(09/20/13) - Thanks to new technology, people are able to save their voices
before they lose them to ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. ALS is a rapidly
progressive, terminal neurological disease that affects up to 30,000 Americans.
Eventually all muscles are affected, preventing speech. Now, there is a way to bank a patient's voice for the future.
"When I lose my voice, I will be totally dependent on technology, " says 70-year-old Carole Shearn.
Carole was diagnosed with ALS nine months ago. In the next few months, she will likely lose her ability to speak permanently. However, Carole is not taking her diagnoses quietly.
She is using the Tobii ATI. It is a computer that allows Carole to record, or "bank," her own voice.
"Sadly, I've probably seen 50 to 80 patients since this clinic started and out of that probably two have been able to bank, bank their voice," says Speech Pathologist, Jocelyn Odlum of University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
"I think the sentimental value of him being able to hear his grandma's voice is something that would really mean a lot to him," says Carole's daughter, Jennifer.
Physicist Stephen Hawking did not bank his voice, so he uses a synthesized voice. Like Hawking, Carole will eventually lose mobility and will use her eyes to prompt the Tobii to speak for her. It can even call 911.
"All it needs is the blue tooth connection," Carole says.
The Tobii ATI computer voice system costs about $3, but Medicare and most health insurance policies will cover about 80 percent.
If you have ALS and can still speak, contact your local ALS clinic and ask for the speech pathologist on staff for help.
ABC12 Main Station