User Review of Whisper Hearing Aids

I have been wearing a pair of Whisper hearing aids for the past 5 weeks. I will use this space to describe my experience with them and will endeavor to be strictly descriptive of how I’ve experienced them. My point of comparison is a pair of Oticon Opn 1 hearing aids, which I’ve been wearing for the past 5+ years.

I’ll begin with the physical characteristics. The ear pieces themselves are significantly larger than traditional hearing aids in order to accommodate a large 675 battery, which is necessary to communicate with the other piece of equipment, the “brain”. There is no rocker switch on the ear pieces, and adjustments in volume or program changes can only be made from the brain. I have not have a problem with the size of the ear pieces or with the controls being located on a separate device providing remote control. Nor have I had a problem in carrying the brain in my pocket. It is 3.5” x 2.5” x 0.6”. It takes 5 hours to recharge and a charge lasts for about 16 hours. The ear piece is powered by replaceable batteries which last about 3 days in my experience. The ear pieces work effectively even if the brain is not present. I met another Whisper who said that he doesn’t bring the brain with him during the day, finding that he doesn’t need it. The company says that it’s benefit is maximized in the most complex (noisy) listening environments. The hearing aids stream phone calls from my cell phone via bluetooth although there seems to be a little bit of delay. There are 5 custom programs available: music, quiet, noise, outdoors, and TV. I have changed wax guards twice in 5 weeks. The Whisper hearing aids are locked. More about the Whisper equipment can be found at https://www.whisper.ai

Moving on to my listening experience, I’ll begin by saying that my goal was modest. It was to reduce the number of times that I had to ask to have words or whole sentences repeated in normal, quiet conversation. At first the difference was marginally in favor of the Whisper hearing aids. I switched back & forth between the 2 hearing aids so I could listen to both in the same situations. Wearing them full time for the past 2 weeks convinced me that I am asking for fewer repetitions. Not perfect, but it’s better. When I was knew to hearing aids, the big wow was that I could hear sounds that I hadn’t been hearing for years, e.g. birds singing. I now take that for granted. Now it’s not volume but clarity of speech that I’m looking for, which involves subtle nuances more than the big wow.

Whisper really shines in challenging listening situations. At an outdoor school soccer game, I could hear a conversation from a group about 15-20 feet away as though I were part of the group and standing right with them. Not only could I hear the conversation, but I could hear it clearly and understand what everyone was saying. I had a similar experience at an indoor, noisy, banquet when I could also hear clearly the conversation in a group about 20’ away. At a breakfast meeting with half a dozen friends at an outdoor cafe on a small-city street, I could understand everything in the conversation despite the competition of talking by diners at other tables and background street noise.

Other positive features.

  1. Wind suppression is excellent. I can drive my car with the windows down and everything is normal as though I wasn’t even wearing hearing aids.

  2. I don’t find that I’m overwhelmed by loud noises ever whereas that is occasionally a problem with my Opn 1’s. Oddly enough, I sometimes hear loud noises as though they’re coming from a different direction than the actual direction. And yet, I don’t have any problem establishing the direction from which voices are coming regardless of whether they’re near or far. I can’t explain that.

  3. Overall, my experience of the soundscape is very similar to Oticon’s open soundscape philosophy - but with background noise toned down just a little bit. I have access to all of the sounds in the environment around me. There is no beamforming employed.

  4. The sound quality is unremarkable. By that I mean that it just sounds . . . normal. That’s not a big wow, but it is really a pleasant listening experience. I feel like I’m listening to the world the way I should be.

Things that I wish were different.

  1. I wish that batteries lasted longer, so I would opt for rechargeable batteries if that option were available.

  2. I wish that I didn’t have to change wax guards as often as I have in this short user experience.

  3. It would be nice to have more streaming options although my priority is better hearing ahead of everything else, and I’m getting that. Whisper says that they are working on the streaming issue and will be adding additional streaming capabilities.

  4. Although making adjustments from the brain is more discreet than repeatedly touching my ear, there are times when it would be more convenient to be able to click a switch on the ear piece.

