Parkinson’s Disease: How Voice Therapy Can Help

Posted in: Voice News  |  August 17, 2012 
Parkinson’s Disease: How Voice Therapy Can Help

Nearly 90 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease (or PD) experience speech problems, but only about 5 percent seek treatment for those problems. That’s a disappointing fact for most of the 1.5 million Americans who suffer from the disease, since a number of treatment options exist for the associated speech and language problems. For people with PD, speech can become soft, slow and unpredictable, since the disease impairs the body’s ability to control mouth and facial muscles. Difficulty speaking, or dysarthria, has a number of symptoms that include:

  • Trouble speaking above a whisper
  • Uneven speech volume
  • Unsteady speaking rhythm
  • Raspy or strained speech
  • Drooling

When dysarthria occurs (and it often coincides with difficulty swallowing), various types of speech and language therapy can help. A qualified specialist can advise the best methods of treatment, based on each individual’s vocal range and symptoms. Additionally, many professionals have found that voice therapy works best when the underlying motor problems of Parkinson’s disease are also treated, usually with medication.

Voice-specific treatment options include:

  • Training to control speech rate
  • Volume and articulation training
  • Breathing exercises
  • Intonation training

One method of training, the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (or LSVT) program, uses a controlled series of therapy and exercises to improve vocal quality. Typically a one-month intensive program, LSVT has shown positive results in Parkinson’s patients.

If you or a loved one are dealing with PD, feel free to contact our office for vocal treatment or advice. We’d be happy to help you anytime.