10 ways to improve speech in Parkinson’s Disease
Communication is important. It helps you forge and deepen relationships, ask for information and express your wishes. Communication skills are also an important part of most jobs.
If you’re living with Parkinson’s disease, you may find that you:
- Speak quietly in one tone
- Seem to speak without much emotion because of decreased facial expression
- Speak slowly (or rapidly)
- Stutter or stammer
- Sound hoarse or breathy when you speak
- Slur words, mumble or trail off at the end of a sentence
- Struggle to find the right words.
These changes come about because of the way Parkinson’s disease affects the nerves and muscles that are involved in your speech. PD affects your:
- Voicebox (larynx)
- Breathing muscles
- Roof of mouth, tongue and lips
- Facial muscle movement
- Brain’s ability to control hearing, voice and speech processing.
So how can you improve your speech if you’re living with Parkinon’s disease? Here are 10 ways.
1. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water helps every cell in your body, including those involved in your voice. Hydration helps your body produce thin, watery mucus which lubricates your vocal cords. That lubrication is important because your vocal cords vibrate more than 100 times a second when you speak.
2. Look after your voice
As well as staying hydrated, you can care for your voice by using a humidifier if you’re in a dry environment, trying not to shout or strain your voice, resting your voice when it’s tired, and reducing the amount of throat-clearing or coughing.
3. Improve your posture
Your posture affects your voice by influencing the airflow from your lungs to your vocal cords.
To improve your voice, try to maintain an upright posture, straighten your chin and lift your neck.
Singing is a way to train your speech muscles. It’s been shown to help people with PD to improve speaking ability.
Singing has many other benefits too. Singing can reduce stress, improve lung function, strengthen the immune system and improve mood.
5. Keep it short
Using short words or phrases. Saying just one or two words or syllables per breath will help you to say what you want to say.
6. Use an amplifier
Some people have a booming voice while others are naturally more softly spoken. If you have a quiet voice, consider using an amplification device to boost your voice. These compact devices can help others hear you without you needing to strain your voice.
7. Schedule important conversations for your best time of day
Your voice is likely to be stronger at certain times of the day when it’s more rested. Try to schedule important conversations – health appointments, social gatherings, work meetings – then try to plan these for your best talking times.
8. Minimise background noise
You can make the most of your voice by not making it compete against other sounds. Turn off the TV, shut the door or choose a quiet restaurant.
9. Keep talking
Your voice relies on the performance and coordination of many different muscles. Speaking is a way of exercising those muscles. So keep talking!
10. See a speech therapist
Speech and language therapists are trained to diagnose and treat speech, language and swallowing difficulties. If you’re living with Parkinson’s disease, a speechie can help you:
- Maintain your communication skills
- Help you use non-verbal techniques to aid communication
- Improve your muscle strength and coordination using certain exercises
- Use assistive communication devices and techniques to make communication easier.
How SpeechEase can help
If you’re living with Parkinson’s disease and would like help to improve your speech, then we’re here for you.
Some of the SpeechEase staff are trained in the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) Loud approach, an evidence-based therapy that helps you increase your volume and ability to be understood.
Please contact us today. We’d love to help you express yourself.
All information is general in nature.