How NeoSpeech is giving people their voices back
Debbie Deaton used speech to get through her day. As an administrative assistant, she often worked on the phone to schedule travel reservations and coordinate meetings. Making business calls was easy for her because she had her own voice.
Unfortunately, Debbie was diagnosed with larynx cancer, a form of cancer that originates in a person’s voice box. This resulted in Debbie getting a laryngectomy, a procedure that removed her voice box and forced her to breathe through a hole in her neck for the rest of her life.
Making phone calls instantly became a challenge. “I’m frustrated trying to conduct business via telephone only to be called names, get cussed out, or simply hung up on,” Debbie told us. People who have had a laryngectomy can often produce a very hoarse-sounding voice, but it can be difficult to communicate and for listeners to understand.
Debbie found much difficulty making phone calls and often relied on others to make her calls for her.
Upon hearing Debbie’s story, we at NeoSpeech decided to send her a copy of our VT Editor application. This is a text-to-speech application that allows you to type in text and instantly convert it into natural sounding speech.
With the Kate (US English voice) version of VT Editor installed on her computer, Debbie was able to produce high quality speech for her phone calls.
“For the first time in 5 years I was able to make a business call myself instead of having my daughter do it for me,” Debbie said, “[VT Editor] has given me back 100% of my independence!”
By using NeoSpeech’s text-to-speech technology, Debbie got her voice back.
One of the earliest and most well-known uses of text-to-speech technology has been for accessibility purposes. This includes giving people who have lost their voice the ability to speak again. A famous example is Stephen Hawking’s use of text-to-speech to communicate.
Unfortunately, Debbie’s story of losing her voice isn’t unique. Millions of people around the world have difficulty talking or completely lost their ability to speak.
Speech impairment is more common than you think.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 7.5 million people in the United States alone have trouble using their voices.
There are several reasons why someone might not be able to use their own voice. Young children can suffer from developmental disorders that prevent them from being able to communicate.
Children and adults alike can also lose their ability to speak due to neurological injuries. Serious head trauma can lead to speech impairments if the Broddman area of the brain (the area of language processing) is damaged.
There’s also the story of Ashley, a young woman who lost her ability to speak after drowning and being officially dead for 1 hour and 40 minutes at the age of three. Ashley uses American Sign Language and NeoSpeech’s technology to communicate now.
Other common causes for loss of speech include stroke, atrophy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, the neurodegenerative disease that Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with), and larynx cancer.
In many of these cases, people are still able to understand language; they just have difficulty producing speech themselves. This can make day-to-day life difficult and can leave people feeling “locked in”.
Overcoming speech impairments
Thanks to text-to-speech, there are solutions for people who suffer from speech impairments.
Text-to-speech technology is able to take in text, such as words you type into your computer/device, and instantly covert it into speech.
Over the past 20 years two big things have improved in the text-to-speech industry.
First, the quality of the voices has improved. The days of text-to-speech engines generating overly robotic sounding voices are over. Today, NeoSpeech’s text-to-speech voices can rival real human speech in terms of naturalness.
Second, text-to-speech has become more accessible. In the past, running a text-to-speech engine required a lot of storage space and a lot of processing power. These two factors made it very difficult or even impossible for developers to build devices with text-to-speech capabilities.
Today, text-to-speech engines require less memory and less computing power than before. We’re also able to give smaller devices much more storage space and much more processing power. Not to mention, thanks to the internet it is now possible to connect your communication device to a text-to-speech engine in the cloud.
Put these factors together and it means that it is now way easier to build a text-to-speech application. Because of that, we’re seeing more devices being made to help people with speech impairments communicate.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices are frequently made with built-in text-to-speech capabilities. AAC devices are any kind of device that help users express thoughts, needs, and feelings.
Many people with speech impairments use an AAC device for communicating. These devices often let users type in what they want to say, and can even have pre-saved sentences and questions that the user would need to select once to have it read out.
At NeoSpeech, we offer a few text-to-speech packages that make it easy for a developer to integrate our high quality voices into any embedded communication device, such as our VoiceText TTS Embedded SDK and Web Service products.
With the help of NeoSpeech’s technology, many AAC and other assistive device manufactures have been able to make accessibility devices that have helped countless people.
With VT Editor on her computer, Debbie Deaton can type in whatever she wants to say on the phone and it instantly gets converted into beautiful sounding speech.
“I truly appreciate [VT Editor]. It makes me feel a little less beat up from cancer since I can make my own phone calls,” Debbie told us.
We at NeoSpeech are very happy to have been able to help Debbie. We’re also very proud of our clients who use our text-to-speech voices for accessibility purposes. There’s nothing that’ll bring a bigger smile to our faces than helping someone get their voice back.
What do you think?
Do you or anyone you know use text-to-speech to communicate? What has their experience been like? Let us know in the comments!
Learn More about NeoSpeech’s Text-to-Speech
Want to learn more about all the ways Text-to-Speech can be used? Visit our Text-to-Speech Areas of Application page. And check out our Text-to-Speech Products page to find the right package for any device or application.
If you’re interested in integrating Text-to-Speech technology into your product, please fill out our short Sales Inquiry form and we’ll get you all the information and tools you need.