Whisper initiates voluntary withdrawal of Whisper Hearing Systems and plans to provide previous purchasers with refunds
Whisper AI is voluntarily withdrawing Whisper Hearing Systems effective on June 8. It will also reportedly issue full refunds until December 1, 2023 to those who previously purchased the product. Whisper says there are no known safety issues with the hearing aids, but the announcement does mean it will no longer be servicing or producing the device.
HearingTracker published an article on this development on June 8, the day of the announcement.
Here is the company's message to previous purchasers and instructions for obtaining a refund:
Thank you for being a loyal Whisper customer. We have enjoyed helping people hear better, but have made the decision to complete a voluntary market withdrawal of our Hearing Systems as our business direction changes, effective June 8th, 2023. Don’t worry, there are no known safety concerns with the devices, but this means we will no longer service, produce, or support the Whisper Hearing System.
We hope you quickly find a new replacement hearing device that meets your needs, and to minimize any inconvenience, we are providing you a full refund for your Whisper Hearing System.
Should you have any questions, we will continue to provide limited customer service support to facilitate product returns and refunds until December 1, 2023, after which we will no longer offer support for your Hearing System.
- We ask you to return your Hearing System to Whisper as soon as possible so that we can properly dispose of it but no later than December 1, 2023.
- You are eligible for a refund whether or not you return your Hearing System to Whisper.
How to Make a Return
Within the next two weeks, you will receive a return shipment box and pre-paid label for you to ship your Hearing System back to us for disposal. You can drop off the box at any FedEx location. If your shipping address has changed, please contact Whisper customer service at 844-936-4327 or by emailing email@example.com to update your address to ensure you receive the return box.
System Refund Information
As an Allegro Credit financing customer, no future payments will be processed on your account and you will be provided a full refund for any payments made, including tax and service fees. This refund will be issued by Allegro Credit to your listed payment method within the next 3 to 6 weeks and any outstanding payment balances will be paid on your behalf.
You are eligible for a refund whether or not you return your Hearing System to Whisper.
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 844-936-4327.
Thanks again for being part of our journey.
— Andrew Song, CEO, Whisper
Searching for AI hearing aids like Whisper?
If you are searching for hearing aids featuring artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, as found in Whisper, we suggest you check out Oticon Real and Oticon More, Starkey Genesis AI and Evolv AI, Phonak Audéo Lumity, and Widex MOMENT hearing aids.
Searching for subscription-type or financing programs like Whisper?
If you're looking for companies that offer subscription-type and financing programs for hearing aids, as did Whisper, consider reading "The Pros and Cons of Subscription Hearing Aid and Financing Plans" or "Financing Hearing Aids: The Best Options in 2023."
Founded in 2017 by a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and engineers, Whisper launched the Whisper Hearing System in October 2020. Whisper’s claim to fame is its unique approach to removing background noise through “denoising”, a process that relies on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Neural Networks (DNNs).
Whisper's "Earpieces" are receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aids that fit behind the ear. A small speaker sits inside the ear canal.
The Brain is a small computational accessory that powers Whisper's Sound Separation Engine and allows for system upgrades.
The Whisper app provides remote control functionality, and provides real-time battery readings for the Brain and Earpieces.
Whisper Earpieces (the hearing aids)
Whisper uses the term Earpieces to refer to its hearing aids. The Earpieces come in a silver / grey color and feature directional microphones, multi-channel compression, an environmental classification system, noise and feedback reduction, and Bluetooth® compatibility (with both Android™ and Apple® products).
Powering the Whisper Earpieces
The Whisper Earpieces are powered by large size-675 hearing aid batteries, which are required to support continuous wireless connectivity between the Earpieces and Brain. As a result, the Earpieces are thicker than traditional RIC hearing aids, which typically run on smaller size 10 or 312 batteries. Size 675 batteries usually deliver around 9-10 days of power, but due to higher than average battery drain (5.5 mA), Whisper’s hearing aids only deliver around 5-6 days of power. Whisper does not currently offer a rechargeable hearing aid option.
To hear phone calls through your Whisper hearing aids, the Brain and the phone need to be no more than 5 feet away from one another. If you leave the Brain at home, you can still talk on the phone, but you’ll have to use the phone like you normally would (hold phone to ear). You will need to speak into the microphone of your phone regardless of whether or not you are using the Brain.
The Whisper Brain is a separate component that, according to Whisper, “uses artificial intelligence algorithms to process sound in real-time to optimize for your surroundings.” The “optimized” sound is then sent wirelessly back to the hearing aids. The Brain, which offers 1000x the computational power of Starkey’s Livio AI hearing aids (according to Whisper co-founder Dwight Crow), is where speech is isolated from noise using Whisper’s proprietary Sound Separation Engine.
The Brain, which incorporates AI, will learn over time and tailor the hearing aid settings to your listening environments. The size of the Brain is approximately 3 inches long by 2 inches wide making it small enough to carry in your pocket or in a handbag. The Brain does not have any microphones (those are located on the hearing aids), but does offer volume control buttons.
Why do you need the Brain?
Modern hearing aids simply cannot replicate the processing power of a standalone AI sound processor with a large battery. If you want to experience the best that Whisper has to offer, you’ll need to carry the brain with you when you go into difficult listening environments, like bars and restaurants. If you leave the Brain at home, your Whisper hearing aids will still function as hearing aids, but without the added benefit of the Sound Separation Engine. You will also won’t be able to have hands-free calls, and you’ll lose access to the volume control.