After a 4-week trial, I signed on to a 3-year Whisper subscription. In addition to the fact that I like the listening experience with these hearing aids, another factor in my decision is the fact that these hearing will get better with new software updates every 3 months just like the updates on your smart phone I’d smart TV. Because the Whisper AI separates speech from noise by recognizing how human speech is a different sound pattern than any other noise, it becomes better at recognizing that difference as the listening environment of every Whisper user is added to its dataset. This occurs because of the large memory and storage capability built into the brain. The stored data is then downloaded during each update appointment with the audiologist and then uploaded to the cloud and then added to the dataset that Whisper AI uses to compare speech with noise and then separate out the speech. To provide a better explanation of this, I am linking 2 Whisper white papers for those who would like to get into the details: https://www.hearingreview.com/resource-center/white-papers/how-ai-is-transforming-hearing-care

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Thanks for sharing this, Bill. It’s always good to hear that users have more options because competition is always a win win for users any way you look at it.

If I remember correctly, you also had a chance to trial the More for a little while but you didn’t find a wow factor but only minor incremental improvement to the OPN. How would you compare the Whisper’s performance to the More performance?

I have a couple of my own opinions about a couple of things you mentioned, which I’ll share below. While they may seem like I’m knocking it down, that’s not my intention. The intention is to express opinions from all angles so that we can look at things as objectively as we can.

I’m actually glad that there’s healthy competition in the hearing aid arena, to keep everybody on their toes so that the consumers can benefit from this in the end.

I’m of the opinion that significant improvements in the hearing aid industry doesn’t come as easily and as often as every 3 months. Once the major functionality of the hearing aid has been designed and developed, the software updates every 3 months are more likely bug fixes and incremental improvement that are not really ready to be called any kind of a significant leap. HA mfgs come up with firmware updates every 3 to 6 to 12 months as well, more often initially for bug fixes and less often eventually as the design becomes more stable/bug free, until the next major significant technology is introduced.

I’m sure the AI and DNN stuff that many HA mfgs are arriving at lately didn’t come from a 3 month or 6 month or even a year cycle. It’s probably been in the R&D phase for several years already and has just now come to fruition. For example, Oticon didn’t go from the open paradigm with the OPN to the More in 3 months. It took them about 5 years from 2016 to 2021 to release the More after the OPN. It’s not because they didn’t have the brain so they couldn’t release the More 3 months after they released the OPN. Just the fact that they trained the More with 12 million sound scene samples makes you wonder how long that process took them. If it took them a year to train, that means that they must have had an army to collect and process and train 1 million sound scene samples every month (or 33 thousands a day) to get the training aspect of it alone all done in a year. That is, if it took them only a year to collect and process and train.

While the ability to take advantage of the brain to collect more data to continually train the DNN is actually cool, it makes one wonder how much data sample Whisper has managed to collect and train so far already before releasing their DNN to the public. If they already had something like 12 million data sets collected and trained in their DNN already, then is a little more collected from the limited amount of users are going to make a much bigger dent? Even if the number of users grow to a significant count in the next few years, and if that contributes to sufficiently more data, enough to make a dent in the improvement of the accuracy of their current DNN, then it leads to the question of how well trained their currently DNN actually is now, if it requires more data from the users collectively in the coming years to make a dent.

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Thanks for the great review. I’ll definitely have some questions later.

If I just put a personal viewpoint- hopefully without upsetting anybody…

Now that we have an actual review, can we keep it to the Whisper product from a consumer/user’s point of view? So, if anyone wants to discuss the theoretical underpinnings, or economic viability, or Whisper’s take on AI versus Oticon’s, maybe they could start an appropriately titled thread to enable us all to have the discussion that we want?

It’s not “my” thread to attempt to control. Just stating my preference.

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@d_Wooluf: I absolutely agree with this, (although not comparing with other makes and similar technologies is kinda restrictive) but I’ll endeavour to comply with the spirit of the request.

Bill, thanks for coming back to share your Whisper experience with us! I have a few questions, too.

I’ve never been very conscious of how far away conversations are from me, since I’m usually just focused on understanding who’s in my immediate vicinity. Do the Whispers give you a “SuperHearing” kind of feeling?

You haven’t mentioned how music sounds through your Whispers . Is that experience better or worse [EDIT: to remove More comparison]?

To what do you attribute the need for more frequent wax guard changes? Are you wearing custom moulds or domes?

Welcome back!

