STAFFORD, NJ - For Rich Leyh, a stay-at-home dad of five and husband to Tammy Leyh, he was unable to live the normal day to day life because of his trouble speaking. For as long as he can remember, he lived with a stutter. He recalls of grade school and just how “terrible” kids would be. He often felt isolated even throughout his adult life.
Being a stay-at-home father he found it very difficult when trying to talk to teachers and coaches about his girls. Even going out to eat and ordering was a struggle for him. So one day, about a year and a half ago when he “had enough,” he recalled the big device about the size of a “small car,” he joked, that he used when he was younger. It was called the “Delayed Auditory Feedback Machine” and he thought to himself, “there has got to be some kind of technology out there” to help him.
He sat down, went on the computer, and researched everything he could about new technology and ways to help his stutter. It was then when he came across the SpeechEasy device. At that time he didn’t know it would truly change his life. He just needed something.
After reading about it, he contacted Speech Pathologist Kim Banson Sabourin at Temple University in Philadelphia. Sabourin is a stuttering specialist who can provide the SpeechEasy devices to her patients.
The SpeechEasy device, which is worn in one ear, can easily be mistaken for a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sound, it utilizes the patient’s voice with a mic. This lets the patient hear themselves with a slight delay and at a different pitch to help them slow down their speaking rate, she told me. This process is to mimic the “Choral Effect.” According to SpeechEasypro.com, the choral effect “occurs when a stutter is dramatically reduced or even eliminated when someone speaks or sings in unison with others.”
After “hundreds of emails back and forth” with Sabourin, Leyh told us, he got into his car and drove west to Philly to be evaluated. During the evaluation they "test your hearing and see what speech difficulties you have and how severe," Leyh said. Sabourin gave him a sheet of paper with two paragraphs on it to read off of. Leyh said he “could not get any words out,” but when they popped the small device in his ear,“it was like a flip switched” and just like that he could speak tremendously better.
For others it may not be as significant of a change at first, but for him it was. His speech therapist, Kim Sabourin said is was “dramatically different for Rich that he didn’t even need the active therapy,” which usually follows when someone starts using the SpeechEasy device. She told us that it is “really hard to predict who it is going to work for, but for Rich he took to SpeechEasy very easily.” She added, “Rich was the perfect candidate.”
Ever since that day he wears his SpeechEasy device and says that it has truly been a “game changer” in his life. Rich now has the confidence to speak to other people more often and be able to fully communicate with his girls’ teachers and coaches. He said people have noticed a huge change in him now that he can speak better. Sabourin says, “Rich is such a sweet, friendly, and outgoing person that you would never know he struggled with speech his whole life.”
For those who are living with a stutter or have a loved one who is, Rich Leyh says, “just go and be evaluated because you never know how much it could work and change your life,” he added, “especially for young kids.”