An NHS trust in the north east has adopted a technology that is enabling patients to regain their voice even after speech loss.
The innovative software takes patients’ voices and recreates a digital, synthetic version mimicking even accents and characteristics, which patients can then use by typing on an app in their phone or tablet.
As well as the general voice regeneration, patients can also store personal messages whilst they still have the ability to speak on their own, offering comfort to friends and family. For the technology to work, patients read and record a variety of sentences or phrases which the software then converts into an accurate representation of a patient’s actual voice.
If patients don’t have access to a phone or tablet, local charities can provide them with one – similarly, if patients can’t use their hands to use the technology, they can alternatively use eye tracking or a head switch to speak to people using their new digital voice.
The trust say it will offer people the technology if and when patients require it, with six people already benefiting from the software at the trust so far.
Zoe Underwood, one of the trust’s adult speech and language therapists, is leading the project. She said: “The purpose of voice banking is to still give someone a sense of their identity, even when they are losing their voice.
“It’s a little bit computer-y still but it really does have a lot of characteristics of a person’s voice. It gives families a lot of comfort because they’re able to support their loved ones and their loved ones are able to communicate with them – but in a personal way so it still sounds like them.
“It does mean there is a little bit of a time delay in a conversation as you have to wait for the person to type. But this is a really great way of allowing people to get their message across while maintaining their self-identity.”