Parkinson's and Speech: How Parkinson's Affects Your Speech

Parkinson’s and Speech: How Parkinson’s Affects Your Speech

It’s a daily battle. You’re living inside a body that no longer feels like your own.

It moves when you don’t want to move. It refuses to move when you need it to.

It is as though your body has been hijacked and you don’t know how to regain control.

Now, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is taking something far more precious than even your ability to walk or dress yourself. It’s taking your ability to communicate with those you love.

But PD does not have to rob you of your voice. Read on to learn more about Parkinson’s and speech.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

At the most basic level, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a disorder of the nervous system. PD causes vital nerve cells in the brain to deteriorate, significantly decreasing the body’s stores of dopamine and other essential neuro-chemicals responsible for controlling movement.

This results in the tremors that are classically associated with PD.

Tremors, however, are only one of the varied and unpredictable symptoms of PD.

Persons with PD may also experience muscle rigidity or weakness. Movement may be slowed and problems with balance and coordination are common.

Additionally, PD can lead to challenges in thinking, concentrating, or remembering. Patients may even experience hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia as a result of changes in the brain.

It’s estimated that more than 10 million people worldwide have PD, with more than 95% of patients diagnosed after the age of 50.

Parkinson’s and Speech

Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect patients’ ability to control bodily movements. It also can significantly impact their ability to speak.

As the disorder progresses, people with PD can experience voice changes, making them sound hoarse or breathy. They may have difficulty making themselves heard.

Patients with PD also frequently experience stammering, stuttering, or slurring of their words.

Additionally, speech may become very rapid, making it hard for others to understand.

On the other hand, patients who experiencing difficulty with memory or concentration may struggle to find their words, while muscle weakness or nerve damage may make it hard for them to form their words.

The result can be slow, halting, and error-filled speech that’s frustrating both to the patient and to listeners.

Because of the effect of PD on nerves and muscles of the face, throat, and vocal cords, patients may also experience difficulty swallowing. This may cause PD patients to drool, which can further hinder their ability, or willingness, to speak.

Losing Contact

As difficult as it may be to deal with the physical changes and the loss of function associated with PD, the isolation that patients often experience may be even worse.

People with PD may be reluctant to go out in public. They may worry about falling. They may worry that their tremors will cause people to stare.

They may avoid restaurants for fear of spilling their food or shattering dinnerware. They may refuse to go shopping for fear of knocking into displays or breaking merchandise.

This tendency to retreat to one’s house, to avoid the activities that they once enjoyed, severely diminishes the patient’s overall quality of life, increasing the risk for depression and other psychological disorders.

These problems are made far worse, however, when PD-related speech impairments begin to impact the patient’s ability to communicate with his or her loved ones.

As disease symptoms progress, PD patients may find themselves increasingly reluctant to try to speak, even to those closes to them.

They may feel embarrassed by the difficulty they have in recalling or clearly speaking even the simplest of words. Or they may simply feel too tired or too depressed to make the effort.

This can launch a vicious cycle in which the patient increasingly retreats into herself, withdrawing from friends and family.

That, in turn, increases the deterioration of her speech, speeding both the cognitive decline and the weakening of the muscles responsible for speech.

And, all too often, as problems in communication increase, so do depression and the tendency to isolate.

There is Hope

Parkinson’s Disease is a relentless enemy. It is a thief and a tyrant.

But it doesn’t have to steal your voice. It doesn’t have to take you away from the people you love most.

There is a wide range of treatment options available to relieve PD symptoms and slow disease progression. This includes a number of clinically-proven techniques specifically designed to treat PD-related speech impairments.

Speech therapy has been proven highly effective in helping PD patients learn to manage their symptoms.

Best of all, patients don’t have to leave home to receive speech therapy. Studies are increasingly demonstrating that online speech therapy is as effective as traditional, in-office treatment.

This can be a great option for patients who may have difficulty arranging transportation to sessions or for those who require more frequent sessions.

With the online option, patients can receive highly effective treatment whenever and wherever they choose.

The Takeaway

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive and unpredictable disease. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed, then you know that life with PD can be unpredictable and scary.

You never know what part of your body PD will strike next. You cannot guess what form your next symptoms will take.

The fact is that, left untreated, PD can rob you of your ability to function. It can overwhelm both your body and your mind.

Worse, it can render you incapable of reaching out to those you love most. It can deprive you of the ability to speak your truth, to communicate your needs, to express your love.

It can deny you your right to scream your frustration.

But it does not have to be this way. There is hope. Highly successful treatment options exist to help you manage the physical, psychological, and cognitive symptoms of PD.

Additionally, speech therapy, including online treatment, has been shown to be highly successful in managing the effects of Parkinson’s on patients’ speech.

Please visit our website to learn more Parkinson’s and speech disorders, as well as the online treatment options available to help you or your loved one!



5 Effective Parkinson's Speech Therapy Exercises

5 Effective Parkinson’s Speech Therapy Exercises

More than 10 million people all over the world currently live with Parkinson’s disease. If you or someone you love is part of this group, you know how difficult it can be, especially when you begin to struggle with your speech and swallowing abilities.

