Speech Pathology for Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes loss of dopaminergic neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.
Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. Due to the diversity of the disease, people with Parkinson’s Disease may experience different symptoms, such as:
- Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers.
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia).
- Rigid muscles.
- Impaired posture and balance.
- Speech changes.
- Writing changes.
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing, and speaking
"If only we could hear and understand her speech..."
This was the expressed wish of the family of Mrs. Lee Silverman, a woman with Parkinson's Disease. As the Silverman family expressed, and as families living with PD recognise today, the ability to communicate with friends and loved ones is at the heart of coping with Parkinson's Disease.
Many people with Parkinson’s Disease will have difficulty with their speech. Common symptoms include:
- Slurred, mumbled speech.
- Speaking very quietly.
- Abnormal voice quality (e.g. horase or breathy)
- Slowed rate of speech.
- Speaking rapidly with stuttering or stammering.
- Short rushes/bursts of speech.
SPEECH AND VOICE THERAPY
At iBrain, we have Speech Pathologists who are certified in a specialty program called LSVT Loud, a scientifically documented efficacious program for treating the voice and speech disorders in people with Parkinson disease. Research on LSVT LOUD is supported by over 25 years of healthcare funding, including three randomised controlled trials. Beyond establishing clinical efficacy, studies have examined the physiological and neural mechanisms underlying treatment outcomes.
Treatment for Parkinson’s voice and speech is effective on multiple levels of functioning:
- Increased vocal loudness
- Improved articulation and speech intelligibility
- Improved intonation
- Improvements in facial expression
- Changes in neural functioning related to voice and speech
Dysphagia (swallowing difficulty) is a common symptom in Parkinson’s disease. Signs and symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include: difficulty swallowing certain foods or liquids, coughing or throat clearing during or after eating/drinking, and feeling as if food is getting stuck.
As the disease progresses, swallowing can become severely compromised and food/liquid can get into the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia is the leading cause of death in PD. Therefore, it is important to note any changes to swallowing as early as possible.
Speech Pathologists at iBrain specialise in providing assessment and management of dysphagia. We can help intervene early and preserve both health and quality of life. We also have experience in helping our clients to use the Respiratory Muscle Strength Training (RMST) Pressure Threshold Devices, such as EMST150 or the Breather. They provide opportunity to improve swallow, cough and speech function in a simple and easy way. It helps people with Parkinson’s Disease to slow the progression of cough and swallow symptoms and enhance quality of life! They are clinically validated and have been proven effective in reducing choking and aspiration risks.
At iBrain, we also have extensive experience in providing speech pathology support to people with atypical Parkinsonism, such as:
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), characterised by an abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein protein in brain cells (“synucleinopathy”).
- Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), another synucleinopathy that affects the autonomic nervous system, substantia nigra and at times the cerebellum.
- Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), involving tau protein buildup (“tauopathy”) affecting the frontal lobes, brainstem, cerebellum and substantia nigra.
- Corticobasal Syndrome (CBS), a rare tauopathy that typically affects one side of the body more than the other and makes it difficult for people to see and navigate through space.