Updating the Brain
To receive updates, you’ll need to visit your hearing care provider (HCP), where the Brain and hearing aids will need to be connected to your HCPs computer. In the near future, the company plans to allow for system updates online via your home computer and the Brain, or via the smart phone app.
Whisper says that since the launch of their product they have averaged 3-4 updates per year. These updates can help improve the overall performance of the hearing aids and ensure you have the most up-to-date product. For example, in October of 2021 Whisper released an update which improved the noise reduction algorithms within the system and previous updates allowed for better Bluetooth telephone functionality.
The Whisper App
The included Whisper app, which acts as a remote control, is available for Apple smart phones (an Android app in works). Within the app you can check the status of the Brain’s battery, toggle between a dynamic hearing aid program and a customized program, adjust volume, and control the environment used in the custom setting (noise or music).
The Whisper App
It’s important to note that the Whisper app will not work unless the Brain is turned on and near your smart phone. This means that if you leave the Brain at home, the hearing aids will work but you will not be able to control them either via the app or directly on the hearing aids since the hearing aids have no on-board controls.
Controlling your Whisper hearing aids
There are no manual controls on the Whisper hearing aids—to change program or volume you’ll need to make the changes via the Brain or Whisper App (with the Brain nearby). This may not be practical for those who prefer to constantly adjust the volume of their hearing aids.
Who can use Whisper?
The Whisper Hearing System is intended for people with mild to severe hearing losses. Whisper is available in the full range of open domes, closed domes, and custom earmolds. Typically Whisper is fitted with open domes, but if you have significant hearing loss in the low pitches, you’ll need closed domes or a custom earmold to capture the full bandwidth of amplified sound.
Where to purchase Whisper hearing aids
You can’t buy Whisper hearing aids online—they are only available through an exclusive network of Whisper-trained hearing care providers. While having hearing aids professionally fitted is advantageous and an admirable approach by the company, it should be noted that Whisper is currently limited by a small number of professional sites around the country. They are currently “expanding” and anticipate being more widely available in the coming months. See if Whisper is available near you.
At the time of this writing, there is not a Whisper provider in Jacksonville, Florida, in Tallahassee, Pensacola or Savannah, Georgia but there are several in south Florida. So, in this example, if you live in Jacksonville, Florida Whisper likely is not a practical choice for your hearing aid purchase.
A unique leasing model
Another aspect of Whisper that is somewhat unique in the industry, is that you do not pay the HCP directly for the hearing aids. Instead, you enter a leasing agreement with a 3rd party, Allegro Credit®. That is, you lease the hearing aids for a period of 3 years and at the end of the 3-year period, you either renew the lease (and get a new system) or return the hearing aids. Whisper’s website indicates that for a “limited time” the price of the lease is $139 a month ($179 regular pricing). This includes professional fitting and follow-up as well as repair and a loss/damage warranty. Notably, it also includes software updates.
The biggest advantage to the leasing arrangement is that you do not have to pay thousands of dollars in up-front costs for the hearing aids. A low monthly payment means that many who cannot (or don’t not want to) pay the significant up-front costs of hearing aids have access to professional care and high-end hearing aids. Some will also like that they can get a new hearing aid every 3 years. The obvious disadvantage is that once the term of the lease is over, you do not own the hearing aids and will need to return them, or renew the lease.
Consider that over the 3-year period at $139 month, you will have paid $5004 for a set of hearing aids that you do not own. That price is higher than what you would pay for a conventional high-end hearing aid that is also professionally-fit and may have advantages over the Whisper Hearing System. In addition, many clinics provide financing options (including through Allegro) should paying the large upfront cost be prohibitive to buying the hearing aids. Any changes or issues with the leasing agreement would need to be addressed directly with Allegro Credit.
Take a deep dive
In a recent episode of The HearingTracker Podcast, host Steve Taddei spoke with Dr. Don Schum, the Head of Audiology at Whisper. In the interview, Dr. Schum provides some history on Whisper's creation and mission, and explains—in layman's terms—how Whisper uses cutting-edge technologies to help Whisper owners hear better in background noise.
What You Should Consider
The Whisper Hearing System takes an un-conventional approach to sound processing by utilizing a separate computational component and integrating AI. By taking much of the processing power outside of the hearing aids to sound-treat the listening environment prior to amplification, the Whisper Hearing System allows for exceptional computational control. Whisper claims that this results in remarkable separation of speech from environmental noise while allowing for AI to learn and improve for as long as you wear the hearing aids. It’s a fascinating method for treating hearing loss but the question is whether or not the data and research supports the novel approach.
Benefits of Whisper
- Unique approach to amplification that shows promise
- Low-up front and monthly costs
- Lease program allows for new products every 3 years
- Hands-free calling with compatible Apple and Android phones
- Fit by trained Hearing Care Providers with cost included in monthly fee
- Professional support during terms of lease
- Routine software upgrades at no additional cost
- AI learning which can be unique to your listening experience
- Risk-free trial period
Drawbacks to consider
- Monthly cost adds up to expensive hearing aids that you don’t own at the end of the lease period
- Only available as a set of hearing aids so not appropriate for those with a unilateral loss
- Brain must be with you to have full access to sound processing abilities, to use the app and, at least currently, to receive product updates
- No on-board hearing aid controls
- Limited availability of HCP for buying/fitting of hearing aid (HCP network is expanding)
- Payments managed by a 3rd party which may incur late fees, etc.
- No Android app (at this time)
- High battery current drain and limited battery life
- Large 675 battery so may not be the most cosmetically appealing hearing aids
- No rechargeable battery options
- Not appropriate for more severe hearing losses
- Not appropriate for children