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Speech Therapy and Parkinson's: Do I have a speech problem?

Woman drinking water from a glass

About 89 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) experience speech and voice disorders, including soft, monotone, breathy and hoarse voice and uncertain articulation. Speech disorders can progressively diminish quality of life for a person with PD. The earlier a person receives a baseline speech evaluation and speech therapy, the more likely he or she will be able to maintain communication skills as the disease progresses. Communication is a key element in quality of life and positive self-concept and confidence for people with PD.

Speech and swallowing issues in Parkinson’s can occur for various reasons. The top three issues include:

  1. Directly related to the disordered motor system that accompanies PD, including rigidity, slowness of movement and tremor.
  2. Change in sensory processing that is related to speech. It is believed that people with PD may not be aware that their speech is getting softer and more difficult to understand.
  3. Another cause of this condition is that people with PD may have a problem with “cueing” themselves to produce speech with adequate loudness.

Tell your doctor If you are experiencing any changes in your speech or voice. Ask for a referral and a prescription for a speech evaluation a treatment. If you have not noticed changes in your speech, but a spouse, care partner or friend has pay attention to their comments. The sooner you get a speech evaluation and start speech therapy, the better.

Speech / Voice infographic

Take Our Quiz

Many people with Parkinson’s have these statements to describe their voices and the effects of their voices on their lives.

Choose the response that indicates how frequently you have the same experience (0 = never, 1 = almost never, 2 = sometimes, 3 = almost always, 4 = always).

To find your score, add up your answers. A score of 10 or higher indicates you might have a speech or voice problem that is affecting your quality of life and you should ask for a referral to a speech pathologist.

The quiz is no longer available.

What next?

The Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline can help you find a nearby speech pathologist who has experience in Parkinson’s. Call our Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).  

Looking for ways to improve your speech and communication? Check out this blog article for ways you can improve your speech starting now. 

For more information about Speech Therapy and Parkinson’s check out our Speech Therapy Fact Sheet and other resources at Parkinson.org.

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