In January, Dominic Willis tried one of the new VoiceAmp devices. He describes some of the ups and downs of using it in everyday life.
An appointment with my speech therapists, Mary and Tammy. I am excited but cannot comprehend how VoiceAmp may help me. I perceive my stammer as one which appears to almost randomly come and go.
I wear it for 1 hour and I cannot believe it. I did not stammer once. When it was off, I happily stammered in my normal ad hoc fashion. But I won't get too excited.
Jan 17 (Day 1)
My VoiceAmp device arrives. I use it while speaking to my mum (and experiment with various settings). I do not stammer once, or gesticulate as I normally do. I show it to my 6 year old with whom I am usually fairly fluent. He appears un-fazed by Daddy's new 'thing' and we chat away; I am not stammering.
1 ½ hours use.
Because of background noise I take it on and off as I enter and leave shops and coffee houses. I wear it to make enquiries and order coffee. I do not actually stammer once. I occasionally find the feedback distracting and at times the background noise annoying. However, I am pleased.
I feel self-conscious putting in on in a restaurant and explain to the nice waitress that I am using a communication device. In the evening I tried making a phone call and took it out mid-conversation because it felt weird having a 'conversation' in each ear. Today has been quite positive but thinking so much about my speech was tiring.
2 ½ hours use.
I try it at work (I'm a community care home manager). I explained about it to some clients and staff before putting it on. Once on, I did not stammer at all, and those listening to me appeared amazed and impressed. I had a two hour supervision session. Before turning it on I slightly stammered whilst explaining it. We talked about it but then (I am pleased to report) we both ignored it and continued our work-based discussion. A very positive day.
4 ½ hours use.
A weekend day with my two sons. I tried it with them at times, and attained fluency (but I tend to maintain more fluency with them anyway). This evening I had four family members round for a meal. I wore it whilst cooking and talking (and found the background noise a little disturbing). No stammering whilst using it; a little stammering when not. A positive day on the whole.
2 ½ hours use.
I bumped into a lady with whom I used to aspire romance (alas, to no avail!). Whilst talking to her I blocked and had a couple of repetitions on 3 occasions. She said she was impressed with its effectiveness and that I should be pleased. But I was not. Later in the day I spoke to my neighbours who were amazed as I hardly stammered at all. I did not stammer during three phone calls. I am more positive now.
3 ½ hours use
A 13.5 hour shift today. I used it while planning the day's events with staff, talking with small groups of clients, and making phone calls. I stammered a little but much less than normal. Happy days.
I chaired a team meeting and surprised myself by looking forward to it. I did not stammer once in the meeting! The staff seemed excited for me.
After this very pleasing day, I arrived home to make phone calls and on one, stammered a bit. After such a positive day, I reminded myself that VoiceAmp was not a miracle cure. None the less, I am excited.
4 ½ hours use.
Another long day at work. In the afternoon I attended a 2 ½ hour managers meeting. Normally I stammer. Today, using VoiceAmp, I did not. I am now finding that I soon stop thinking about what it looks like. And others seem to do so too.
It is rather tiring spending all this extra time focusing upon and recording my speech. But not as tiring as I sometimes tend to find conversational events (before, during and after).
3 ½ hours use.
I took my youngest son to his football practice tonight; an experience that I tend to feel a bit shy at. I put the VoiceAmp on while talking to another friendly dad. And it worked. And he was very impressed. So that made me smile.
A breakthrough this evening! A chance to go to the pub for a pint - two pubs in fact! I got talking to someone I knew. Both times I put it on and attained fluency. I found the background noise a little disturbing, but persevered, with good effect. When I own my VoiceAmp I will fully experiment with adjusting background noise levels. Positive results today.
I'm beginning to get used to popping it on and off at various times during the day whilst going about my work. I'm still finding it most effective when my speech is in full flow when I am chairing a meeting or leading a work-based discussion. The times that I do slightly stammer whilst using it tends to be during short conversational sentences. I need to think about whether this is because I need to re-focus upon it each time I re-start speaking or for another reason.
1 ½ hours use.
I met with Mary and Tammy to discuss some technical issues and my previous panic at times that I felt that it wasn't fully effective. I reminded myself that although I am having excellent and pleasing results with VoiceAmp thus far, that it is not an instant fix and the ongoing support is necessary. And appreciated. I have decided that I will almost definitely purchase my own device.
Since purchasing my device I have tried it in many social and work situations. On the whole, it has supported me well. I tend to use the maximum (red) noise reduction setting that blocks out most background noise. I don't use it now as frequently as during the first couple of months - but I still fully rely upon it when I do. On the whole I have been stammering less of late. I can genuinely say that the VoiceAmp has been of benefit. The money which I borrowed to make the purchase has been well spent. I will soon be getting a wireless kit. Nice one.
From the Summer 2007 issue of 'Speaking Out', pages 15-16