Elements of the SpeechEasy kit are pictured above. Although the device was originally designed to help individuals who stutter, it's found to have applications as well for patients with Parkinson's Disease. (Photos by Jay Clark)
IMPROVING COMMUNICATION SpeechEasy shown to help people with Parkinson's disease
People with Parkinson's disease now have a tool to help them communicate more fluently.
Janus Development Group Inc. is marketing and distributing the SpeechEasy anti-stuttering device, developed at East Carolina University, to people with the neurological disease to assist them with speech.
The SpeechEasy device is worn behind the ear with a small line that goes inside the ear.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive disease which affects men and women, but more typically men. Among the signs of Parkinson's are decreased speech volume, repetitive speech and an overall decrease in speech intelligibility.
Studies have shown that the use of an auditory delay and/or a change in pitch can help increase the intelligibility of speech in those with Parkinson's disease. SpeechEasy uses both of these components in a small, discreet device worn in one ear of the client.
According to a small study at Rush University in Chicago in which Parkinson's patients wore a SpeechEasy device, participants and saw an increase in their intelligibility and a decrease in the repetitive speech, or palilalia, they exhibited. The Michael J. Fox foundation is funding a second study with a larger number of participants.
SpeechEasy for this population is being marketed as SpeechEasyPD and is available nationwide.
"This announcement represents our continuing efforts to provide a proven assistive device to improve the lives of those with communication challenges," said Alan Newton, president of Greenville-based Janus Development. "Over the years, we have seen how SpeechEasy has assisted thousands of people who stutter to achieve their goals by improving their fluency and confidence. We foresee SpeechEasyPD being able to do the same for the segment of the Parkinson's population that is experiencing speech intelligibility challenges."
SpeechEasyPD is a division of Janus Development Group that developed and markets a portable fluency-improving device that fits in or behind the ear and can help people who stutter to speak more fluently. SpeechEasy is a synthesis of miniaturized hardware, cutting-edge digital technology and advanced algorithms that provide customized, fluency- improving delayed auditory feedback and frequency-altered feedback recreating a natural phenomenon known as the "choral effect."
The choral effect occurs when a person's repetitive speech is dramatically reduced or even eliminated when they speak or sing in unison with others. The choral effect has been well-documented for decades but has only recently been scientifically recreated in a small, wearable device that can be used every day.
The SpeechEasy was developed by Drs. Joseph Kalinowski and Andrew Stuart, faculty members at the East Carolina University College of Allied Health Sciences, and by Dr. Michael Rastatter, chair of communication sciences and disorders who is now retired.