COLORADO SPRINGS — In today’s Your Healthy Family, we're exploring new hearing aid technology from a San Francisco based company called Whisper Ai, that has brought artificial intelligence to hearing aids. Hearing aids have come a long way over the years in terms of performance as computer technology has advanced, but replicating the way the human brain processes sound is still a work in progress.
Andrew Song, who is the founder and CEO of Whisper Ai says, “When you think about the world of sound it's actually quite complicated. Every single sound in the world gets bounced off walls and reflected in someway and hearing aids have to be unable to take that all into account.”
The amount of computing power that can be brought to bear in real time has been challenged by the fact that hearing aids are more tolerable or desirable to many, smaller and more invisible they are on the ear.
Dr. Michael Iliff, an audiologist with Hearing Consultants in Colorado Springs says that has also brought limitations, “There's only so much computer processing power you can have in a tiny instrument.”
Andrew says, that’s where the team at Whisper Ai saw an opportunity. “In order to enable some of the advanced artificial intelligence features we have something unique called the Whisper Brain. It's about palm size and it works wirelessly with the hearing aids.”
The Whisper “Brain” is a little larger than a makeup compact, and can easily be tucked in a woman’s purse, pants pocket or clipped on a belt holster similar to a cell phone. Dr. Iliff says the hearing aids, can function without the brain in real-time, but when you know you’re going to be in a complex hearing situation that is where having the brain with you really pays off. “The Whisper Ai Brain has about 300 times more processing power than a typical hearing aid on the market. If you're going to go into a Chili's on a Friday night and that’s a difficult listening environment, that's worth the power of an external (hearing aid) brain and the increased processing power.”
Andrew says, “You can imagine there are many complex situations in the world like a noisy dinner where lots of people are talking and you're only really trying to focus on one person. Artificial intelligence is focusing on that one voice and that is the sound you really care about.”
Not only does all that computer processing power help in real time in those complex situations, as the brain learns, its performance gets better over time. Andrew explains, “It’s the really exciting aspect about the Whisper Hearing System is that it is learning and it's getting better over time.”
And as the company makes technology advances to its software, they are pushed out as updates to the Whisper Brain. Andrew says, “You're going to get the advantages of that new technology and that new science onto your hearing aid without paying more money and buying a new device.”
Dr. Iliff wears hearing aids himself, and has transitioned to the Whisper Hearing System. “I can say without question, that when you go into a difficult listening environment having this extra processing power is incredible. This is not for everybody, there is still a place for more traditional hearing aids for various reasons, but that's our job when you come into the clinic and you're assessed. We talk about your lifestyle and what your needs are, then we talk about what hearing solutions makes the most sense for you. In terms of where this Whisper Ai product is going, that’s something that we need to watch out for because it just keeps getting better and better.”
As for affording this new state-of-the-art technology? Whisper Ai is also taking a new approach says Dr. Iliff. “That's what I love about this company. The history of hearing devices is you usually have a good, better, best.” Good, better, best was always the way to help people be able to afford help with their hearing loss at different costs. Dr. Iliff says, “With this company they said, “Everybody deserves the best and let's provide that at a cost that people can't afford.’”
The approach that Whisper brings, is essentially a lease similar to a music subscription service that doesn’t require you to purchase upfront, but allows you to pay as you go. Dr. Iliff says, “We're so used to this type of purchasing in the 21st-century. Instead of buying a traditional hearing aid and having that for 5 or 6 years with the same hardware in the same capability, you lease this product and you pay per month. When the lease is over in three years, you can lease again and get the latest hardware. As for the latest software and it's constantly being updated so that puts us in a position where we are always able to give the patient the best hearing and the best devices that they can get.”
For more information on the Whisper Ai Hearing System, you can visit their website (HERE) or feel free to contact the folks at Hearing Consultants of Colorado Springs, at (719) 633-1494 or visit their webpage (HERE) and they will be happy to answer any questions you have.
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