Have you ever seen one of your children struggle with a particular task, but been unsure how you could help them? I’ve been in this spot several times over the years with Arlene with her hearing and speech so I was intrigued when we learned about Forbrain - Sound for Life Ltd and their bone conduction headset. We’ve been blessed to be able to review the Forbrain headset for the past six weeks, and I am starting to see some significant improvements in Arlene’s speech patterns. Because the recommended protocol suggests an initial usage of six to ten weeks, we’ll be continuing Arlene’s use of the Forbrain headset for a few more weeks before she takes a break from daily use.
The Forbrain bone conduction headset is designed for the user to boost their own brain through the use of their voice. The user wears the headset while reading aloud or talking for 10-30 minutes a day (depending on their age) and it helps them hear their own voice better. This improved hearing of their own voice, while still being able to hear outside noises (other people) helps strengthen their auditory processing. It becomes a sensory workout for the nervous system, but in small chunks of time so as not to overwhelm the user.
Arlene is in the middle of the age categories (she just turned 16 late last month) for using Forbrain, so she has been wearing it for 15-20 minutes each weekday. She could have also used it on the weekends too, but because we have been away from home most weekends, we’ve stuck to her using it on the weekdays.
As a young child, Arlene struggled with allergies, which caused her to not hear clearly. Because everyone else sounded muffled to her, she often did not enunciate well. We have worked with her over the years to learn to enunciate better, but she still struggles when she is tired or excited. Her words will often trip over themselves. I wanted Arlene to use the Forbrain headset in hopes that it would help her understand how she sounds to the rest of us when her words get jumbled, or she breathes in the middle of words instead of between them.
It has been six weeks since Arlene started using Forbrain. She says she hasn’t noticed a big improvement, but I am beginning to notice specific improvements in her speech and voice patterns. I think it's working!
The bone conduction headset from Forbrain creates a feedback loop that helps the brain differentiate between sounds and helps with better sound discrimination. The headset rests on the bones in front of the ears (it loops over the top of the ears and around the back of the head,) and directs the sound of your voice to your brain via the bones. It can be used to train for attentiveness, for auditory processing issues, to improve working memory, to help with rhythm (such as in reading poetry,) or with language discrimination (especially while practicing a foreign language.)
Arlene has worn the headset while doing a variety of talking activities. Her favorite way is to wear it while reading aloud from The Hobbit. She likes how it helps her hear the character voices she creates. She has worn it while singing at home, as well as when we were simply talking. Last week she wore it while reading questions to the family as we played a board game. The idea is simple: use it daily.
There are a few specifics about Forbrain to mention here: do not wear it for more than two hours a day, even if you’re working on the intense protocol (like memorizing a speech.) Also, Forbrain is for ages 3 and up. It should not be used by persons with Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. It is unsuitable for people who have more than an 80% hearing loss in both ears or a cochlear implant.
Forbrain has an dynamic filter that alternates while the wearer is speaking. It enhances long vowel sounds. When you first put it on, it takes a few minutes to get used to the filtering. Once you’ve tried it a few times, you don’t notice it as much. Part of the genius of the design is that the headset leaves your ears open to hear outside voices, so it can help you modulate your own voice to match the speed or volume of those around you.
Because Arlene has been the main user of Forbrain, I asked her to try to explain to you how it sounds when you use it. Here is her response:
Forbrain is kind of weird at first because most people think they hear themselves fairly well. When you put it on you sound so much different than you thought you did, closer to how you sound on a recording. I got used to the difference in sounds pretty quickly, but I did learn a lot during the process. I found out I don't sound as good as I thought I did when I sing, but my voices when I read aloud are better than I thought they were.
In Arlene’s defense ~ she does sing wonderfully, with or without Forbrain!
Forbrain is an expense tool ($359 US) but it comes with a 30 day money back guarantee, and a two year warranty. The Forbrain bone conduction headset comes with a sturdy storage case that zips closed. You charge the headset via a USB port/cord. If you charge the headset fully, it lasts about six hours of talking time. If you wear glasses, or have a lot of hair (like Arlene) you may want to spend a couple minutes in front of a mirror adjusting the headset to its best position the first few times you use it.
Overall, I am seeing improvements in Arlene’s speech patterns and enunciation. I think if Forbrain had been available when she was younger, I would have seen greater improvements in less time. Because we’ve been working on these things over the years, the improvements with Forbrain are slow but steady. I am hoping to schedule out time over the summer to use the Forbrain headset myself to work on my short-term working memory and attentiveness.
Forbrain’s website is chock-full of information about how the headset works, as well as suggestions for usage protocols, along with several testimonials ~ from laypeople and from speech professionals. I encourage you to visit their website and learn more about how Forbrain might benefit someone in your family. While it may not be the answer for everyone, it certainly shows promise for helping with a large range of auditory and language processing issues.
Connect with Forbrain on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or use the live chat feature on their website.
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