SpeechEasy Implant to Help Stammerers
Doctors in Greater Manchester are using an earpiece that helps stammerers.
The SpeechEasy implant, which fits into the ear, works by sending out an echo of the users voice as they speak, and this "choral effect" tricks their brains into thinking that there is another person speaking in unison with them, unblocking the impediment.
Although the device is yet not available on the National Health Service (NHS), the British Stammering Association is piloting a similar device called VoiceAmp.
The device plays the users voice back with a 60-100 millisecond delay and at a higher pitch, something that sounds like a second voice in the ear.
Its makers based it on their observation that some stammerers could easily sing along with other people, or that they would not stammer much when there are surrounded by a lot of people talking in a room.
The SpeechEasy implant is said to have improved the quality of life for an 11-year-old girl in Blackburn, Natalie Riley.
"In order to improve her quality of life, it was crucial that we did something before she attended secondary school. It has given her so much confidence and she is now a very popular pupil at her school," the BBC quoted the girl's mother, Lindsey Riley, as saying.
Doctors in the hearing centre at BMI The Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle, who are using the SpeechEasy implant, have revealed that it costs about 3,000 pounds.
Peter Jones, a clinical physiologist at the hospital's hearing centre, admits that the device is not a cure.
He, however, insists that it may help people with everyday tasks.
"It is amazing to see the improvement that some people make with this device and the reaction of their families. Hearing someone speak more fluently is tremendously satisfying for all concerned," he said.
Norbert Lieckfeldt, chief executive of the British Stammering Association, said that the Association were looking into the possibility of funding such devices for working adults through Access to Work.