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I trialed a pair of More 1’s for 4 weeks back in February. I went into the trial expecting significant improvement and was prepared to buy them. I didn’t find minor incremental improvement the Mores for my hearing loss, I found no discernible difference between them and the Opn 1’s. Again, that was for my hearing loss.

I found that the Whisper hearing aids were marginally better immediately for my goal of reduced requests for repetitions in normal daily speech. The longer I wore them and the more I got used to them, I felt that there was a distinct advantage. It’s not that the Opn 1’s were bad. In fact, they’re very good. It was more that it was annoying to still be asking to have words repeated. I struggled with a decision about whether the difference was significant enough to make the Whisper worth the investment.

The Whisper is way better than the Opn 1’s for speech in noise. I’m retired and so I’m not in noisy situations a lot. But even if I were working, I don’t know how often this is an issue for most people. Let’s say I worked as an audiologist and worked in a quiet office all day. Whether retired or working in these 2 cases, this wouldn’t be a deciding factor for me. But, if I worked as an elementary school teacher with the chatter of little people around me all day and times of the day when I was in a noisy cafeteria or a noisy playground, this would be huge and it would be a deciding factor.

I found the Whisper wind management to be significantly better than the Opn 1. I also preferred the overall listening experience with the Whisper. Again with my example of the elementary school teacher, I want Oticon’s open sound paradigm. I want to be able to hear kids from every direction. With the Whisper I can still do that, but Whisper seems to take the edge off just a little bit. I still have access to the full soundscape but it’s not as overwhelming as the Opn 1 could be at times and I can hear the speech in that noise better, clearer, and from greater distance.

Just me and my hearing loss. Thanks for getting he to articulate it better . . . hopefully.

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@billgem: I’m glad you don’t mind the probing questions, Bill. My objective in asking the things I am is to understand the advantages accruing to you that offset what - for me, at least - would be deal breakers, to whit

  • 16 hour brain battery life
  • long brain recharge time, relative to rate of discharge
  • lack of media streaming
  • large earpiece size
  • relatively short earpiece battery life

I’ve come to know you as a shrewd decision-maker, who would have carefully considered all the factors mentioned. So, I’m looking for the “core competency” of Whisper that could neutralize what I see as real obstacles to my adoption of this device.

Super hearing ??? LOL. :laughing:

All I can say about hearing at a distance is that when it first occurred, I was taken by surprise. I was at my grandson’s middle school soccer game, so we’re not talking about any stadium effect here. Just a small section of bleachers and parents standing or sitting in folding chairs along the sidelines. My son had wandered away from my wife and me to chat with a small group of other parents about 20’ behind us. When there was a break in the action, I suddenly became aware of that conversation behind me. I could hear every word clear as a bell. When it occurred again in a noisy banquet room with about 80 people, I was impressed and realized that the soccer game wasn’t a fluke. Whisper’s “sound separation engine” really does work even in challenging noisy situations.

Whisper’s main program is called “Dynamic”. It works very well. I haven’t needed anything else. Springsteen is still Springsteen. Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I will be trying some of the supplemental programs when I go back for my follow up in a few weeks.

I have no idea why I am changing wax guards more iften. My audiologist says changing them every few weeks, but that wasn’t my experience in the past. My hearing aids have power domes which the Audi modified to reduce the occlusion effect. I am wearing custom molds on my Opn 1’s, and they rarely need attention. Maybe I’ve gotten lazy and need to be doing a better job with daily and weekly cleaning & maintenance.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond to my barrage, @billgem!

Jim, I’m sure you speak for a lot of hearing aid users with the issues you raise. Me? I’m a Luddite. Old school. I haven’t even streamed phone calls until now. I’ve been using my cell phone more lately, but my use of it fluctuates with my pace of life. Sometimes I just carry it for emergencies.

My goal with hearing aids is just to hear better. I don’t stream TV. I just listen normally with my hearing aids on. I can hear TV more clearly with the Whisper hearing aids. I can also listen to telephone conversations on a conventional land line better. With my Opn 1’s, I would take the hearing aid off my stringer ear and press my ear gains the phone. I could hear okay with that technique. Now I don’t need to take my hearing aid off.

