A stuttering device requires a direct test with each individual. If the device shows promise in helping a given person during an initial test session, then a trial use period is appropriate that should extend over three to four weeks. At the end of the period, a rational decision can be made regarding whether the device should be retained or not.
There should be no charge, or perhaps a small charge for making an ear mold or shell, for the trial period. Additional charges may be imposed for clinical time. It is up to the purchaser to decide whether or not such charges are justified. Since it is likely that the seller is remunerated for the sale of the device, additional charges should be examined carefully.
Be careful of the device seller who attempts also to teach speech skills in order to make the device more effective. Some device sellers may use a slighter slower form of speech when they are talking to you in hopes that you will unconsciously model their speech style. Slowed speech can sometimes make it seem as if the device is producing fluency. However, your slowed speech is actually allowing the device to be of assistance to you.
You should be clear in your purposes. Do you want device created fluency or do you want help with the device in your controlled production of the behaviors that generate fluent speech? The latter outcome is more demanding of user efforts and it is possible that the effects of the device will diminish with time if the user is less than diligent in using the appropriate skills. You might also ask your self why you might be willing to use fluency skills with a device, when with a little more effort you could learn to use them and not require a device.
There are additional issues to evaluate before purchasing a device-even if it is helpful to you. A device is typically expensive, from $2000-$4000. In-the-ear devices dwell in the warm, humid environment of the ear and may last for 3 to 5 years. A behind-the-ear device is likely to last about 10 years. These projections are based on data from the hearing aid industry. There are insufficient data available to indicate how long fluency devices will actually last. It is clear that potential purchasers should factor in future replacement costs when considering devices. The actual direct costs of wearing a device may approximate $1000 to $1500 a year.
A device can be damaged when a wearer becomes habituated to its presence and forgets to remove it before taking a shower or going swimming. If a device is left out in the open, pets may lick or chew the device because of salt deposits on the case. Devices can be lost if they fall out of the ear or from behind the ear. Devices always carry additional costs with them-batteries and maintenance are the most common. For example, some devices are prone to having battery doors break or fall off. Devices with volume controls may also experience failure of the variable resistor due to its frequent manipulation by the user.
Devices can represent a bother in day-to-day living. Some DAF based devices send all sounds received at the unit to the ear with a delay. Thus, when you are talking to someone, your speech is delayed by the device when you talk; however, when they speak to you their speech is received in one ear in real-time while it is delayed when it arrives via the device-based ear. This disruption in the normal hearing of sound can become quite bothersome to some people.
Devices also create user dependence. A person who is capable of learning how to speak fluently is likely to forego that option and depend on the device. Device failure can lead to a panic situation, especially if an important speaking event is to be faced.
If you are thinking about acquiring a device, it is important to be familiar with the history of devices in stuttering. Typically, the device gets substantial public attention, there is sudden demand for the device, and gradually, demand is reduced as the realities of the device become apparent. The usual result is that the small companies that have produced the devices cannot stay in business and close their doors within a few years after the device is announced. This can mean that those who depend on the device are cut off and must fend for themselves.
In the opinion of the HCRI clinical staff, it is substantially more desirable to learn a strong set of fluency skills that will last for a lifetime than it is to depend on devices. The therapy specifically referred to here is the Hollins Fluency System™, our proprietary stuttering therapy developed and offered at HCRI. Our experience shows that most people who stutter can acquire lasting fluent speech through careful, motivated participation in our therapy.
Certainly, more effort is required initially. However, the effort level diminishes with the use of fluency skills and the satisfaction level increases. There is substantial self-esteem and satisfaction that can result from the mastery of fluency skills. When therapy is a well developed, objectively based technology administered by highly skilled professionals, a single participation can establish fluency skills that last a lifetime.
Clearly, the choice is yours. Good luck with your decision.