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Intensive Therapy for Stuttering
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SpeechEasy Device
Frequently Asked Questions

SpeechEasy®- Frequently Asked Questions

SpeechEasy Stuttering Product Line

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1.1 What is SpeechEasy®?
SpeechEasy® is a wearable and inconspicuous fluency-enhancing device for people who stutter. It is a prosthetic device that fits IN-THE-EAR.

1.2 Who developed SpeechEasy®?
The impetus for developing SpeechEasy® came from research at the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department, East Carolina University by inventors Joseph Kalinowski, Ph.D., Andrew Stuart, Ph.D., and Michael Rastatter, Ph.D. Its conception was based on 10 years of peer-reviewed scientific research on the fluency enhancing effects of altered auditory feedback in people who stutter.

1.3 What is altered auditory feedback?
Altered auditory feedback (AAF) simply means hearing your own voice in a manner that is slightly different from the way you normally hear it. It allows the SpeechEasy® user to listen to his or her own voice with Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF), Frequency Altered Feedback (FAF), or a combination of the two. Using DAF allows the user to hear his or her own voice with a slight temporal delay, similar to an echo. FAF allows the user to hear his or her own voice with a shift in the pitch, so the signal heard is either at a slightly higher or slightly lower pitch than the person's own voice.

1.4 How do DAF and FAF help people who stutter become more fluent?
For years, it has been known that when people who stutter speak the same material in unison with another speaker, they become fluent. This is known as 'Choral Speech'. By allowing the user to hear his or her own voice with a pitch shift, a slight time delay or a combination of both, SpeechEasy® creates the illusion of another speaker speaking at the same time. It is an emulation of choral speech.

1.5 What evidence is there of the fluency enhancing effects of DAF and FAF?
Ten years of scientific research conducted at Dalhousie University and East Carolina University have shown that the use of DAF and FAF can significantly enhance fluency levels in a variety of situations including reading, monologue, using the telephone and speaking in front of an audience. This research has been published in top scientific journals. (Please refer to the Links/References section of the website.)

1.6 If AAF has been around for so long, why has it taken so long for SpeechEasy® to become available?
The use of AAF in helping people who stutter become more fluent remained essentially a clinical challenge for such a long time due to the large bulky devices that were used to provide the effects. Only with recent technological advances have these effects been captured in a device so small and inconspicuous, allowing them to be used outside of clinical environments.

1.7 How did the technology come about?
SpeechEasy® employs the best digital technology on the market. The computer chip that powers SpeechEasy® was developed by a Canadian company named Micro-DSP upon request from the researchers at East Carolina University. The chip has the power equivalent to what is found in a computer.

1.8 How long has SpeechEasy® been around?
East Carolina University received the first prototypes in April 2001. Since then Dr. Joseph Kalinowski (one of the inventors and himself a severe stutterer) has been using SpeechEasy® to help him communicate, and finds the device invaluable. Sales of SpeechEasy® began in June 2001.

1.9 Who markets SpeechEasy®?
SpeechEasy® is manufactured and marketed by Janus Development Group, Inc., based in Greenville, NC. (www.janusdevelopment.com)

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2.1 What models of SpeechEasy® are available?
SpeechEasy® comes in three models (see SpeechEasy® models). The Behind-The-Ear (BTE) is an external device that fits over the ear and attaches to a mold that fits in the ear. This is the largest and most durable of the devices. The second is an In-The-Canal (ITC) model. This model fits in the ear canal and is relatively inconspicuous, with only the outer shell visible in the ear. The ITC also features external gain (volume) control. The third model is the Completely-In-Canal (CIC) model, which sits completely in the ear canal. It is almost totally inconspicuous, and due to wide dynamic range compression does not require external gain control. This is the model chosen by most wearers.

2.2 Which model is best?
That depends. For those who want the device to be as inconspicuous as possible, obviously the CIC appears to be the best option (although it is priced slightly higher than the ITC). However, for some people with smaller ear canals, a CIC may not be a viable option. Also, some people may require or prefer the external gain control option.

2.3 How is SpeechEasy® programmed?
SpeechEasy® is programmed by a specially trained and licensed Speech Pathology Provider using a Personal Computer and SpeechEasy® software. DAF can be programmed from 1 to 128 msec, and FAF can be set at 500, 1000, 1500 or 2000 Hz shifts up or down. An internal gain control can also be programmed with the gain for eight frequency channels adjustable to produce the best signal. With this flexibility, SpeechEasy® can be programmed to match the needs of most individuals who stutter.

2.4 As the gain can be controlled, can SpeechEasy® damage my hearing?
No. SpeechEasy® is not designed to provide enough gain to damage hearing. It is custom programmed at a comfortable loudness level.

2.5 Do I need to wear a SpeechEasy® device in both ears?
Research has shown that fluency enhancement derived from receiving the effects binaurally is more effective but the difference may not be clinically significant. It should be noted, however, that monaural (one ear) effects do significantly inhibit stuttering frequency compared to non-altered auditory feedback. At present we recommend SpeechEasy® for monaural use, and early results from our clients suggest that the effects are robust enough not to warrant binaural use.

