SpeechEasy – Help for Those Who Stutter
SpeechEasy devices are similar in appearance to a hearing aid. However, rather than amplifying sound, SpeechEasy devices alter sounds that go through the device so that you hear your voice at a slight time delay and at a different pitch. The purpose of the delay and pitch change is to recreate a natural phenomenon known as the “choral effect.” The choral effect occurs when your stutter is dramatically reduced or even eliminated when you speak or sing in unison with others. This choral effect has been well documented for decades and SpeechEasy utilizes it in a small, wearable device that can be used in everyday life.
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In addition to the actual SpeechEasy device, you also receive the following
A company that stands behind its products
A professional Provider support network
Helpful workbook guide and follow-up
Quality product accessories
Trial period and manufacturer warranty
This is an amazing device
ROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
The present application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/001,508 filed on Dec. 31, 1997 entitled “Feedback Modification For Accent Reduction” by John F. Houde and assigned to Scientific Learning Corporation, Berkeley, Calif., and which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
The present invention relates to speech training and, more particularly, to methods and devices to reduce stuttering
Stuttering is a fluency disorder experienced by an estimated one percent of the total population of the United States. Two of the chief symptoms of this disorder are the repeating of speech sounds and an inability to continue speaking (commonly referred to as “blocking”). There are many more symptoms of this disorder, sharing the characteristic of preventing the stutterer from producing fluent speech, as judged subjectively by the stutterer or other listeners.
Some studies directed toward reducing stuttering have shown that stuttering can be reduced by using auditory feedback. The term “auditory feedback” is used herein to refer to providing the speaker (i.e., the stutterer) with his or her own speech while the speaker is speaking. Thus, the speaker listens to himself or herself while speaking. One of these studies, for example, has shown that introducing a short delay (i.e., of about fifty milliseconds) in the auditory feedback will significantly reduce stuttering with little or no debilitating effects on the speaker’s speech rate. In other studies, altering the spectrum of the auditory feedback or introducing strong masking noise also significantly reduces stuttering. However, once the auditory feedback is discontinued, the stutter-reducing effect disappears.
Although these auditory feedback methods do provide relief for stutters, these methods generally do not represent a treatment or cure for stuttering. In addition, the stutterer generally must use the auditory feedback equipment whenever the stutterer wishes to speak without stuttering. Of course, many stutters would find carrying such equipment with them throughout the course of a day undesirably conspicuous and inconvenient. In addition, such equipment would be subject to occasional equipment failures and to exhaustion of the power storage devices (e.g., batteries) used to power the equipment. As can be imagined, such equipment problems would generally be extremely undesirable to the stutterer if such an event unexpectedly occurred while the stutterer was trying to speak. Furthermore, with extended use, other studies suggest that any particular form of altered feedback gradually looses its effect in preventing stuttering. Accordingly, there is a need for a method or system to reduce stuttering that avoids the requirement that the stutterer carry equipment, which tends to be subject to the undesirable attributes described above.
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In accordance with the present invention, a treatment system for reducing stuttering is provided. In one aspect of the present invention, an auditory feedback modification technique is used to adapt or train the stutterer’s speech motor control system to be more stable. The auditory feedback modification is based on a model of speech motor control in the human brain that incorporates a variation of observerbased control and Smith prediction, adapted from modern engineering control theory. In addition, it is believed that a person’s speech motor control system sets the Kalman gain of the observer-based control system by comparing the speech muscular control signals sent to the person’s vocal tract to the auditory speech sounds the person actually hears that were produced by the vocal tract in response to these speech control signals. It is believed that the speech motor control system of a stutterer has set the Kalman gain too high, thereby creating an unstable control system that in turn causes stuttering. One way to stabilize this type of control system is to reduce the Kalman gain.
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In one embodiment, the stutterer uses a feedback modifier during a treatment or therapy program. During this treatment program, as the stutterer is speaking, the feedback modifier feeds back the stutterer’s speech to the stutterer so that the speaker in effect hears what he or she is saying while saying it. In addition, the feedback modifier introduces a perturbation to the fed back speech that is small enough to pass a validator function that is believed to be part of the speech motor control system. When speech motor control system compares the fed back speech to the speech muscular control signals sent to the vocal tract, the small perturbations increase the difference between the target speech and the fed back speech, thereby causing the speech motor control system to be driven to decrease the Kalman gain. Over a treatment program, it is believed that the perturbations “train” or adapt the stutterer’s speech motor control system so as to reduce the Kalman gain, which is further believed to persist when the auditory feedback is discontinued. Thus, unlike the systems used in the aforementioned studies, the stutterer is free (after the treatment program) of special auditory feedback equipment, thereby avoiding the inconvenience, conspicuousness and reliability problems inherent in the auditory feedback equipment required by these systems.