Let’s talk about voice banking

Processing a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease (MND), or other associated illnesses, come with many possibilities to consider. One such experience could be preparing to lose your voice. Now, voice banking could provide a solace and safety net for people set to lose their voice.

Advances in technology have seen a surge in the number of adaptive technologies available to assist disabled people with everyday tasks, and help maintain a sense of identity and independence.

One such assistive technology is voice banking. Voice banking is an innovative tool that allows users to record their own voice, to be used once the ability to speak or communicate verbally is no longer an option.

Kay Lubek banked her voice for her mother, who has progressive bulbarpalsy (PBP) – a type of MND.

“I knew that my mother would lose her speech before she lost her ability to function, so I thought it would be a nice [option] to offer, meaning she could still communicate in a way other than sign language,” explains Kay. “Once I had the kit, the process was easy. I did 350 sentences in a couple of hours and that was the job done.”

RECORDING

During the voice banking process, you will record a variety of sentences, using different sounds and syllables. The sounds made during the recording will then be used to ensure any and all words can be communicated. This method creates a synthesised version of your voice.

“I was amazed that those syllables could be put together – you could say anything,” enthuses Kay. “When I was telling people about it, they thought that unless I said the phrase, my mother wouldn’t be able to say it, but, the programme allows you to make words that I haven’t actually said.”

For many, when they think of speech aids, they think of robotic voices that can’t easily convey emotion. Banking your own voice in preparation for losing your speech means you can retain a part of yourself and your identity that you would otherwise have potentially lost.

COMMUNICATE

“There is a reassurance that when my mother can’t speak, she’ll still be able to say whatever she wants to say – rather than others trying to interpret it through other means,” Kay continues.“She’ll actually be able to get through exactly what she wants to say, instead of just giving a yes or no answer.”

Banked voices may sound slightly robotic, but there is another option available to avoid this: message banking. The process involves recording your voice, using words and phrases that you use a lot, or special messages. When these are replayed, they’ll sound exactly as you said them, allowing you to communicate feelings and emotions in a way a synthesised voice cannot provide.

“Make sure you do it early enough, because it can take time,” Kay advises.“No one knows how useful it’s going tobe until we’ve had more experience of using it. Bite the bullet and do it.”

Learn more about voice banking and how it could benefit you or your family by visiting the MND Association.

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