At the 2002 ASHA convention, I picked up a copy of a handout regarding the research done at the Stuttering Research Lab of East Carolina University investigating the SpeechEasy device. The premise is that the device helps to emulate choral speech, a fluency inducing condition.

Briefly, they had 4 adults (21-54 y.o.) and 4 children (9 - 16 y.o) with moderate to severe stuttering in the study. The kids had the in-the-ear (ITC) model and the adults had the completly-in-the-canal (CIC) model. ALL had 30 minutes of training to use the device which included 1) "sensory training to facilitate listening to the altered signal" and 2)"motor training-only when necessary to obtain higher fluency levels". The latter was described as making "small intermittent changes in speech production in order to 'highlight' the altered speech signal without compromising speech naturalness" (I don't know what that means).

Their measures were of %Stuttered Syllables on the first visit without the device, then with the device, in reading and conversation. Then the participants went on about their lives for four months with the instruction to use the device as much as possible and implement strategies from a protocol (which was not clearly stated...or at least I didn't understand what was being conveyed). Participants used the device at least 7 hours per day and after four months, frequency counts were again taken with and without the device in reading and conversation.

Their findings include statistically significant decreases in stuttering with the device compared to without the device in both reading and conversation conditions. At the first measurement session, reading had 88% decrease in stuttering, conversation had 85% decrease in stuttering. At the four month session, Reading had 86% decrease in stuttering, conversation had 69% decrease in stuttering. There was no statistically different changes in stuttering frequency over time for each measurement condition, whether with or without the device in reading or conversation. (that is, the level of stuttering was the same for a) reading at both measurements without device, b) conversation at both measurement without device, c) reading at both measurements with device, d) conversation at both measurements with device.) They did note that "speech naturalness was minimally compromised in two subjects".

In their discussion, they note that stuttering frequencies did not increase using the SpeechEasy. When the device is removed, stuttering levels return to previous levels. They also noted this: "The SpeechEasy provides efficient and effective symptom management of stuttering. It does not appear to be a curative agent". (Contrary to Oprah and the news reports). They also noted their data are "preliminary" and "by no means conclusive" and needing longitudinal study to evaluate efficacy. Finally, they noted "these data suggest that the use of the SpeechEasy therapeutic protocol appears to be a viable alternative or adjunct to stuttering therapy".

That is the only "study" I know of about this device. IMHO, there is nothing new here....except for the fact that DAF and FAF are now "portable" as fluency inducing conditions. The effects have been known for a long time and are just that: effects. Again IMHO, if clients can "get a handle" on the underlying processes of ANY fluency inducing condition that works for them, then those processes might be instrumental in the management or reduction (or elimination?) of their stuttering.

Michael Susca
February 12, 2003

added February 14, 2003