Stutterers aided by in-ear device

Research Study found that young men with a diagnosis of developmental stuttering speak more fluently with the use of an electronic in-the-ear device

SUMMARY: Stuttering is a developmental speech disorder that affects 1 in 20 children and persists into adulthood in one-quarter. More boys than girls stutter; about 40% have a family history. Conversational speech is interrupted with pauses, prolongations, and repetitions of speech sounds, syllables and words. The most effective treatment for stuttering is called altered auditory feedback. A variety of techniques can be used to change the timing and frequency of how speech sounds are processed. One method is the use of in-the-ear electronic devices programed to manipulate speech processing. Our research team conducted a laboratory study of the SpeechEasy device, which is one such device widely marketed as a fluency aid. The device is manufactured using components found in hearing aids. When the device is in-the-ear canal (Figure 1), and turned on, many people who stutter find that there conversational speaking and reading improve. Results showed that young men who stutter had significantly fewer stuttering-episodes with the device-in-place and turned-on. The study participants with a more severe-type of stuttering had greater benefits from the use of the device. Participants gained greater benefit when the device was in the left than right ear while having a conversation. Another interesting finding was that those individuals with better attention had a better treatment response. This device has not been studied in younger children who stutter, nor have the mechanisms of how this device works been tied back to brain structure or function.

This research study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, and is published in the Brain and Behavior journal.  

TITLE: The SpeechEasy device in stuttering and nonstuttering adults: Fluency effects while speaking and reading


RESEARCH TEAM: Anne L. Foundas, MD; Jeffrey R. Mock, PhD; David M. Corey, PhD; Edward J, Golob, PhD; Edward G. Conture, PhD.

Figure 1. SpeechEasy device. These pictures show three in-the-ear electronic devices that are programmed to change how speech is processed so that the person who stutters produces a more fluent pattern of speaking.