Neurodegenerative Speech Disorders
What are Neurodegenerative Speech Disorders?
Neurodegenerative disorders are when nerve cells in the nervous system lose function over time and ultimately die. Many neurodegenerative diseases can impact your voice and speech.
Unfortunately, these disorders are incurable, but the symptoms can be treated and managed. They usually develop slowly, and the risk of having a neurodegenerative condition increases dramatically with age.
Which Neurodegenerative Disorders Impact Speech?
There are many types of neurodegenerative disorders, and many affect the voice. The most common of these conditions include:
- Parkinson's Disease. Individuals with Parkinson's often have hushed voices, and the speed and clarity of speech can also be affected.
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). About a quarter of all ALS cases start with symptoms that affect voice, speech, and swallowing.
- Huntington's Disease is an inherited disorder that produces abnormal, jerky movements, called chorea. Individuals with Huntington's Disease often have a hoarse or rough-sounding voice with fluctuations in pitch and volume.
UR Medicine's Treatments for Neurodegenerative Speech Disorders
Speech Language Pathology treatment will begin with a personalized assessment of your voice, which may include:
- A detailed history collection
- Laryngeal Function Studies (measure the voice and airflow)
- Stimulability tests (measuring speech sounds)
- Pre-treatment video recording
- Dysphagia/swallowing screening
- Cognitive screening
A laryngeal examination (an exam of the back of the throat) will be used to identify the cause of your voice problem and determine the most appropriate course of treatment.
If voice therapy is recommended, the therapy program may include the following techniques:
- Strengthening the muscles, joints, and ligaments used in voice production.
- Creating a healthy motor pattern and balance pressures of your vocal cords.
- Encouraging intention in voicing and speech. This improves volume, speech rate, intonation, facial movement, and articulation.
- Learning to use AAC devices (alternative and augmentative communication).
What Sets Us Apart?
UR Medicine has specialty centers for neurodegenerative diseases, including the Movement Disorders Center and the Neuromuscular Disease Center. These interdisciplinary clinics bring together professionals from multiple disciplines to help treat individuals with your diagnosis. Additionally, UR Medicine is a recognized by the Parkinson’s Foundation as a Center of Excellence.
Our speech pathologists are licensed by the New York State Department of Education and hold Certificates of Clinical Competence for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in addition to postgraduate training and certifications in several clinical subspecialties. Our Speech-Language Pathologists, who have specialty training and expertise in voice disorders, assessment, and treatment, will complete a personalized assessment of your voice.
We offer the SPEAK OUT! ® program for individuals with Parkinson Disease. SPEAK OUT! ® is designed to help individuals with Parkinson Disease improve their voice and swallowing by making speech an intentional action. SPEAK OUT! ® therapy includes 12 individual sessions across 4 weeks, before participants transition to The LOUD Crowd ®. The LOUD Crowd ® is a group therapy approach led by a speech-language pathologist, meeting once per week after completion of SPEAK OUT! ®, to assist graduates with maintaining their improved voice and speech over time.
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Patient Education & Support
- American Speech-Language Hearing Association: Speech and Language Disorders
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association
- Huntington’s Disease Society of America
- Muscular Dystrophy Association
- National Institute on Aging
- National Institute on Neurologic Disorders & Stroke
- Parkinson’s Foundation
- Parkinson Voice Project