SpeechEasy helps stutterers speak easily

January 10, 2007

Stutterers may speak more clearly with a device called SpeechEasy, which U.S. researchers said helps to take the sting out of stuttering.

The SpeechEasy fits in the ear and is based on "the choral effect," a phenomenon in which stutterers don't stutter when speaking the same material in unison with another speaker, or in a chorus, ABC News said.

The device does not cure stuttering, developers said. It aids speech, just as eyeglasses improve vision.

When using the SpeechEasy, stutterers hear a delayed playback of their own voice, at a slightly different pitch, emulating a choral effect, said developer Joseph Kalinowski, a stutterer himself and a speech pathologist at East Carolina State University.

"This is the beginning of the new era for the person who stutters," Kalinowski said. "Genetics and brain scans all point to a biological origin."

Dennis Drayna, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, called stuttering a medical mystery. His work traces the cause of stuttering to human genes.

A genetic cause, Drayna says, "could allow us... to guide therapy strategies for different groups of people, depending on what mutation you do or don't have."

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

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