My Whisper AI trial vs. Oticon More

I began a Whisper HA trial yesterday. I am in a bit of a unique situation: I have been wearing Oticon More1 since the beginning of the year. So I’ll be in the position of being able to do a head-to-head comparison of Whisper to a top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art HA from a major manufacturer. As I’ve said in other posts, the More 1 seemed to be only a modest improvement over the Oticon Opn1 I had been wearing. The Whisper trial is for 45 days. I told Whisper that I would not be buying/leasing the Whisper unless they proved to be head-and-shoulders better than the More 1. They were OK with that.

I have an unusual hearing loss due to an acoustic neuroma (treated by Gamma Knife radiotactic surgery in 2017), in addition to significant sensori-neural hearing loss and poor word recognition, so my experience may be significantly different than that of other members of the forum.

I am going to do my best to put the Whisper through its paces and switch off between the Whispers and my Oticons to make direct comparisons. As I contemplated this I realized that there will be many variables for both HAs, such as different programs, different volumes, Brain or no Brain, different environments and different speakers. I won’t be able to do an exhaustive comparison. But I believe I will be able to reach some conclusions about these two HAs.

In other threads on this forum, members have objected to off-topic posts. On this thread I would like to keep things as open and unrestricted as possible, within reason. So if you’ve hesitated to make a post on a different thread because you were concerned it might be considered off-topic, please don’t hesitate here. If you have any questions, just ask. I won’t promise to answer every question, but I’ll try.

4 Likes

Whisper first impressions: The earpieces are maybe 5% longer, 15% taller and 30% thicker than my Oticons. The Whisper Brain is about the size of a large Costco bar of soap, but about half as thick, I’ve been carrying the brain in my pocket. It’s felt comfortable in my front pants pocket. The audi who dispensed the Whispers said that Whisper had planned to replace all subscribers’ earpieces with smaller ones by the end of this year, but that now it was more likely to happen by the middle or later part of next year.

There seems to be a bit of lack of communication between Whisper, the Whisper “concierge” person and the dispensing audi. I had asked the concierge about when the hardware might be replaced and she had said no time soon. The concierge said there was a “holiday discount” going on whereby you could lease the Whispers for three years at $89 per month. I think that’s pretty good.

The programming went very quickly. The audi just entered my recent audiogram into the programming software and ran some pink noise (or something similar) through the hearing aids and was done. Maybe the software automatically adjusts all the feedback, compression, and other settings based on the audiogram. I don’t know.

The Whisper has only two program slots. One is “dynamic”. On the other slot the user has to choose among music, restaurant, car and I think one other. I chose restaurant. I would have preferred to have more that just two programs loaded.

The audi said I should keep the Whisper Brain with me at all times for the first few days, as the Brain would learn the environments I encountered most often.

1 Like

2 Likes

The sound of the Whisper was a little unnatural to me. The word I keep coming up with is “boxy”. They remind me of my Phonak Audeo Q90’s from 2013. The Oticons sound more “natural” to me. Walking around with the Whispers I had the sensation of hearing things I hadn’t heard before. It was like when I got my very first pair of hearing aids, with shopping cart wheels squeaking and cellophane wrappers crinkling, but not nearly as pronounced as when I got my first HAs.

I ran a comparison today. I played a YouTube video called “Busy restaurant”, which is where somebody recorded the ambient sound in a restaurant with lots of loud background speech. I really struggle in a real-life situation like that. I opened up another window on my PC and played a YouTube video of a TED talk presented by a woman.

I turned up the volume on my computer speakers on the restaurant video to the point where I had to struggle to hear the TED talk speaker and I could only make out a few words. I had no chance of actually following the presentation. The Whisper was about the same as the Oticon. Then I turned the restaurant noise down to where I could follow the TED presenter with significant listening effort. I actually preferred the Oticons there by a small margin.

This is not a fair test for the Whispers. I am used to the sound of the Oticons. I don’t know how much or how quickly the Whisper Brain might improve for me as it learns my usual environments. Speech emanating from computer speakers is different than speech coming directly out of peoples’ mouths. I would think that the Whisper’s AI would be trained to make such a differentiation. For that matter, so should Oticon’s AI.

2 Likes

I appreciate your openness about allowing discussion of various things Whisper related on this thread, @ziploc. I think you’re the first Whisper trialer who actually owns the More, so you can definitely do side by side comparison easily, and I think this is the best situation one can have. I think Bill owns the OPN 1 although he trialed the More before. X475aws is a Resound owner. I think HappyMach is an OPN 1 owner who trialed the More.

Are you a DIY’er on your More 1 or your OPN 1?

Just quickly about the programming, I think the pink noise thing is probably part of the feedback analyzer test. Genie 2 also runs the pink noise through when I run the feedback analyzer through my OPN 1.

Was REM done?

What is that round white box on the left you’re trying to compare the size of the brain to?

1 Like

I definitely agree. You’re just more used to the Oticon sound at this point. I think after you’ve worn the Whisper for a while and have gotten more used to it, then it’s not going to be one better than the other, but probably just one sounds different than the other, that’s all. So I wouldn’t let the difference in sound be a comparison point for now in terms of which is better than which.

1 Like

You mentioned the particulars of your type of hearing loss, and how your experience may be different from others because of that. I have conductive loss, with good cochlear nerves. It seems that you have more sensori-neural loss and acoustic neuroma. I’m unfamiliar with this last. In any case, I’m very interested in your reporting and your experience with the Whisper versus the Oticons. Thanks for your input! Very useful to us all.

