It is widely known that being overweight can have significant effects on our health, from an increased risk of heart disease to mobility challenges. But the effects of obesity and weight gain on our brains and subsequent speech, language, and vocal abilities are not as frequently examined or discussed. The truth is that being overweight can affect the function of the brain, which in turn can affect communication abilities.
While the obvious treatment for obesity is to embark on a healthy and doctor-guided weight loss program, speech and language pathologists can also help with communication challenges related to being overweight or obese. In this article, we will examine how exactly being overweight affects speech and language abilities, as well as how speech therapy can help. You can get started with speech therapy by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Can Gaining Weight Affect Your Speech?
Significant weight gain can affect speech, language, and vocal abilities in a variety of ways. Some of the most commonly seen effects of weight gain on speech are:
More Easily Fatigued: Research has also shown that people who struggle with being overweight or obese also become fatigued more easily. Fatigue can affect speech and language abilities significantly, as we know that being fatigued can make recalling specific words, paying attention to others and following conversations, and navigating certain social, academic, and professional situations more difficult.
Increased Shortness of Breath / More Easily out of Breath: Being overweight or obese can have a significant effect on the respiratory system. Overweight individuals can have difficulty breathing properly, especially when engaged in physical activity. Frequently being short or out of breath can make speaking clearly and fluidly difficult.
A Potential Link Between Obesity & Lisping: While more research is needed on this matter, preliminary studies have shown a potential connection between obesity and the development of a lisp. Research has shown that it depends significantly on the specific body mass index and other variables of the individual, but it is believed that the presence of a significant amount of excess fat tissue within the face, particularly the cheeks, can affect where an individual is physically able to place their articulators (tongue, lips, etc) for proper speech sound production.
Augmented Brain Activity / Function: Studies have shown that being overweight has been linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other cognitive and psychiatric conditions. Alzheimer’s disease can have significant effects on communication, from slurred or stammering speech to difficulty forming simple sentences and understanding others.
Does Being Overweight Cause Hoarseness?
Being overweight can cause hoarseness of the voice. Research has shown that excess body weight can have significant effects on the quality and tone of the voice, as well as the individual’s ability to produce clear speech and a strong voice.
How Does Being Overweight Affect the Voice?
Scientific studies have shown that extra fat around the face and neck can alter the shape of the throat, which in turn alters the sound of the voice. In many cases, these vocal changes are attributed to extra breaths or shorter vocal sounds that are commonly produced by those with low breath capacity. When one becomes out of shape physically, catching their breath becomes more difficult, and the individual’s lower level of fitness is often reflected in the strain it puts on their body and thus the sound of their voice.
The presence of excess fat on the body can also place increased weight and pressure on the diaphragm and chest cavity, which can affect the clarity and fluency of speech. This can result in the need to take more breaths, speak in shorter terms and sentences and cause the individual to take longer pauses to inhale.
Being overweight or obese can also have effects on one’s hormones. Excess body fat results in the increased production and storage of female and male hormones. In males, this can result in a lighter or a higher speaking and singing voice, and in females, it can mean a deeper or lower speaking and singing voice.
As mentioned above, having excess fat around the neck and face can also result in differences in phonological abilities and the quality, pitch, and tone of the voice. Speech therapy can go a long way toward improving communication abilities for anyone who needs it. Getting started with Great Speech is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today!
Does Weight Loss Affect Your Voice and Speech?
Just as significant weight gain can result in some or all of the changes in voice and speech mentioned above, significant weight loss in an overweight person can reverse these changes over time. A decreased BMI (Body Mass Index) means decreased instances of hoarseness and shortness of breath, as well as a decreased risk of developing other conditions related to brain function, respiratory function, and speech abilities.
How Can Speech Therapy Help with Speech, Language, and Voice Problems Related to Weight?
Speech therapy is a highly beneficial resource and treatment option for anyone who is struggling with their speech, language, and communication skills, regardless of the reason. The best option for remediating speech and vocal changes due to obesity or being overweight is to embark on a healthy and supported weight loss journey.
Beyond that, speech therapy can help with improving breathing abilities, proper placement of the articulators when speaking, exercising and stimulating the area of the brain responsible for speech and language production, and increasing confidence in social, academic, or professional situations.
At Great Speech, we offer our speech therapy services through our innovative online platform. This makes speech therapy more accessible and convenient for those who need it. Those who may be restricted by mobility challenges or other health concerns can attend their speech therapy appointments from the comfort and safety of their own home. Getting started on the path to clearer speech and increased confidence is easier and simpler than ever. It all begins by scheduling your free introductory call today!