span from connectivity to any Bluetooth enabled audio device (e.g. a smartphone or television) to full duplex audio streaming between hearing aids and connectivity to wireless microphones,” Sonova’s Wireless R&D director told the press.