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(For hearing loss and speech issues)

« We would highly recommend this device to those with hearing, speech, reading, or attention deficit issues. I could also see remarkable applications for vocal performers. »

From the moment I knew that our family would be reviewing the Forbrain headset fromForbrain – Sound for Life Ltd, the wheels in my brain began to really turn as to how we would push it to the limits.  The company’s website touted that it had applications for short term memory improvements, increases in attention span, clarification of vocal patterns and speech clarity, and targeted response in the area of reading comprehension. My background in music therapy as well as being a homeschool mom to a child with some special learning needs laid the ground work for being intrigued by what this device would accomplish.

The Forbrain – Sound for Life device is most definitely not your regular headset.  A lot of scientific research has been done leading to its development.  Forbrain is an internationally based company with offices here in the US.  This is important as researchers and scientists from around the globe have contributed to this design.  The research spans the academic areas of speech development, auditory processing, and the cross over into the realm of reading and reading comprehension.  The outcome is this specialized headset that utilizes bone conduction as well as the auditory feedback loop to impact the benefits identified above. To read some of the research related specifically to the headset from Forbrain, please follow this link.

We chose to use this primarily with our teenage son.  When he was just a year old, he had suffered significant hearing loss due to repetitive ear infections.  During one of the episodes, his left eardrum ruptured.  As he got older, he no longer experienced difficulties with ear infections, but his full hearing was not restored.  His speech was significantly delayed.  As he matured, we found that he struggled some with word finding skills.  His struggles with reading were further compounded by issues with visual tracking, split dominance processing, and dyslexia.  We invested an incredible amount of hours in various therapies.  Now in his teenage years, dyslexia is no longer an issue and we have found methods and coping skills to compensate for some of the other struggles.  However, we have always wondered how much of our son’s challenges related back to his ear infections when he was a baby.

The Forbrain headset does utilize bone conduction.  This is significant in that if there were something anatomically or functionally wrong with the parts of the ear, the vibrations upon the bones behind the ear would enhance hearing.  On a very basic level, the best way that I can describe this is on the same principle of vibrations that allows children to connect two plastic cups together by a long string and be able to hear one another.  On a more advanced level is the use of this same principle of bone conduction is utilized in certain types of hearing aids.  A regular headset that simply projected louder or clearer sounds into the auditory canal would not have the same impact if the parts of the ear were not working as they should. Our son did say that he could hear better using the headset.  This has prompted me to put on my to do list to have his hearing checked once again.

Our Experience

From an educational standpoint, I absolutely fell in love with the fact that my son was literally hearing his own voice played back through the headset.  The design of the device actually reduces the background or environmental noise.  I think this aspect is huge.  My son was now able to read his schoolwork outload and hear himself as he read.  It revealed to him times when he read words that just didn’t sound right prompting him to ask for clarification on new vocabulary.  This also took his reading assignments from simply a visual exercise to tapping into his auditory learning abilities.  I love whenever we can take learning to a multi-sensory approach and the Forbrain headset allowed us to do that. This is of benefit to not just with special learning needs, but also any of us.  The more senses we can touch in presenting new material the greater associations that are built in the neural pathways of our brain. A side benefit was that our son instinctly began to speak clearer now that he heard how he can sometimes mumble while speaking very softly.
So what did we conclude?  Our son’s reading comprehension and attention to what he read definitely increased.  As a result, his confidence in his schoolwork as well as interest in discussing the content of his reading increased as well.  My observations were further confirmed when I had one day picked up the headset and put it away.  He came looking for it! He realized that his learning and ability to accomplish his work were greater when using the Forbrain headset.  This was enormous as he now felt confident to work independently.

The materials that accompanied the device suggested that it be used for about 20 minutes a day.  As my son realized that it was helping, he wanted to use it for greater periods of time.  However, we found that there truly was a reason for this recommendation.  The device is helping to build new auditory pathways in the brain.  For this reason, it can be exhausting and taxing to use it too much too quickly.  We became very targeted in how we chose to use it to help maximize the benefits from its use.  We do anticipate seeing a great integration of his thought processes in building greater communication pattterns in his brain that will help to further overcome the split dominance in his thought process. Over time, he did find that he was able to use it for longer periods of time or for multiple 20 minute sessions per day.

I honestly can not say enough good things about this device.  The information on the Forbrain website is definitely not a bunch of marketing spin.  We would highly recommend this device to those with hearing, speech, reading, or attention deficit issues.  I could also see remarkable applications for vocal performers.  As a matter of fact, I am sure that this list is far from exhaustive in identifying the various individuals that would benefit from a Forbrain – Sound for Life headset.  I really wonder what the implications would be for nonverbal individuals who are just beginning to overcome barriers in expressing themselves. My thoughts specifically go to a friend who also has a teenage son.  Her son is on the autism spectrum and largely non-verbal.  I do wonder what language gains he would have with the assistance of the Forbrain headset.

Use Your Voice to Train Your Brain

As much as I found benefits to the Forbrain headset for my son, I have to share with you that we no longer have our Forbrain device.  My older brother suffered a massive stroke over 4 years ago. His expressive language skills were greatly impaired as a result.  He continues to receive speech therapy, use a special tablet to assist with communication, and do speech exercises at home.  My heart breaks for him as he is aware of what is going on around him and has so much to say.  He becomes so frustrated in not being able to find the words to share the thoughts in his head.  With the help of my sister-in-law he shares that it is like all his words are locked in a filing cabinet in his brain, but he is unable to access the key.  Unfortunately, the neural pathways that would unlock his speech were destroyed by the stroke.  Much of his therapy is directed at rebuilding new pathways to unlock his ability to engage in conversation and convey his thoughts.

After seeing the results we have had with our son and reading the research supporting this device, I gave our Forbrain to my brother.  He has since taken it to his speech therapist who has now also researched it.  She feels that it may have a lot of promise in doing exactly what it claims to have the potential to do.  My prayer is that it does offer him a breakthrough that he has worked so hard for.

You can read the full review directly on Dawn's blog.