Parkinson’s Disease

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a slowly progressive neurodegenerative illness characterized by: tremor, stiffness, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with balance. About half of all people with PD are likely to develop difficulty with speech. Much research has gone into the causes, effects and relief of speech difficulties, and as a result there is a large amount of information and help available.

What are the main speech symptoms?

  • Loss of volume, pitch, range and intonation in the voiceParkinson's Disease
  • Rate of speech being either too fast or too slow
  • Uncontrolled repetitions of sounds, words or phrases
  • Slurred or tremulous speech
  • Difficulty initiating speech
  • Reduced facial expression and natural gesture
  • Harsh or breathy voice quality
  • Speech difficulties can and do cause embarrassment and social isolation. Drug treatment for PD can improve the voice in both volume and intelligibility.

How can a speech-language pathologist help?

Speech-language pathologists can help people with PD maintain as many communication skills as possible.

Treatment may include one or more of the following: speech rate reduction techniques, exercises to increase vocal effort, exercises to improve articulation of sounds, practice in shortening phrases and chunking information, techniques to increase breath support for speech, as well as providing effective communication strategies and/or amplification devices.

Is there anything I can try myself?

  • Choose an environment with reduced noise
  • Speak slowly and in short phrases; look at your listener
  • Take a deep breath and exaggerate your speech sounds
  • Plan periods of vocal rest before conversations or phone calls
  • Consider using an amplifier or writing things down

LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment)

The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment program has been highly researched for many years and shows very strong outcomes for voice and speech intelligibility.  The program entails participating in therapy sessions one hour per day, four days per week, for four consecutive weeks. Plus, you must complete a considerable amount of homework each day. The program is highly effective, but you obviously must be prepared to commit to the intense therapy program.

Regular therapy sessions utilize many of the same exercises and techniques as the Lee Silverman program, however they are not offered as intensely or in as structured a routine. There is therefore more onus on the individual to independently carry exercises out in between therapy sessions in order for treatment to be effective.