Can the Speech Easy be replaced by an app?


We recently had someone on Twitter ask us if an app could be a replacement for a Speech Easy device. Here's what our resident Speech-Language Pathologist (and fellow stutterer) Casey Kennedy had to say.

A "Speech Easy" is a device that some people use to help manage their stutter. It's a small device that the user wears in their ear that presents an echo of their own voice (delayed auditory feedback, or DAF) anytime they speak. Some people who stutter find that this helps them to be fluent – however, it does not work for everyone. And even for those who it does work for, the effect sometimes fades over time. Research shows that most people who it does work for eventually stop using the device full-time, because they prefer speaking without it.

The Speech Easy is somewhat controversial because some people see it as a cure for stuttering, which it is not. It is designed to augment therapy, and to be used in conjunction with other techniques. It is not a replacement for speech therapy.

There are many phone apps available that can present DAF through headphones, and this might seem like a good alternative to spending thousands of dollars on a Speech Easy. However, there are several reasons why I wouldn't recommend this. Firstly, for every conversation you would want to have, you'd need to wear headphones and be holding your cell phone. Does that sound realistic to you? Secondly, the quality of the app just doesn't compare with the actual device. For example, when I tried this app in particular, even when I set the app to have no delay, my phone's processor caused too much delay to work correctly. The sound quality was also muffled, which would get annoying.

One good use of apps like this is that they can be used to determine if DAF works for you, before you and your SLP even think about looking into buying a Speech Easy. Other than that, this app might just be a good party trick. Kind of like how singing allows you to be fluent - that doesn't mean that you should spend your whole day singing, does it?

Casey Kennedy is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Canadian Stuttering Association SLP Liaison and Board Member. He lives and works in Toronto.

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