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Health: New Device Being Used To Help People With Parkinson's Disease

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- New hope for people living with Parkinson's disease.  One of the symptoms is difficulty talking, now there's a device that's helping them communicate and feel less isolated.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder with a variety of symptoms like trembling. Patients say the inability to be understood when speaking can be devastating. Now there's a fix for that.

Annie and Kevin Payton remember their wedding 22 years ago. His hand was shaking and it wasn't because of nerves. At 26-years-old, Kevin was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"Kevin proposed and I said yes," Annie said. "Then he got Parkinson's and he thinks because he proposed he got it."

Raising two sons has helped them keep their sense of humor.

As the disease progressed, Kevin had deep brain stimulation surgery, hoping that it would control some symptoms, and wrote about it.

But his slurred speech and mumbling, a symptom of Parkinson's, continued to worsen.

"Kevin was feeling very isolated," Annie stated.

Now a device that looks like a hearing aid is helping. It's called Speech Easy.

Working with his speech pathologist, and wearing the device, Kevin reads passages. He is relearning enunciation.

"In those days not half a dozen men in the United States," Kevin read.

"What it does is the person who's wearing it hears themselves talking but at a slight delay," said Kim Sabourin, Kevin's speech pathologist. "It slows down the speaking rate of the person who's using it."

"Kevin fights it every day and I tell him as long as you fight I will fight with you," Annie said. "It's hard but I don't talk about it much."

While it can still be difficult to understand Kevin, he says Speech Easy has him feeling better about his life.

"It's hard not to feel sorry for yourself," Kevin said. "But for the most part how you choose to live your life is your choice."

The Speech Easy device was originally used to treat people who stutter. The delayed feedback is now being used for Parkinson's patients. The device does not work for everyone, it is unclear why.


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