Capital from the syndicated funding round was provided by Elevate Ventures, Foundry Investment Fund, Southwest Angel Network, Racine Medical Angels, SideCar Angels, and the SpeechVive management team.
“This funding will provide the resources we need to scale our business within the Veterans Affairs hospitals by allowing us to add several salespeople to our team,” said Steve Mogensen, SpeechVive president and CEO, in a press release.
“We also plan to continue to pursue reimbursement from Medicare and commercial insurance companies, which will allow access to SpeechVive for roughly one million people who are retired or on a fixed income and could greatly benefit from SpeechVive but cannot afford it,” he said.
The smart device was created by Jessica Huber, a professor in Purdue University’s department of speech, language, and hearing sciences, and co-founder of the Indiana-based startup company.
“The SpeechVive device, which fits behind the patient’s ear, detects when a patient is speaking and elicits louder and clearer speech through an involuntary reflex known as the Lombard Effect,” said Huber. “Approximately 89% of people with Parkinson’s disease will have speech issues. Access to SpeechVive for those patients will make a significant improvement in their quality of life.”
A Parkinson’s symptom called hypophonia, brought on by disease progression, is the proclivity to speak softly due to impaired coordination of speech-forming muscles. The condition makes it difficult to engage in effective communication with those around them.
By contrast, the Lombard Effect is the tendency of people to speak more loudly in noisy environments. SpeechVive essentially works by simulating a noisy environment; it plays “background noise” into the patient’s ear. Consequently, the person wearing the device speaks louder and enunciates more clearly.
Developed in 2019, the device was tested in a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Communication Disorders. Of 33 people with Pakinson’s-related hypophonia — all at different stages of the disease — 26 study participants experienced significant increases in vocal intensity while using the device.
Most participants also were able to improve the way their laryngeal and respiratory physiologic support worked. By changing the resistance to airflow through the glottis (the vocal cords and openings between them), the larynx can help increase vocal intensity.
The company said clinical data over four years showed SpeechVive to be effective in improving volume, articulation, and speech rate in 90% of those participating in two clinical trials.
Huber has said the device works without the need for conventional speech therapy, which can be protracted and ongoing.
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