Communication is a vital part of everyday life, and it’s not surprising that people with PD say they’re less likely to participate in conversation or be confident in social settings compared to other healthy individuals of their age.
There are several reasons why you may experience reduced loudness, hoarseness or breathiness and a monotone voice if you have PD. One reason is directly related to the muddled motor system that characterises the illness.
The US Parkinson’s Disease Foundation remarks in one of its fact sheets that, when it comes to speaking, muscle-activation problems can cause the respiratory system to have reduced:
• Movement (reduced breath support)
• Articulation (diminished clarity of speech)
• Larynx functionality (decreased vocal loudness)
People with PD are often unaware of the changes in speech or voice, says Dr Lorraine Ramig, co-author of a fact sheet published by the US Parkinson’s Disease Foundation on speech therapy and PD. She recommends you “should pay attention” if a spouse, caretaker or friend notices this difference and comments on it.
As a senior scientist at Denver’s National Center for Voice and Speech, she stresses the importance of telling your doctor promptly if you’re experiencing any changes in speech or voice. Ask to be referred to a speech therapist for a voice and speech evaluation.
Dr Ramig remarks the sooner you obtain a baseline speech evaluation and start speech therapy, the better, adding: “You’re more likely to be able to maintain communication skills and quality of life as the illness progresses.”
Speech therapists (also called speech-language pathologists) are trained to assess, manage and treat speech, voice, memory and swallowing problems. They use various training techniques to improve problems you may be having with eating or communicating with others.
Treatment may entail various aspects focused on strengthening vocal cord muscles, increasing voice volume and slowing speech down.