The inability to speak can be a life-altering event for patients of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s, other neurological diseases or events, and some cancers. In addition to the loss of ability and independence, the loss of voice can be disabling and isolating for patients and their caregivers.
In the past, patients and their loved ones have communicated through hand signals, communication boards, and computer-assisted voice devices. Today, speech pathologists encourage their patients to participate in voice banking programs where key words and phrases are recorded in the patient’s own voice and is intended to be used in an augmentative alternative communication tool at a time when the patient may not be able to speak.
And, although it may be difficult to accept that one may lose their ability to speak, voice banking offers a communication alternative. Speech pathologists and other health care professionals encourage their patients to make recordings early in the progression of the disease so that the voice banking project maintains the integrity of the patient’s voice.
Voice banking has been underway for years. However, new technology allows for a reproduction of the patient’s actual voice instead of a mechanical, computer-generated representation.
Caregivers and loved ones report that they are warmed to hear their spouse say “I love you!” or their parent ask “What’s up, buttercup?” long after the physical ability to speak has been quieted by diseases such as ALS or Parkinson’s.
Information about assistive devices such as Tobii Assistive Technology and others can be found on the ALS website and several affordable smart phone applications such as “Speak It!” and Verbally.app are available on the market.