SpeechEasy - An Assistive Device for Stuttering
Synopsis: SpeechEasy is a device that gives a person who stutters the confidence to say what they desire to at the time they want to say it.1
Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss
Published: 2011-11-11 Updated: 2013-06-02
Main DigestPeople who stutter want to be able to express their ideas, feelings, thoughts and more as freely as people who do not stutter.
They certainly deserve to have a voice that is heard by others, and a product known as, "SpeechEasy," presents a potential solution to stuttering. SpeechEasy combines techniques and technologies that are proven and may be used to reduce stuttering while enhancing a person's fluency.
SpeechEasy is a device; one that mimics the choral effect and pairs it with well-known, traditional fluency techniques, giving a person who stutters the confidence to say what they desire to at the time they want to say it. It is also a tool that assists with ensuring your message is heard. Your ideas and thoughts are no longer hidden from others when you use SpeechEasy. People who use the device find they are more confident in their communication, feeling freer to live their lives.
To look at the SpeechEasy device it seems very similar to a hearing aid.
There is a very real difference between the SpeechEasy and a hearing aid though. Instead of amplifying sound, the device alters sounds that enter it so people who stutter can hear their voice with a slight time delay, as well as at a different pitch. The reason for the delay and change in pitch is to re-create something known as the, "choral effect," a natural phenomenon.
The choral effect happens when a person's stutter is greatly reduced or entirely eliminated when they speak or sing along with other people. The choral effect is something that has been well documented over decades of time. The SpeechEasy device uses the choral effect and is a small and wearable device people can use every day.
The device has four different models, giving people the opportunity to choose one that works best for them. The device can be obtained through a SpeechEasy provider who works with people to help them decide which model is the best one for them. The device has a warranty period of a year against any defects in the product. If you decide you don't like it - no problem; there is a sixty-day trial period. The trial period is there so you can decide if it is working for you.
The SpeechEasy device is programmed by a specialist who is both trained and licensed as a Speech Pathology Provider. The specialist is trained to use a computer and SpeechEasy software to program the device. According to the company that produces SpeechEasy, DAF can be programmed from between 1 and 128 msec, while FAF may be set at 500, 1000, 1500, or 2000 Hz shifts up or down. There is an internal gain control in SpeechEasy that can be programmed with the gain for eight different frequency channels that can be adjusted to produce the optimum signal. The SpeechEasy device is very flexible and can be programmed to meet the needs of nearly any person who stutters.
Research into stuttering and use of the SpeechEasy device has demonstrated that a person's fluency is enhanced when they use the device in both ears, although the difference might not be significant from a clinical standpoint. Use of the device in one ear does significantly inhibit the frequency of a person's stuttering when compared to non-altered auditory feedback. The company that makes SpeechEasy is currently recommending that people use the device in one ear because the effects are great enough that use in two ears really isn't warranted.
The device has been tested on more than two-hundred people who stutter. Almost every one of the people involved in testing found the device improved their level of fluent speech. The ratings of the fluency increase in people involved in testing ranged from fifty to ninety-five percent improvement.
SpeechEasy, Fluency, and the Question of Cure
Interestingly, some people are particularly disposed to the effects of AAF, apparently becoming more fluent shortly after beginning to use the SpeechEasy device. Others who use the device find they need a period of minimal training to get the best benefits from it. SpeechEasy providers, during an assessment, train people to use the device over approximately two hours, helping them to use the device and get the most out of it. Still other people say that after getting the device and using for a few days, using the strategies their provider taught them, their fluency level increased greatly.
Does the SpeechEasy device cure stuttering - no, it does not. The device is something that might be viewed as similar to wearing glasses. The effects of the device are in play when a person is using it, and are not when a person takes the device out. Some people have reported, 'carry-over,' fluency, meaning their level of fluency while using the device continues for a period of time after they have removed it from their ear. There is no data to support this effect, and the company that makes the device suggest that people wear it as often as possible in order to receive the best effects.
Children who stutter appear to benefit greatly from using the SpeechEasy device. Nearly every child who has been tested with the device has responded positively, demonstrating exceptionally high levels of fluency while using the device even with minimal training. The company that makes SpeechEasy recommends the ITC model for children.
"Wearing off," and Complaints
A number of people who stutter have complained about relapse after traditional therapy; a concern that is very understandable. As of this time, no one has complained about adapting to the SpeechEasy device and its effects and then finding the device losing its power. In fact - the majority of people who use the device say that as they get used to it and learn to integrate the signal, their level of fluency continues to improve.
The one complaint people have presented with SpeechEasy is that it picks up external noise along with their own speech. What this does is cause the signal to become a distraction, or to lose its potency. The numbers of people who have made this complaint are few, and usually involved people who work or spend a lot of time in environments that are noisy. The company that makes SpeechEasy also has new software to program the device with and features that are designed to reduce this issue. The upgrades are free to anyone who uses the device.
SpeechEasy - www.speecheasy.com
"The use of Altered Auditory Feedback in helping people who stutter become more fluent remained essentially a clinical challenge for such a long time due to the large bulky devices that were used to provide the effects."
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