I think that Whisper came to market before their product was fully formed, which explains the limitations on streaming. They tell me that they are working on it and will be adding additional streaming capabilities. I suspect that is why they are offering a discounted introductory price and a further discount for those who participate in the Brain Trust program. Getting these hearing aids into the hands (ears) of users is a major asset to them at this point because it gives them the opportunity to build their dataset and refine the training of their AI. That would explain why they have gotten out in the market place without streaming being fully ready as well as some other desirable features. I actually find the opportunity to be part of their research & development at the ground floor level to be part of the appeal for me.

Regarding your other points . . .

  1. 16 hour battery life for the brain means it’s available all day - especially since you aren’t likely to have the brain with you all the time. I don’t have it with me right now. 5 hour recharging time means that it recharged overnight while you sleep.

  2. I have ears like an elephant :smirk_cat:, so the size of the ear piece is a non- issue for me, but I can’t speak for anyone else. Signia focuses their marketing on their super slim design. To each, his/her own.

  3. I agree with you about the short battery life. When the brain is in use, there is a lot of draw on that battery as the brain and the ear piece are constantly communicating. I look forward to trading in my ear pieces for rechargeable ones when that option becomes available.

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@billgem: trouble is, 16 hours won’t get me through my day:

The average for the week before was over 19 hours.

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Great question! :+1:

I really like Oticon’s open sound paradigm. If all that Whisper was, is beamforming and noise suppression, I wouldn’t be interested.

I am experiencing a refined version of that open soundscape with enhanced speech in noise. Whisper clearly says that they don’t want to strip the sound scene of its other non-speech sounds and that their goal is to maintain a natural listening experience. That is exactly what I’m experiencing. It’s what I would expect to be hearing if I had regained normal hearing.

I don’t know if Whisper has directly copied Oticon in this regard, but their literature makes clear that they are on the Oticon side of the comparison between hearing companies. As much as they want ti achueve noise reduction, they don’t want to do it at the cost of closing the listening window. They explicitly say that.

So, is their an Oticon lineage to Whisper? I think there is. On one of the white papers which I linked, authorship is attributed to Andreas Bertelsen and 2 others. Andreas has 20 patents and patents pending in this field. He is the lead guy in their Audio Tech division. He was formerly at Oticon. Not as well known a name as Don Schum of Jim Kothke, but I think that Andreas is the link.

So, the direct answer to your question is that the core competency is a pleasant and natural listening experience, fully surrounded by all the sounds we want to hear in the environment but with none of the background noise being overwhelming and with speech clarity being enhanced.

Do you sleep? :rofl:

Seriously though, you simply don’t use the brain constantly throughout the day. I’ve been up and about for 3 hours and haven’t used it yet. You have a premium hearing aid without it. What’s lacking when you don’t have the brain is its super fast processing speed, which is only needed in the most challenging sound environments and the large memory/storage capacity, which is irrelevant to your day to day listening experience.

Without being negative, is it fair to say that Whisper is a hearing aid with an assistive device, rather like a Phonak with it’s Roger On? What is the difference?

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@glucas: I agree. That’s a good description of it that fits with my impression, too,FWIW.

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So if you don’t use the brain and don’t take it with you, it goes into standby automatically when not near the ear pieces or something so that it doesn’t drain battery power? Or is it something you manually turn off and on?

For example, you mentioned that a charge lasts for 16 hours on the brain. So if you only use it for 4 hours a day, then you can keep using the brain for 4 days straight before you need to recharge it again?

I didn’t get that impression from listening to Dr Schum describing it. Sounds like you have to plug it in every night. I could be wrong, of course.

[:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Maybe it’s like your iPhone and needs to be plugged in to save a backup on the
:flying_saucer: MotherShip :flying_saucer:? JUST FUNNIN’, people!]

I forgot to mention above that my trial was totally free. No purchase on credit card with refund, no deposit, no leaving credit card info. I don’t know if this is a Whisper practice or the audiologist’s choice.

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All correct. The Brain connects remotely with the hearing aids whenever they are in the vicinity and automatically turns off when they are removed. There is also a manual on/off switch.

The heavy drain on the HA batteries is an incentive to use the brain less often.

Dr. Schum was simply describing what would be someone’s normal routine. Frankly I leave it plugged in during the day when not in use.

I take it you two are quite Schummy?

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:joy: Oh Spud! That was HILARIOUS!:rofl: