Speech disorders can affect anyone at any point in time, no matter their age, race, or gender.
We tend to associate speech impediments with young children. After all, nearly 6 million children under the age of 18 have a speech or language disorder.
However, speech disorders in adults do exist. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 Americans has experienced some form of a speech disorder in their lives.
There are various types of speech disorders, including lisps, stuttering, and even muteness. People with speech impairments can elongate words, add extra sounds, and blink or pause while talking. Some people even become frustrated when trying to speak.
The symptoms of speech disorders are often indicative of a particular speech disorder. In this article, we’ll explore 7 causes of speech disorders that exist in both children and adults.
Genetics determine a lot in a person’s life. They can determine how tall a person will grow, their eye color, and whether they’ll develop certain diseases later in life. Genetics can also determine a person’s speech and language patterns.
A child is more likely to develop a speech disorder if a parent currently has or has experienced one. Genetics can cause some forms of stuttering, developmental verbal dyspraxia, and even SLI.
Early prevention can help children with family histories of speech disorders or impaired voice.
Delayed Child Development
Every child develops at their own pace. Some children start walking or talking earlier than other children.
Some children experience delays in their developmental milestones. This is a developmental delay and it can affect a child’s vision, motor skills, and cognitive abilities. Developmental delay can also affect a child’s speech and language patterns.
Causes of developmental delay can range from neglect to autism spectrum disorders. Sometimes, there is no known cause for a child’s developmental delay. Often, children who live in multilingual homes experience delays in their language patterns.
Developmental delay often results in stuttering and other speech disorderss later on in childhood. Signs of speech and language delays in babies under age 1 include:
- Unresponsiveness to sounds and loud noises
- Little to no babbling or sound imitation
By age 2, children should be able to speak at least 15 words. They should also be able to speak two-word phrases and communicate more than their needs.
A person’s ability to speak significantly depends on their hearing abilities. This is why hearing loss can cause different types of speech impediments.
There are different types of hearing loss that can range from mild to deafness. Some forms of hearing loss affect the eardrums, middle ear, or the outer ear. Other forms of hearing loss can cause ringing, ear pain, and muffled sounds.
Hearing loss and deafness can result from any of the following:
- Ear infections
- Birth defects
- Head trauma
- Exposure to loud noises
- Infections (measles, meningitis, scarlet fever, mumps)
Children with mild hearing loss can have trouble hearing higher-pitched sounds, such as “s”, “sh”, “t”, “th”, or “f”. As a result, their ability to speak becomes impaired because they’re unable to learn these types of sounds. They can also struggle to build their vocabularies.
Speech disorders in adults can also stem from hearing loss developed later on in life.
For example, Meniere’s disease is a rare disorder that disrupts a person’s balance and causes hearing loss. Many adults who develop Meniere’s disease go on to learn sign language to adapt to their hearing loss.
A degenerative disease causes cells in tissues and organs to deteriorate over time. Some degenerative diseases develop with age, while others result from abnormal metabolic rates or unhealthy lifestyles.
Muscles associated with speaking can weaken due to degenerative diseases like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Some degenerative diseases can cause dysarthria, a motor speech disorder.
Those with dysarthria often slur or drag their words when they try to pronounce them. Dysarthria can often lead to a complete loss of speech known as anarthria.
There are many degrees of brain damage that range from mild to severe. Brain damage can result from disease, a stroke, injuries, or even substance abuse.
A person can become impaired in many ways due to brain damage. When damage occurs to parts of the brain associated with speech, a person’s ability to communicate can become impaired. It’s not only the brain that’s affected, but the muscles associated with speech, such as the tongue, lips, and mouth.
For example, aphasia is a speech and communication disorder that often arises after a person suffers a stroke. Those with aphasia have difficulty understanding and using words. They’ll often slur their words and have difficulty completing their thoughts.
Structural abnormalities often cause impaired speech and disrupted language patterns. Cleft palate, for example, is one structural abnormality that can directly impact speech.
A cleft palate refers to a split in the lip. This split causes an opening to form between the upper lip and nose. Cleft palates develop when a baby is in the womb.
Those with cleft palates not only have trouble speaking but may make repeated sound mistakes. This is an articulation disorder and it can affect a person’s intelligibility.
Cleft palates can lead to frequent ear infections, which may result in hearing loss, as well.
A person’s ability to speak can decline as a result of certain neurological diseases. Neurological diseases can affect anyone at any age. However, some neurological diseases don’t develop until later on in life.
For example, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and occurs in older adults. Those with Alzheimer’s disease in the later stages often struggle to form the right words. They can also struggle to speak in full sentences.
CBS, or corticobasal syndrome, is a rare neurological disorder that affects the motor system and cognition. Those with CBS often struggle to find the right words. They can also develop speech articulation problems.
Understanding Types of Speech Disorders
Speech disorders not only affect speech but a person’s quality of life. However, people can overcome their speech impediments and reach their full potential, and it all begins with understanding the causes of different speech disorders.
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