2.6 How do I know SpeechEasy® will fit my ear?
Each SpeechEasy® device is custom fit to an individual's ear canal. An audiologist takes an ear impression and the device is custom made for an individual using the impression of their ear.

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3.1 How effective is SpeechEasy®?
SpeechEasy® has now been tested on over 200 people who stutter. Nearly everyone who has tried the device has improved his or her fluency level. However, levels of fluency enhancement have varied from about 50% improvement up to 95% improvement.

3.2 Do males and females respond differently?
No differences have been observed in the effectiveness of SpeechEasy® across genders.

3.3 Will I become fluent immediately?
Some people are especially susceptible to the effects of AAF and seem to become fluent shortly after inserting the SpeechEasy® device. However, some people require minimal training to derive the best benefits. During the assessment, the SpeechEasy® Provider will train the user over a period of about two hours to derive the best benefits. During this time, most users become comfortable using the effects and experience a continual enhancement of fluency. However, many users have stated that after they receive the device and use it for a few days, employing the easy strategies taught by the provider, they achieve their highest fluency levels.

3.4 Will SpeechEasy® cure stuttering?
SpeechEasy® is NOT a cure for stuttering. We compare using the device to wearing glasses. The effects are present while the device is in use and absent upon removal of the device. Some users report 'carry-over' fluency, meaning that their fluency persists for some time after removal of SpeechEasy®. However, no data exists to support this notion, and it is recommended that users of SpeechEasy® wear the device as often as possible to get the best effects.

3.5 How well does SpeechEasy® work in children?
Children seem especially susceptible to the beneficial effects of SpeechEasy®. Almost every child tested to date has responded very well, showing very high levels of fluency while wearing SpeechEasy® with almost no training. It should be noted that the ITC model is recommended for children.

3.6 Do the effects of SpeechEasy® wear off?
Many people who stutter complain about relapse following traditional therapy, and this is an understandable concern. To date, nobody has complained about 'adapting' to the effects with SpeechEasy® losing its power. On the contrary, most people who use SpeechEasy® claim that as they get accustomed to the device and learn to integrate the signal, their fluency levels seem to continue to improve.

3.7 Have there been any complaints about SpeechEasy®?
The only complaint has been that SpeechEasy® picks up external noise as well as a person's own speech, causing the signal to be distracting or lose its potency. However, these complaints have been very few and typically come from users who work or spend time in very noisy environments. There is new software available to program SpeechEasy® with features designed to reduce this problem. Upgrades are free to any current SpeechEasy® customer.

3.8 Is there scientific evidence to support the long-term benefits of SpeechEasy®?
Ten years of research have been conducted to test the effects of AAF, but to date no long-term data is available using AAF in an in-the-ear device. One long-term efficacy study is underway, and others are in the making. However, inventors and producers were reluctant to further delay the availability of SpeechEasy® for people who want to realize the benefits now.

3.9 Is SpeechEasy® an alternative to stuttering therapy?
SpeechEasy® may be viewed as an alternative or adjunct to stuttering therapy. Some users require no further training when using SpeechEasy®, and some require minimal training. People who have learned traditional therapy techniques and employ them when using SpeechEasy® report much higher levels of fluency enhancement and more natural sounding speech when using SpeechEasy®.

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4.1 How do I get a SpeechEasy® device?
Call 949-552-5523 to make an appointment with the Power Stuttering Center for a SpeechEasy evaluation. The evaluation consists of a basic stuttering evaluation, followed by testing of a demo SpeechEasy® model under various settings and during different speech tasks. The evaluation usually takes about two hours. You will know what effect the SpeechEasy has for you and whether or not you want to purchase the device by the end of this evaluation.

4.2 What does the evaluation involve?
The evaluation consists of a basic stuttering evaluation, followed by testing of a demo SpeechEasy® model under various settings and during different speech tasks.

4.3 What's the next step?
An ear mold impression needs to be taken by an audiologist, along with a hearing evaluation. We have an audiologist on staff and will do this before the SpeechEasy Evaluation. The ear mold impression is then sent to a lab for custom assembly of the device.

4.4 How long will it be until I receive my custom SpeechEasy® device?
Allow two weeks following the assessment to receive the SpeechEasy® device.

4.5 What are my payment options?
Full payment of the purchase price payable by check is required before the ear mold impression can be sent to the lab for assembly of the device.

  1. Full payment of the purchase price by check, Visa or MasterCard.
  2. SpeechEasy® Lease option - contact your provider
  3. Payment plans up to 4 years through CareCredit Financing
  4. State of California Department of Rehabilitation may approve and fund the device to improve employment opportunities

More pricing information

4.6 Will insurance cover SpeechEasy®?
Janus Development is currently investigating the possibilities of insurance coverage for SpeechEasy®. At this point, it is suggested that potential customers contact their own insurance companies for information regarding coverage.

 

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Mark Power, MA, CCC
Mark was a severe stutterer himself for years before going through the stutter-reduction Speech Program. Now he is a Board Recognized Specialist in Stuttering dedicated to helping people who stutter.
 

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