Monday, June 16, 2003
a. Background Noise. The worst problem is the background noise. Maybe my device doesn't have the noise filtering and maybe the volume is too loud, but it is *so* sensitive to any noises. In fact, I can hear noises through my SpeechEasy that I can't hear at all through my other ear. (For example, I was lightly scratching an itch on my leg yesterday; I heard nothing through my normal ear, but I could hear the scratching through my SpeechEasy ear.)
Due to the background noise problem, I find it impossible to wear the device in noisy environments, like restaurants or bars. It is like being in a wind tunnel or something-it's a buzzing whirl of confusion. Even wearing it while walking down the street is not always fun-sometimes noisy traffic or construction noise or a siren is so painful to the ear that I have to yank the device out immediately. Even the slam of a cash register drawer when I'm wearing the device can cause me to flinch. It's also really annoying to wear while listening to the radio or listening to music (which I always do in my car and do a lot at home) and annoying to wear while watching TV. So I find myself taking it out a lot.
b. Effect on Fluency. On top of all this, the improvement in my fluency is there, but is certainly not dramatic. I find it somewhat useful on the phone. But I also find that in "high load" situations (situations where I feel a lot of time pressure to get the word out, or other pressures to be fluent) it doesn't really help. The time-pressure usually causes me to have a hard block. They say you should prolong your vowels in these situations, but that never seems to work for me. Once I am in a hard block and am feeling a lot of pressure to get the word out, no speech technique seems to work for me.
In general, I find that the device helps a little when I am very calm and I'm speaking to someone who I feel accepts my stuttering, is patient, knows not to interrupt me, etc. The device doesn't make me perfectly fluent, but my speech does flow better in these situations. (Incidentally, this was, of course, exactly the environment that was created when I was taking the device for a "test drive" in the therapist's office.) However, when I'm talking to someone who seems impatient and with whom I'm feeling time-pressure, I tend to feel rushed and hurried; as a result, I tend to stutter just as I would without the device.
I find that when I read aloud, once I get going for a bit, I can be pretty fluent with the device. But when this happens, it feels like it is because I'm no longer trying to communicate what I'm reading; it feels instead like I'm just going through the syllables in a mechanical sort of way.
c. Psychological Distance. Another thing I don't like about the device is that it makes me feel "disconnected" from my listeners. I feel an increased "psychological distance" between me and them, as if I'm talking to them through an intercom or something. I don't like this. When I'm talking to a friend, I want to be "connected" to him or her. It's not that I'm really "touchy-feely" or anything. It's hard to explain.
d. Public Speaking. I'm a graduate student and I teach classes. (And, for the record, I really do stutter. I stutter plenty in front of my classes.) One place in which I really want to try out the device is the classroom. Unfortunately, it took so long to get an appointment with the provider and so long to get the device after that, that the semester is now over. I won't be teaching again until the fall.
e. What Now. Part of me wants to return the device for the 90% refund. But then I will never get to try it out in the classroom. I might always wonder how it might have worked. So I'm not sure what I'm gonna do.
Whatever I decide to do in the long run, my next step is to have the device altered in some way. I need either the filtering put in (if it is not already in) or the volume turned down, or both.
I'll try to keep you posted.