Over the past month, Emily and I have been experimenting with Forbrain, a bone conduction headset designed to aid in attention, auditory processing, and memory. Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd has designed this unique device to aid in attention, speech, and memory activities.
What is Forbrain?
First, I will review some basic information about the hearing process. The cochlea is a part of the inner ear. When sound vibrations reach the cochlea, these vibrations are turned into electrical signals that are delivered to the brain via the auditory nerve. There are two ways that sound vibrations are delivered to the inner ear.
The first is air conduction. Sound waves traveling through the air are funneled into the ear canal, vibrating the eardrum. This vibration is amplified in the middle ear by the ossicles (middle ear bones) and conveyed to the cochlea. Tiny hair cells (cilia) are stimulated in the cochlea, causing the auditory nerve to send a message to the brain.
The second method is through bone conduction. During bone conduction, sound waves cause the skull bones to vibrate and this vibration is conveyed directly to the cochlea. When we speak, we hear our voices primarily through bone conduction. Other sounds are conveyed to the inner ear primarily through air conduction. The sound that your brain perceives is slightly different for each. That is why your voice sounds different to you when you hear a recording of it.
Forbrain is a headset that does two things. First, the microphone amplifies the voice, sending it to the inner ear through bone conduction. (The “earphones” rest on the facial bones in front of the ears, transferring sound vibration to the bone rather than to the ear canal.) Second, the dynamic filter provides additional amplification for high frequency sounds. (Vowels are lower frequency sounds, while consonants, particularly unvoiced ones like /p/, /t/, /s/, and /sh/, are high frequency sounds.)
What are the uses for Forbrain?
According to their website, there are three primary uses for Forbrain. The first is for improving focus and attention. The dynamic filter and amplification focus attention on the voice, reducing the distraction of environmental noise and “sensory clutter” in the brain.
The second use for Forbrain is for speech improvement. The speech amplification provided by the device makes the listener more aware of his own voice, helping with speech discrimination, and hopefully improved articulation. It can also be used for improving inflection and expression for public speaking.
The third use is for improving memory. Speaking or reading with Forbrain provides increased stimulus to the auditory pathways to the brain.
How did we use Forbrain in our home?
- Emily used Forbrain several days a week for practicing her Spanish. Honestly, her Spanish pronunciation is pretty poor as compared to her spoken and written comprehension levels. Part of this issue is that she really doesn’t try very hard. Foreign languages can be hard in a homeschool setting without anyone but Mom to talk to! I did see an improvement in her spoken Spanish as a result of using Forbrain. She admitted that it helped her listen to herself more carefully and she tried harder to use better pronunciation and worked on correcting her errors. They bothered her because she could hear them amplified!
- Emily wore Forbrain occasionally when working on her Bible or poetry memorization. I’m not sure that it helped, but she has a pretty good visual memory and I think she tends to rely on that rather than the auditory input when speaking aloud and trying to memorize.
- In my role as a speech pathologist, I used Forbrain during a speech therapy session with a child who is working on her /r/ sound. I didn’t see dramatic results, but it did make her a bit more conscious of listening to her speech output. Since she is taking the summer off from therapy, we were only able to get in one practice session with Forbrain. I do see tremendous potential for using Forbrain in speech therapy. For spontaneous speech improvement, I’m skeptical, but think that it will be a wonderful tool when used in conjunction with traditional therapy techniques or even more informal sound practice. I will definitely be using this with future articulation clients.
- I am part of the praise team at church, so I used Forbrain when practicing songs at home and otherwise working on improving my tone and working out harmonies. I found it very helpful and fun to use.
The science behind Forbrain
If you visit the Forbrain site, you can find out detailed information about how Forbrain works, its many uses, and its effectiveness. There are not only testimonies from parents and professionals such as speech pathologists, but also some information about scientific studies in progress. Many of the claims sound quite plausible to me. There were a few claims that I had some doubts about.
For example “comprehension of the written word is greatly improved.” For an auditory learner, I can see that this could be very true. Personally, as a visual learner, I found the additional auditory stimulation distracting while reading aloud and thought it hampered my comprehension because I was distracted by my voice! I found Forbrain most helpful for me in tasks such as singing, when I was focusing specifically on my voice rather than meaning.
A possible suggested use for Forbrain is for improving fluency disorders/stuttering. As a speech pathologist, I know that any quick or easy “fix” for stuttering is very unlikely. At best, the device might prove as a distraction resulting in a very temporary improvement in fluency. Although I am skeptical of that particular claim, I’m sure the device would be helpful for articulation and voice disorders and for helping the normal speaker with minor fluency issues.
I’m very glad that scientific studies are being done with the device and will be very interested to read about the final results. (So far, the evidence seems to be promising.)
Learn more about Forbrain through their social media and by reading more Crew reviews!