3 posts tagged “communication system”

Let’s talk: Parkinson’s disease, speech changes + communication issues

Posted 2 months ago by

Parkinson’s disease can cause your voice to become raspy, quiet or unsteady, and motor symptoms can make writing and typing more difficult. Have you experienced communication issues like these? See what others have tried — from Lee Silverman Voice Treatment and voice-activated “smart” devices to (drumroll please…) singing classes.

How PD can impact communication

Parkinson’s affects the part of the brain and nerves that control speech and oral/facial movement. ParkinsonsDisease.net says PD may cause:

  • Softer, breathy, or hoarse voice
  • Slurred speech
  • Mumbling or rapid speech
  • Monotone voice, lacking the normal ups and downs
  • Slower speech because of difficulty finding the right words
  • Trouble participating in fast-paced conversations.

They also break down the medical terms related to these speech symptoms:

  • Dysarthria — A motor speech disorder or impairment in speaking due to PD affecting the muscles required for speech
  • Hypophonia — Soft speech or an abnormally weak voice caused by the weakening muscles
  • Tachyphemia — Also known as “cluttering,” this is characterized by excessively fast talking and rapid stammering that can be difficult to understand

In addition, people with PD may experience tremor, rigidity and dystonia or cramping, which can make writing and typing difficult. Research has shown that about half of people with PD have micrographia (small, cramped handwriting).

Treatments and tools for communication

In our recent roundup of products that help people live better with PD, some members said they use an adaptive pen (Ring-Pen) to help with handwriting, Dragon Naturally Speaking (speech recognition software) to help with typing and computer use, and “smart” speakers/home devices (such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) to use voice commands to search the web or make a call.

Here are some other therapies and tools mentioned on PatientsLikeMe and around the web to help manage PD communication issues:

  • Speech-language therapy or SLT (which can also help with dysphagia/swallowing issues and saliva control)
  • Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT®), which is a specific type of speech therapy first developed in the 1980s specifically for people with PD (see research on LSVT and join PatientsLikeMe for full access to members’ evaluations of this treatment)
  • Speech amplification devices, such as Spokeman, ChatterVox and Oticon (see a Canadian study on these devices for people with PD — jump to page 70 for patients’ ratings). One person even shared on Reddit about hacking a collar-style microphone to work all day with an Echo/Alexa or smart home device (for his mom with PD)
  • Free dictation software, which is now available on most Apple/iOS and Android phones/mobile devices — just look for the microphone icon next to your space bar on the keyboard where you write text messages (hint: this works for almost anywhere you can type on the PatientsLikeMe app — get the iOS app here and the Android app here!)
  • Other dictation tricks for Apple devices as well as Android, Windows and other systems (many work with Google docs — a free alternative to dictation software)
  • Voice banking with programs like VocaliDMessage Banking or ModelTalker (check out our recent roundup of communication tools for people with ALS)

And explore even more Apple and Android accessibility tools.

Singing or music therapy for PD

Researchers are studying the positive effects of singing in people with PD. Initial research from Iowa State University (which has a weekly singing class for people with PD) shows that regular singing and voice exercises may help the muscles involved in speaking, swallowing and respiratory control. Singing in a group may also help with symptoms like depression and tremor, and overall quality of life, researchers in Australia say.

Choirs for people with PD have popped up across the U.S., from California to Georgia. (Add a comment below if you know of any in your area!)

Which communication issues are you dealing with these days? What’s been the most (or least) helpful? Join PatientsLikeMe today to check out or take part in this forum conversation with others living with PD.

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Communicating with ALS: From devices to voice banking

Posted 9 months ago by

 

Difficulty with speech and communication is a frustrating reality for many living with ALS. From apps to devices and voice banking, communication is a popular topic (as in over 35k conversations) on PatientsLikeMe, so we took a closer look into some of the options out there for pALS.

Tablets: Windows vs. iPad vs. Android

Trouble with typing or hand weakness? Amy, an augmentative communication specialist at Forbes Norris ALS Research and Treatment Center, recommends Windows (8 or 10) and Android tablets:

  • Windows devices have USB ports which makes them the most compatible with accessories like a mouse, joystick, eye tracking or head tracking device.
  • Androids may be compatible with these accessories as well, but often require a USB adapter. Adaptors are specific to the Android port and are inexpensive and easy to find online if you search for “USB adapter” and the make and model of your Android device.
  • iPads don’t offer these accessory options that use a pointer because their screens don’t display a mouse cursor. They do offer switch scanning access methods (a system by which a series of choices are highlighted and can be selected by hitting/activating a switch) for people who can’t use their hands on a screen or external keyboard. Some pALS find scanning too slow compared to cursor movers like a mouse or eye tracking.

Text-to-speech apps:

If you have difficulty speaking, there are many app options that convert text to speech:

Want to know more about communication devices? Check out Amy’s tips for paying for your tablethands-free options and message and voice banking.

Voice banking:

Many people with ALS who experience problems with speech, voice, and communication choose to preserve their voice for future use.

How does voice banking work?

Voice banking is a process that allows a person to record a set list of phrases with their own voice, while they still have the ability to do so. The recording is then converted to create a personal synthetic voice.

When the person is no longer able to use their own voice, they can use the synthetic voice in speech-generating communication devices to make an infinite number of words and sentences. The “new” voice isn’t a perfect replica of the person’s natural speech, but it will bear some resemblance.

Want to bank your voice?

Check out these options:

ModelTalker: A software designed for people who are losing or who have already lost their ability to speak. It allows people who use a Speech Generating Device (SGD) to communicate with a unique personal synthetic voice that sounds similar to their own voice.

Message Banking: An app that enables you to record and save messages in your own voice that can later be imported into a Speech Generating Device (SGD) or several tablet communication apps.

VocaliD: A platform that creates unique vocal identities for any device that turns text into speech. From just a three-second sample of sound that you make, the app can match you with a speaker from its voice bank and blend your vocal sounds with their recordings. Check out this moving video to see how voice banking changed the life of one man living with ALS and gave his family a piece of something they thought they had lost forever.

How much does it cost? Recording and banking your voice is free with programs like VocaliDMessage Banking or ModelTalker. With VocaliD, you only pay to download and use your synthesized voice. Pricing starts at $1,199.

When should you bank your voice? VocaliD recommends that you bank your voice sooner rather than later. With two options from VocaliD, you can bank your voice no matter where you are in your speech loss:

  • BeSpoke Voice: For people with speech impairment who are able to record three seconds of sound.
  • Vocal Legacy: For people who want to preserve their voice for the future and are able to record several hours of speech.

Have you banked your voice? Do you use a synthesized voice? Join PatientsLikeMe today to share your experience.

 

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