I wonder how much one’s type of hearing loss translates into the experience of any given hearing aid. I wonder if some aids are better for one type of loss as opposed to some other.

I still have that impression, of hearing things with the Whispers that I hadn’t heard before. This was my impression when I first put them on — it was very different from the Oticons whose effect is much more subtle— for better and for worse.

Since my initial remarks, I have been in one situation (standing outside my car at a school in a line of cars with an acquaintance talking to me from about 15 feet away) where I still had trouble hearing the person.

I’m still in a More 1 trial, @Volusiano.

I believe the “white box” is a bar of soap. :crazy_face:

Ah yes, of course. He did mention about the large Costco bar of soap. I’m just so used to seeing a square bar of soap (maybe with or without round edges) but not a round bar so it didn’t click with me. Thanks.

Also thanks for the clarification about still being having your More trial going on.

1 Like

@jeffrey, you’ve probably googled it by now, but an acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor of the sheathing around the auditory nerve. I’ve been told I’m extremely lucky to have any aidable hearing left in the affected ear after Gamma Knife. Apparently most people lose their hearing entirely in the affected ear.

1 Like

@Volusiano, I tried self-programming with my Phonak Audeo Q90’s but I felt I was never able to achieve a better result than the audiologist. I never tried it again with either pair of Oticons. Maybe it’s time to give it another shot. I don’t think REM was done. I don’t know if REM is even part of the Whisper programming regimen.

First real-world test tonight. I went into a bar area of a nearby casino. Very small room. Hard surfaces. Seating for maybe six people at the bar and practically no other space for people. I rarely go here and I forgot what a nightmare this room can be with people talking loudly.

I started out wearing my Oticon Mores to establish a baseline. Not a great experience. Low-voiced male sitting next to me. No real problem hearing him. Low-toned male voices are easiest for me. Loud-voiced female a couple of seats down. She wasn’t talking directly to me but I had trouble understanding her words when I tried to concentrate on listening to her conversation with another patron another seat down from her.

I excused myself and switched to the Whispers. Again that “boxy”, older Phonak sound. I switched from the “Dynamic” to the “Custom” program and back. I tried increasing and decreasing the volume. I wondered what I looked like fumbling around in my front pants pocket trying to find the Brain and engage the volume and program change buttons. Of course if I weren’t doing a test, I wouldn’t be fiddling with the Brain nearly as much.

One program was not appreciably better than the other in that room, either with the Oticon or with the Whisper. Was speech recognition better with the Whisper? Yes, I think it was a little better, but certainly not head-and-shoulders better.

Low-voiced male left and loud-voiced female conversed with me from two seats away. I could hear her pretty well. Soft female voices are hardest for me to understand. That test will have to wait for another day.

To be sure, I would gladly accept the “boxy” sound of the Whisper over the more natural sound of the More if I could get better speech recognition in noisy situations. Hardest times were when I would converse with a patron or the bartender just when all the conversations reached a crescendo at the same time with the loud voices bouncing off the hard surfaces. I was hoping that the Whisper would cause the target voice to cut through the background-speech din. That didn’t really happen to a great extent.

3 Likes

What version of the firmware are you running? There was a recent update.

I asked the dispensing audi if the Whisper AI update from last month (October) was loaded onto the system I was getting and he said yes.

Whisper needs REM like any hearing aid. My fitter had to make adjustments during REM.

I don’t know the older Phonak sound. By “boxy” do you mean it sounds like you’re in a box? Whisper is supposed to be strong on the higher frequencies. After REM, I told the fitter I was surprised to hear the REM speaker pivot joints squeaking when she moved it away. She smiled and said, yes, Whisper emphasizes higher frequencies.

The software version on my system, from the app menu, is 1.3.

@x475aws: This is just marketing hype. Its not much use to “emphasize the high frequencies”, if your cochlea is dead in those frequencies. Besides, any major brand of HA is more or less infinitely adjustable up to 8k Hz, and beyond.

This is just The pot calling the kettle black.

I’m not saying that Whisper is better because it emphasizes higher frequencies. That idea didn’t even cross my mind. Just trying to understand how @ziploc is describing the sound, and saying that if it doesn’t sound like the higher frequencies are strong then maybe something is amiss with his Whisper fitting, especially if REM wasn’t done.

I think we’re all trying to interpret what @ziploc means by the “boxy” sound. I would relate to say that when I was trying out the Sonic Enchant 100, I wouldn’t call that sound boxy, but maybe a little dry. And it’s only noticeable because in the same location, even in a very simple location like in a hallway in my house, when I had the Enchant on, and I speak to myself or listen to other sounds I create, I don’t hear much reverb or any slight echo. But when I switched to my OPN 1 at the same location (I picked a tall hallway because it’s very narrow with tall ceiling so it’d create a noticeable reverb easily), I definitely notice a reverb coming back.

So I don’t know if boxy means not feeling as open because you don’t hear the reverb or echo’ey sounds bouncing off or not, but it’s the only thing I can think of. Nothing to do with high frequency emphasis. Just a feeling of openness that even in an enclosed hallway, you can gauge the height of the ceiling because you can hear a reverb coming back from the ceiling when you make a sound.

1 Like

Maybe by “boxy” the op means “artificial an boomy”.

1 Like