To Bank or Not to Bank? I’m Voicing My Opinion

To Bank or Not to Bank? I’m Voicing My Opinion

A few years ago, during an ALS clinic visit, the topic of voice banking came up. I was assured that it was a way to help me to prolong my ability to communicate. Banking my voice? I’d never heard of it. So, I left with instructions to check it out.

I’m familiar with the concept of food banks, blood banks, and eye banks. But a voice bank? Would they store my voice and put it back inside me later?

What is voice banking?

What I learned was, yes, my voice can be “stored.” But it doesn’t come back. Instead, it involves recording my voice, saving the recordings to an audio file, and loading them into a speech-generating device. Then, when the device speaks, it sounds like me — well, sort of. It’s a synthesized version of my voice.

Another option is message banking, which involves recording my voice saying personal phrases, such as “I love you” and “good night,” for family members and friends.

Users have discovered that message banking is particularly helpful when communicating with animals. Apparently, dogs, cats, and even pet birds prefer human voices and do not readily respond to synthesized versions.

While pondering my voice coming out of a nearby device, I — laughingly — wondered what the etiquette would be. Should I mouth the words to match the device or adopt a ventriloquist’s smile and pretend that I’m throwing my voice?

Is this the only way to communicate?

During follow-up clinic visits, we discussed optional communication devices, from Boogie Boards to text-to-speech apps for my phone. But no one told me about simple techniques I could use to continue using the voice I have. Luckily, I found some methods that could help.

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As I wrote in a previous column titled, “Learning How to Speak (and Breathe) with Ease,” patients who experience vocal injury can learn specific speech improvement techniques. These include methods such as sitting up straight, speaking with a higher or lower pitch, moving consonants to the front of the mouth and breathing the words out, and using the diaphragm as an opera singer does.

These skills are taught in “The Living Speech Series,” an online program specifically for people with ALS-related dysarthria. Following the system takes commitment: to sit tall, to practice deep diaphragmatic breathing, to embrace your new-sounding voice, and not be embarrassed to speak up in public.

It works for me. I’m still speaking, although with a slower delivery and lower pitch. I find some words challenging to pronounce, so I use facial expressions and body language to improve understanding.

The final decision

I haven’t banked my voice. Have I missed the boat? Nah. I’ve decided that if the day comes when I have to rely on an automated voice to speak for me, I’m OK with that.

Soon, maybe some enterprising developer will create an app and call it “Vanity Voices” — offering a choice of well-known, unique voices to suit any occasion.

I might want to use a Holly Hunter voice when making a snappy-dappy comeback. Or even a Mick Jagger voice with dropped “hs” when I want to sound cool. For anyone who remembers Natasha Fatale from “The Bullwinkle Show,” her Russian-accented “daaahl-link” would suit me just fine.

No matter how you say it, I believe that we can live well while living with ALS.

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Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.

When Dagmar Munn was diagnosed with ALS in 2010, she tapped into her nearly 30 years of professional experience helping others reach and achieve their health goals. She not only follows her own wellness and fitness advice but inspires and teaches others to do the same through her ALS and Wellness Blog. Dagmar enjoys finding humor in life’s situations and spends her free time pursuing creative projects in fiber arts.
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When Dagmar Munn was diagnosed with ALS in 2010, she tapped into her nearly 30 years of professional experience helping others reach and achieve their health goals. She not only follows her own wellness and fitness advice but inspires and teaches others to do the same through her ALS and Wellness Blog. Dagmar enjoys finding humor in life’s situations and spends her free time pursuing creative projects in fiber arts.

6 comments

  1. Lynne Keene says:

    I banked my voice last year with Model Talker. I had to add to it twice or three times to get it nearer to my natural speaking voice. But some words sound very peculiar ie the word ‘first’ is unrecognisable. But if ‘furst’ is typed into Predictable it sounds perfect. Predictable is the voice technology that my voice is downloaded to. Lynne

  2. Diana Belland says:

    Dagmar,

    Your column this week is very timely for me. I have an appointment with my ALS clinic’s speech therapist this week for “vocal therapy” due to having had a bout of hoarseness a few weeks ago. I’m planning to discuss voice banking with her, and your perspective is very helpful.

    I love your idea of having a “Vanity Voices” app! Your wonderful sense of humor always makes me smile!

    • Dagmar Munn says:

      Thank you Diana 🙂
      I’m curious as to what your speech therapist recommends.
      In my humble opinion, the time spent recording random words and phrases can be better spent practicing the techniques taught in the Living Speech Series.
      …Now that’s what I call prolonging my ability to communicate! 😉 😉

  3. Greetings Dagmar….wow..I also choose not to voice bank 4years ago for the same reasons you gave in the article…it certainly was reassuring to read..coming from a lady I find a great asset in my journey with PBP…now……if wishes were granted whose or what’s voice ? I have dibs on Greta Garbo….saved Lauren BaCall for you..:)

    Regards, Rosemary

    p.s. read articles regarding your Dad…fascinating and remarkable….xxoo

    • Dagmar Munn says:

      Hello and thank you Rosemary! I’m pleased to meet you too 🙂 across the miles 🙂

      Oh, we would have so much fun with celebrity voices 🙂 Lauren Bacall…by all means!
      Maybe I should jump onto the whole idea and find an app expert who can give us our “dream voices.” !!

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