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Everyday use of Voice Assisted Technology as a Facilitator of Speech Improvement for People with Parkinson’s Disease: A Health Technology Assessment

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr Orla Duffy, Dr Lynda Kennedy  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Most people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PwPD) develop speech problems over time, and have difficulty making themselves heard and understood, due to low volume and unclear speech, leading to frustration. The experience is not helped by limited access to Speech and Language Therapy (SLT), difficulties in attending hospital and in following recommended exercises.

Our early work suggests that some PwPD who use devices such as Alexa said that they do not need to repeat themselves as often and they had clearer speech, after using the device (Duffy et al. 2021). Some therapists are beginning to use this technology with promising effects on speech. Daily interactions, using phrases like “Alexa what time is it?” might improve speech over time, so that it is clearer and loud enough to be understood. To develop this area of practice, we need to carry out some experiments.

In each of these experiments, we will invite up to 40 PwPD to trial using Alexa to facilitate speech. Ideally, they will have speech concerns (but no memory problems), and they are not yet having SLT. We will have two groups in each study, 20 PwPD will use Alexa for six months (intervention group) and 20 PwPD will not (control group). We will visit the 40 PwPD at home several times over a six-month period, assessing their speech. One group will be given Alexa and trained at the start and asked to use Alexa at least five times a day for six months. We will observe the intervention group using Alexa and interview them and their family carer about the experience.

The goal of this research is to find out whether the frequent use of Alexa, can help PwPD who struggle with communication, arising from low volume and unclear speech.

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