Learn about the different tech options available to help with stammering.
There's a range of apps and devices that can help with stammering. Here we explain what they do and how effective they are. We've also got links to some that you can buy and download.
If you'd like to chat about anything on this page, call our free helpline on 0808 802 0002 or start a webchat.
WHAT CAN APPS & DEVICES DO?
Apps and devices for stammering have a range of different features and aims. These include:
Apps & devices to increase fluency
Most apps and devices on the market aim to increase fluency and reduce stammering. As you speak, they play your voice back to you through headphones or a Bluetooth earpiece. Essentially it sounds like you're speaking along with someone else. People who stammer often find they're more fluent when they talk in unison with others. It's a phenomenon called the 'choral effect'. Apps and devices aim to replicate that experience.
They use a technology called 'Altered Auditory Feedback' or AAF. It alters what you hear in a few different ways. One of them plays your voice back with a tiny delay, a bit like hearing an echo on a phoneline. This type is called 'Delayed Auditory Feedback' or DAF. And/or it could be with a slight change in pitch. This is sometimes called 'Frequency-shifted Auditory Feedback' or FAF.
Some apps and devices produce 'white noise' like a hiss or a buzz. Or sometimes they play music when you speak. This masks your voice and can divert your attention away from your speech. Some people find this increases fluency. But it can make it hard to be a good conversationalist if you're listening to music at the same time! Sound familiar? You might recognise it as the approach used in The King's Speech. Or with Musharaf on Channel 4's Educating Yorkshire.
Apps with other aims
Some apps help you experiment with changes to your communication style. They can also look at a range of factors that might increase confidence around talking. Others might have courses that aim to work on tension or anxiety when talking. Some have features where you can record yourself reading and play it back. Some have a combination of features.
DO THEY WORK?
Like with all approaches to stammering, apps & devices are helpful for some people but not others. Each person is likely to respond differently. Sometimes you might find something helpful for a while and then less so later.
It's important to remember that there isn't a cure for stammering. Apps & devices are only effective when you're using them. When you turn them off, stammering is likely to come back.
But if you're looking for something to get you through a speaking situation you're worried about, they might be for you. You can also use it as part of speech therapy — for example, to practise techniques.
Using a fluency app helped with my confidence.
Also, read Dave's article 'Getting through my Father of the Bride speech' to see how a device helped him.
Apps are a cheap way to access the technology mentioned above. They can be used on a smartphone, tablet or computer. Below is a list of apps on the market. Some are free, others aren't. Please note: this list is not comprehensive and the fact we've included them doesn't mean we endorse them.
Apps for people who stammer
BeneTalk. This uses speech tracking technology to monitor speech and give feedback in real time. The aim is to help you make changes to your speech. For ages 8+.
DAF Pro. As the name suggests, this offers Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF). See the section above for more on DAF.
Stamurai. This includes DAF and lets you practise reading aloud. It also gives guided meditation and breathing exercises.
App for parents
Penguin — Support for Stammering. A 10-day programme for parents whose child has started stammering. Each day has a short video with a task to help reflect on their situation. It then helps set up strategies to support themselves and their family. This app is also used by quite a few NHS Speech & Language Therapy departments.
Apps installed on a smartphone may or may not work during telephone calls. Look at the app description and reviews, but ultimately you will need to test it on your phone. They usually work with a Bluetooth headset but this might add a further delay in the sound.
An alternative to apps are electronic fluency devices that use AAF technology.
There are two types of device:
- One which fits in or around the ear, like a hearing aid.
- A handheld box you can slip into a pocket and use with a wireless or wired earphone.
Devices might be an option if you don't have a smartphone or if you want to use something separately from your phone.
They can be very expensive though — some devices sell for thousands of pounds. If you have a smartphone you're probably better off downloading an app for a fraction of the price. It's also worth noting that devices only provide AAF technology. They don't offer features that some apps do, eg speech tracking, exercises and reading practise.
Before spending a lot of money it might be an idea to get advice from a speech & language therapist. See Options for Adults to find a therapist near you.
Here are some devices available to buy:
Speak for Less. In-ear devices with a money back guarantee option.
VoiceAmp. Wired and wireless options are available.
Casa Futura Technologies. A website about stammering which includes a catalogue of DAF and FAF devices.
PAYING FOR A DEVICE
Unfortunately NHS funding for fluency devices is not generally available. But you might be able to get some help with costs through the following methods:
Disabled Student Allowances
If you're a student you may be eligible to apply for a Disabled Student Allowance.
Access to Work grants
If you are working, or wanting to start work, you may be able to get funding though the Access to Work scheme. You or your employer may need to pay part of the cost. As well as the Access to Work eligibility criteria, you'll need to have an assessment by a speech & language therapist. You'll also need to have used a fluency device for a trial period.
Via your employer
If you are in work, it may be worth asking your employer if they could provide financial support to pay for a device. This is if it would make a big difference to the way you do your job.
If you have difficulty getting funding from any of the above sources, let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org