Launched in October of 2020, the Whisper hearing system was and continues to be unique in the hearing aid market. Whisper was founded in 2017 by a group of engineers in Silicon Valley with little to no experience in hearing aid technology. Inspired by a conversation with his grandfather, Co-Founder and President Andrew Song used his engineering expertise to start the company. Song’s grandfather complained that he spent thousands of dollars on hearing aids but rarely wore them because they did not work in the situation where he needed them most: noisy environments. After a little research, Song discovered that the top two reasons that those with difficulty hearing did not use their hearing aids:
- They provided limited benefit
- Wearers continued to experience difficulties in noisy environments
Whisper hearing aids were developed and manufactured specifically to alleviate these two problems.
The Whisper hearing system is different from many other hearing aids because it is available on a subscription basis. While they are not the first, and the leasing concept is gaining in popularity in the hearing healthcare market, the subscription model is still new and foreign to most people seeking hearing aids. For a monthly fee, currently $139/month, customers receive a three year full warranty (including loss and damage), ongoing care from a local healthcare professional, a lease of the Whisper system itself, and regular software upgrades as they become available. Hearing aid technology continues to improve at a very quick pace and these software upgrades are necessary to ensure that your Whisper hearing aid remains at the forefront of technological improvements.
The Whisper Hearing System is made up of three components as follows:
- Whisper Ear Pieces. Whisper ear pieces transmit the sound that is processed and optimized in the Whisper Brain to your ears. The Brain does much of the processing work and then wirelessly sends sound to the earpieces. This technology allows the ear pieces to focus their technology on sound quality and microphones so that the listening experience is optimized. The earpieces are slightly larger than traditional RIC (Receiver-in-Canal) hearing aids because they are powered by larger size-675 batteries, required to support the continuous wireless connectivity between the earpieces and the Brain.
- Whisper Brain. Most hearing aids have all of their processing power in the ear pieces themselves. Whisper hearing aids have five processors total, but the majority of the processing power and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is found in the Whisper Brain. The Brain is about the size of a deck of cards and is carried in your pocket. Every Whisper Brain is equipped with a Sound Separation Engine that uses AI algorithms to process sound in real-time, separate out what you want to hear from what you do not, and then send the optimized sound to your earpieces. This process of separating noise from sound allows the wearer to have a great hearing experience and carry on conversations with little distraction.
- Whisper App. The Whisper app comes with the monthly subscription service and is compatible with both iPhone and Android (as of July 2021) operating systems. The app will not work unless the Brain is turned on, but when it works it gives you great control of your Whisper system. If you leave the Brain at home, the hearing aid will still work but the app will not. Within the app you can check the battery status of the Whisper system, control the volume, customize the listening programs and settings, and control the “environment” in the custom setting. The app is easy to use, thorough, and most people have their smartphones with them all of the time anyway.
Aside from the technological advances and the subscription services that make this hearing aid both high end and convenient, the Whisper hearing aid is also designed to be dispensed by a hearing care professional. This step is important for the initial fitting and purchase, but it is equally important because part of the monthly subscription includes software upgrades as well as ongoing and after purchase care by a local audiologist or professional. In a world where hearing aid and amplification devices are available at the click of a button, some hearing aid wearers are turned off by being forced to see a professional, but having a professional involved in the process is vital both for ongoing care and satisfaction.
Details to Consider Before Buying
Whisper hearing aids are at the forefront of AI technology, hearing aid subscription services, and filtering loud noises so that a person can converse even in the noisiest environments. Whisper was created with the idea of quality and usefulness in mind and they have succeeded in many ways. Whisper hearing aids do also have a few cons that can make them less desirable so it is important to understand their strengths and weaknesses prior to purchasing. Most of the weaknesses have more to do with convenience and comfort while most of the strengths have to do with performance and technology. Both are vital in the hearing experience.
- AI technology makes conversing with people, regardless of the environment, easier than ever.
- The Whisper Brain powers the Sound Separation Engine.
- All of the processing power is in your pocket. Though the ear pieces work on their own, you get the most power and quality when the Brain is working as well.
- Sound quality equal to if not better than high end headphones.
- Great directionality from the numerous receivers and microphones on each ear piece.
- A high end app specifically for the Whisper hearing system.
- High phone call quality as long as the brain is in your pocket.
- Constant updates available and included in the price of the subscription. In the past 2.5 years since the item hit the market, there have been 4 major updates that have made the hearing aids even better.
- You get aftercare and follow up from licensed hearing healthcare professionals.
- Great streaming options and Bluetooth connectivity for direct connection to iPhone and Android devices.
- The monthly subscription is reasonable and saves you from having to pay a large amount of money up front.
- One of the best hearing aids on the market if you struggle with holding conversations with people in noisy environments.
- Great for a wide variety of hearing loss levels.
- A 3 year loss and damage warranty comes with the subscription.
- No rechargeable options.
- You have to carry a device the size of a deck of cards in your pocket at all times both to use the app and to get the most out of the Whisper.
- Constant Bluetooth connection between the earpieces and Brain are necessary for communication to take place and for sound to be transmitted to the ear.
- You need a large size-675 battery in the ear pieces to be able to keep the device powered for five days. This makes the device larger than most RIC hearing aids.
- Phone calls will be taken like a regular call if you do not have the Brain with you.
- You pay a decent amount monthly, and at the end of the lease you do not even own what you paid for.
- If you have profound hearing loss, the Whisper system will probably not work well enough.
