Speech is the process of producing specific sounds that convey meaning to the listener. A speech disorder refers to any condition that affects a person’s ability to produce sounds that create these words. Up to 8 million people in the United States have some form of language impairment, including over 3 million Americans who stutter (NIDCD). As stuttering and other speech disorders are not uncommon, it is crucial to generate technology and techniques to aid these individuals in their communication with others and the world around them.
Stuttering refers to a speech disorder that interrupts the flow of speech. Those who stutter can experience frequent problems with the fluency of speech sounds and the following types of disruption:
- Repetitions occur when people involuntarily repeat sounds, vowels, or words.
- Time passes while people know what they want to say but have difficulty making the necessary speech sounds.
- Prolongations refer to the stretching or drawing out of particular words or sounds.
The exact mechanisms that cause stuttering are not understood. These symptoms can vary dependent on the person and the situation. Feelings of stress, excitement, or frustration can cause stuttering to become more severe. People may also find that particular words or sounds can make a stutter more evident. However, a combination of proven technology and techniques can be used to reduce stuttering.
In an effort to improve the quality of life for those who stutter, SpeechEasy was invented to help those communicate effectively and confidently. Worn in one ear and similar in appearance to a hearing aid, our innovative technology concentrates on the choral effect. The choral effect occurs when people who stutter, speak, or sing in unison with others and their stutter is dramatically reduced or even eliminated. As a result, the theory proposes that this mimicking ability overrides whatever in the brain that causes the stuttering.
Choral speech is nothing more than people saying the same thing at the same time. When a person who stutters has someone speaking along with them they’re typically more fluent. SpeechEasy uses Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF) and Frequency Altered Feedback (FAF) to emulate this choral speech.
Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF)
- Delays what the speaker hears by a few milliseconds (ms)
- Ranges from 0ms to 220ms
- DAF provides an echo effect for the user
Frequency Altered Feedback (FAF)
- Alters the pitch perception of the user’s voice
- Can be raised or lowered in 500Hz increments
- All sounds passing through the device will be affected by the FAF
Think of DAF as an echo, and FAF as pitch. When a patient is using the device, they hear their voice slightly delayed and at a new pitch. While the device alters the echo and pitch of the sound, the brain hears it as someone speaking along with them, thus potentially inhibiting the stuttering. On the SpeechEasy device, both the DAF and FAF can be altered to achieve the best results.
SpeechEasy is a combination of proven technology and techniques which can be used to reduce stuttering. Worn in one ear and similar in appearance to a hearing aid, SpeechEasy has helped thousands increase their ability to communicate effectively and confidently. The program that comes with every SpeechEasy is supported by a team of fluency professionals who truly care about your success. Contact us today!