Therapists save Bury Mother’s voice

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A Bury Mother has thanked local speech and language therapists for banking her voice and making a huge difference to her life.

Kay Jones,66 from Ramsbottom has motor neurone disease, which causes the muscles in her mouth, tongue and throat to weaken.  The condition (known as dysarthria) means that Kay may soon be unable to speak without the help of voice technology.

In preparation for this, Kay has been working with speech and language therapists from Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust to record her own voice.

The process, known as voice banking, has involved Kay working with the team to record around 1,500 sentences and phrases.  These have then been converted into a personal synthetic voice, which is unique to Kay.

She is now able to use an app on a tablet, computer or smart phone to ‘speak’.  The app has a predictive text function to make it as quick and easy as possible for her to use.

While synthetic voice technology has been around for some time, the ability to personalise a person’s voice is relatively new.  It allows people to stay connected to those around them and to keep an important part of their identity.

Kay said: “Losing your voice is like losing your sight or your hearing. Your voice is very precious. I don’t think I’d be where I am now without the whole team. I don’t think I can ask for anything more.”

The team has been offering voice banking since May 2017. At this time, they were one of the first in Greater Manchester to offer this innovative and life changing technology.  Kay was one of the first people to benefit; since then the team has helped five other people.

Louise Robinson is a speech and language therapist and team leader.  She said: “People who have been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease experience a range of emotions. The thought of losing their voice can be very distressing and they may need some time to come to terms with it.

“We really care about our patients and are always looking at new and innovative ways to help them enjoy the best possible quality of life.

“We have been offering voice banking for around 18 months and were one of the first in Greater Manchester to use this amazing technology.

“It takes around takes two to four weeks to record the 1,500 sentences we need. Each session lasts from 30 minutes to an hour, though some people may need to take breaks, as it can be very tiring.

“To date we have been able to help six people continue to communicate with their loved ones and remain as independent as possible.  It’s wonderful to see the difference that voice banking makes to their lives”.

A short film about Kay’s voice banking journey has been developed.  This is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbX_HNTlB3Y

More information about the Bury community speech and language therapy team is available at www.penninecare.nhs.uk/buryadultsalt