Features & Benefits
All Whisper hearing aids are RIC devices with receivers and microphones placed in earpieces that are inside the ear canal. The ear pieces are a little larger than most RIC devices because of the larger battery needed to keep the device powered for up to 5 days. Below are some of the features of the Whisper Hearing System along with the benefits associated with those features.
There is currently no rechargeable option for Whisper hearing aids, and this is probably the biggest con for those contemplating the switch to the Whisper system. Because of the constant connectivity between the Brain and ear pieces, there is a need for a large battery in both, but especially in the ear pieces. Each Whisper earpiece is the RIC style which can generally be found in small and inconspicuous sizes and colors. Because it requires a large size-675 battery, however, the Whisper hearing aid ear pieces are bigger than most.
- Sound quality
The quality of sound produced by hearing aids is the result of many features. No matter how good the device is, it will never truly mimic natural hearing, but the goal should be to come close. In addition, sound quality is affected by what sound is picked up by the hearing aid and then how that sound is processed. Ideally the hearer only hears what is necessary and important to them.
Directionality refers to the idea that the sound directly in front of you is more important to you than the sound to the side and back of you. If you have 2 or 3 microphones on each ear then they can work together to pinpoint the direction of each sound and filter for what is directly in front of you, bringing it to the forefront of your hearing and making it easier to converse with people one-on-one.
Adaptability is the idea that a hearing aid has functions and customizable options that provide change to the device depending on the environment the hearer is in. Whisper hearing aids have customizable options that are found in the app so that you can change the setting with a simple click of a button on your phone.
- Is it upgradeable?
Not only is the Whisper hearing aid upgradeable, it is consistently upgraded through software improvements that are sent directly to your device and are easy and quick to upload. This upgradeable software is included in the price of the subscription so that you always have the most up-to-date version of the Whisper hearing system.
The main accessory is the Whisper App. You can control your entire listening experience with the Whisper App. There are also a lot of accessories that, as long as they are BlueTooth compatible, will connect directly to your hearing aid. Speakers, television, music players, and other things can be used as wireless accessories to the Whisper. As far as physical accessories, there are cleaning brushes, hearing aid cases, a wax pick, a multitool, and even a dehumidifier. All of these accessories are available either to keep your hearing aid safe or to clean it.
- AI Features
Artificial Intelligence is one of the hallmark features of the Whisper listening system. The founders were more knowledgeable about AI than they were about hearing aids initially, and they saw the benefits of a device that could learn and improve with the hearer. The AI algorithms are what power the incredible Sound Separation Engine. The Sound Separation Engine is what pinpoints the conversations and/or sounds that you are most interested in and separates and emphasizes those sounds in your ears. As you continue to wear your Whisper device, it learns your listening preferences and becomes better at giving you only the sounds you want.
Unique Perks and Features
- Bluetooth connectivity
The Brain connects via Bluetooth to the ear pieces and that connectivity is constant throughout the day. The hearing aid also connects to television, music players, phones, and other Bluetooth enabled devices through the same powerful and consistent Bluetooth technology.
- Audiologist consultation
An audiologist consultation is one of the most underrated aspects of this hearing aid. You cannot purchase or use the Whisper system without first going to an audiologist or other expert. This same hearing healthcare professional will continue to work with you for the life of your lease. They can also help you with features and ensure that you have the most recent version of the hearing aid.
The cost of Whisper hearing aids, as of the writing of this article, is $139/month if you sign up for a three year term and $179/month on a month-to-month basis. This, of course, is a subscription service so that you are not actually purchasing the equipment but are instead leasing the hearing aids for the amount of time that you use them. Included in that monthly fee you can expect a three year full warranty including loss and damage, ongoing care from a local healthcare professional, a lease of the Whisper system itself, and regular software upgrades as they become available.
Hearing Aid Alternatives
Whisper does not offer any alternatives to their listening devices.
- How much do Whisper hearing aids cost?
Whisper currently charges $139/month if you agree to a three year term or $179/month with no minimum time frame.
- Who owns the “Whisper” brand of hearing aids?
Whisper was started as a stand-alone company in 2017 and released their first product in October of 2020. As of now, co-founder and President Andrew Song continues to run the company.
- Who manufactures Whisper hearing aids?
The Whisper hearing system is the first and only product manufactured and created by Whisper. At this time they manufacture their own product only.
- What is Whisper AI and what does it do?
Whisper AI is artificial intelligence technology developed by engineers to focus specifically on hearing technology. Every Whisper Brain comes equipped with a Sound Separation Engine that relies on AI algorithms and powerful processes to continue to improve the listening experience for each user. Currently, the AI system is able to sort noise and sound within an environment and pinpoint the conversation that the hearer is most interested in hearing. The powerful Whisper Brain sorts those noises and sends them wirelessly to the earpieces so that the user experiences great sound quality while maintaining the ability to converse with people even through moderate to intense background noise.
The Whisper hearing system is technologically advanced and the AI succeeds in making conversing easier in any environment. The purpose for which the company was created is being accomplished as the two things that Song’s grandfather complained about: the limited benefit of hearing aids and difficulties in a noisy environment are effectively fixed. In addition, the app is well-designed and easy to use. The continued care from a hearing healthcare professional is also an important aspect. There are some negative aspects of the Whisper device as well. The earpiece is bigger than most, you have to change the battery every 5 days, and you have to carry an additional device in your pocket at all times. In the end, as a consumer, it is your choice to determine if the technological advancements and lack of a large upfront cost outweigh the negatives listed above.