New Device May Help Reduce Stuttering

by VocoVision on August 26, 2016

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speech easy app stutteringNearly 3 million people suffer from some form of a stutter in the United States. This speech impediment can negatively affect an individual’s education, career, self-esteem, and social life. While speech therapy is effective for many patients, further resources are required for others.

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a communication disorder that causes the flow of speech in a variety of ways. Speech can be broken with repetitions in which the speaker repeats the same syllable within a word numerous times. It can also cause the speaker to prolong an individual syllable within a word or stop making sounds and syllables altogether. In addition to the audible differences, those who suffer from stuttering may also display visual symptoms such as unusual body or face movements when they make an effort to speak.

The four most likely factors to contribute to stuttering are genetics, developmental issues, neurophysiology, and family dynamics. It is estimated that the genetic link is one of the strongest factors due to the fact that about 60% of those who stutter also have a family member with the condition. Children with developmental delays, specifically those involving speech and language, are more likely to develop a stutter. Advancements in neurological research have begun to show people who stutter are processing speech and language in different ways than a neurotypical individual. Finally, family dynamics such as excessively high expectations and a fast paced lifestyle can contribute to a patient’s difficulty with stuttering.

How does SpeechEasy work?

SpeechEasy is a small medical device that is worn like a hearing aid. The premise of the device is to let the patient’s own voice act in much the same way as a therapist sitting next to them reading aloud along with them. In many instances, this decreases the frequency and severity of stuttering.

As the individual speaks, they hear their own voice broadcast from within the earpiece. There is a slight delay and the tone and pitch of the voice can be changed with the settings based on patient preference. This creates what sounds like an echo and is known as the choral effect. The choral effect is the term used to describe the experience of having one’s stutter decrease or go away completely when speaking or singing in unison with another individual or group.

While this will not be a final solution for all patients suffering from a stutter, it does appear to dramatically decrease the severity for most patients. Ideally, it is used with regular speech therapy for optimal benefit. Unfortunately, the devices are not usually covered by health insurance, which limits the ability of many patients to utilize the technology.

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