Voice Banking: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on May 04, 2023
3 min read

Voice banking is a process in which software records your voice and makes a computer version that can help you communicate if you lose your ability to speak. It doesn’t re-create your voice and manner of speaking exactly, but it makes something that sounds close.

Message banking is a simpler process in which you record meaningful or helpful phrases and sounds that you can play later to communicate. You might record “I love you,” “Thank you so much,” “I need help,” or even the sound of yourself laughing. These can carry the unique tone, nuance, and emphasis of your own way of speaking.

If you have a catalog of phrases with message banking, some voice banking services may be able to use them to create a computer voice, though this is not always the case.

Voice and message banking -- you might hear them called augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) -- are important if you could lose your voice or if you can’t speak for a long period.

This is especially important for people with motor neuron diseases, which can slowly weaken the mouth, throat, or tongue and lead to serious speech problems. These diseases include:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), the most common kind
  • Spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA or Kennedy’s disease)
  • Progressive muscular atrophy (PMA)
  • Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS)

People with neurodegenerative conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease may also want to use banking. Because these illnesses can weaken physical and mental function over time, it’s important to think about your situation so you don’t wait too long to start the banking process.

People having certain head and neck conditions and procedures could also benefit from AAC. This may include those having:

  • Surgery to remove all or part of the voice box (laryngectomy)
  • Procedure to insert a tube through the neck and into the windpipe (tracheostomy)
  • Surgery to remove all or part of the tongue (glossectomy)

For voice banking, you’ll start by choosing your software application. Four common choices are ModelTalker, CereVoice Me, Vocal ID, and Acapela My-Own-Voice. Many of these programs can store a catalog for message banking, as well.

Other options for message banking include MyMessageBanking, a program made in cooperation with Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Message Banking App, which guides you step by step through the process.

You can look at the pros and cons of each or speak with your health care team or a speech pathologist about what’s best for you.

It can take several hours to record all of the phrases you might need for voice or message banking. You’ll record between several hundred and more than 3,000 phrases. It depends in part on your preferences. ModelTalker suggests 7 hours, but other companies give shorter options. Most programs suggest that you break this into several sessions. In general, the more you record, the better the end result.

Later, when you need the help to communicate, you’ll download your voice bank or message bank information onto an AAC device that you’ll use with your hands, your eyes, or another method to make yourself understood.

Initial banking costs can range from free to $1,500. The larger price tag may come when you need to download the information to the AAC device. One of these can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars.

Insurance might help with these costs. Talk with your provider to be sure.

There are also options to help with payment for people with certain conditions. The MND Association may offer financial help, along with your local ALS chapter or Team Gleason (for ALS). For more information, go to the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication or the Center on Technology and Disability or email [email protected].