New App Gives Throat Cancer Patients Their Voice Back
Vlastimil Gular's life took an unwelcome turn a year ago: minor surgery on his vocal cords revealed throat cancer, which led to the loss of his larynx and with it, his voice
But the 51-year-old father of four is still chatting away using his own voice rather than the tinny timbre of a robot, thanks to an innovative app developed by two Czech universities.
"I find this very useful," Gular told AFP, using the app to type in what he wanted to say, in his own voice, via a mobile phone.
"I'm not very good at using the voice prosthesis," he added, pointing at the hole the size of a large coin in his throat.
This small silicon device implanted in the throat allows people to speak by pressing the hole with their fingers to regulate airflow through the prosthesis and so create sound.
But Gular prefers the new hi-tech voice app.
It was developed for patients set to lose their voice due to a laryngectomy, or removal of the larynx, a typical procedure for advanced stages of throat cancer.
The joint project of the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, Prague's Charles University and two private companies -- CertiCon and SpeechTech -- kicked off nearly two years ago.
look at cochlear implants -- 40 years ago when they started, we had no idea how it would develop, how widely they would end up being used," she said, referring to the inner-ear implants used to tackle severe deafness.
"A happy end would be a device implanted in the throat that could talk with the patient's own voice," she told AFP.
"It's realistic: it may not come in a year or even in 10 years, but it's realistic and we're on the way."