While speech and swallowing problems are common among people with Parkinson’s disease, they don’t have to diminish your quality of life. There is a lot you can do to minimize them, including practicing Parkinson’s speech therapy exercises on a regular basis.

Explained below are some highly effective exercises that you or your loved one can try out today.

Benefits of Speech Therapy

Besides improving their ability to speak clearly, speech therapy provides a number of other benefits for people who struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Some of the greatest benefits include:

  • Improved voice projection
  • Improved swallowing ability
  • Enhanced ability to socializewith family and friends
  • Greater levels of independence
  • Access to devices that improve communication in all stages of the disease

The access to communication devices (including voice amplifiers and picture communication boards) is especially beneficial. These tools help people who are in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s continue to be understood and enjoy a high quality of life.

Parkinson’s Speech Therapy Exercises

The following speech therapy exercises are specifically designed to help people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

Deep Breathing

This exercise might seem simple, but deep breathing is essential for keeping your lungs and diaphragm healthy and strong. This, in turn, helps you maintain your ability to project your voice.

Deep breathing is a great warm-up to get your ready for other, more advanced exercises.

To do this exercise, simply start by sitting or standing up straight. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Breathe in until you feel your ribs and abdomen start to expand.

When you’ve inhaled as much as you can, exhale slowly through your mouth (think about blowing out a candle).

Take several deep, full breaths (at least ten) before moving on to the next exercise.

Pitch Glides

This is a great exercise that will help you maintain your pronunciation and projection abilities.

Start by taking a deep breath in. Then, push out from your diaphragm while making an “ah” sound. Try to extend this sound for at least 15 seconds.

Take another deep breath and push out from your diaphragm while repeating an “oh” sound for 15 seconds. Do this again with both “oo” and “ee” sounds.

When you’ve done the exercise with each sound, you’re ready to move on and practice changing your pitch. Do this by alternating between the “oh” and “ee” sounds for 30 seconds.

Volume Control

Many people with Parkinson’s disease speak quietly without even realizing it. To work on your volume control, practice projecting your voice with the help of your diaphragm.

Take a deep breath in, then, name the days of the week as loudly as you can. Move on to the months of the year, the alphabet, and counting from one to twenty. Speak as loudly as you can during each exercise.


Sirening is another good exercise for improving your pronunciation and pitch control.

To do this exercise, take a deep breath in. Then, as you exhale, imitate the sound of a police siren by repeating the “ng” sound — like in the word sing. Continue to repeat the sound as you let your pitch and volume increase and decrease.

Laryngeal Push-ups

There are two types of laryngeal push-ups: adductory push-ups and abductory push-ups. These are great for strengthening your larynx (voice box) to help your pronunciation and volume control.

To do adductory laryngeal push-ups, take a deep breath in. Then, while exhaling, say the “uh” sound as quickly as you can. Keep the sound loud and sharp.

Try to extend your exhale for about 6-7 seconds while repeating the sound and do your best not to let the repetitions blur together.

To do abductor laryngeal push-ups, take a deep breath in. Then, as you exhale, say the “huh” sound as quickly as you can. Just like you did with the first exercise, extend your breath for 6-7 seconds and keep the sounds as loud and distinct as possible.

Additional Exercises

In addition to these specific speech therapy exercises, there are lots of other smaller ways that you can work on strengthening your voice while going about your daily life. Some simple exercises you can do throughout the day include:

  • Reading road signs out loud as your drive or ride in the car
  • Practice reading out loud each day — from books, newspapers, magazines, etc.
  • Focus on tone and pitch while reading out loud
  • Exaggerate your mouth movements and focus on the way your tongue and lips move when you speak
  • Sing your favorite song regularly
  • Practice taking deep, full breaths whenever you have a spare minute (this exercise is subtle enough that you can practice it anywhere!)

Many people also stop talking as much if they feel that they’re starting to get winded while speaking.

Don’t give up on yourself just because you’re noticing changes. Pause and take more breaths if needed, but don’t stop altogether. Remember, the only way you’ll improve is if you practice consistently.

Work with a Speech Therapist Today

The Parkinson’s speech therapy exercises outlined above are a great place to start if you feel that your speech skills (or your loved one’s speech skills) are starting to decline. But, you’ll see the greatest benefits if you also work with a trained speech therapist.

A speech therapist will help you make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly. They’ll also be able to prescribe specific exercises that are better tailored to your particular needs.

If you want to work with a speech therapist but aren’t able to get out of the house for therapy, don’t worry. At Gr8 Speech, we offer online speech therapy sessions. With our help, you can reap all the benefits of speech therapy without leaving your house.

Schedule a free consultation today to see if our program is right for you!


Speech Issues Due to Parkinson's, online speech therapy

Speech Issues Due to Parkinson’s? How a Speech Language Pathologist Can Help

Approximately 10 million people globally suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

If you or someone you love is part of this group, you may want to start working with a speech language pathologist.

The sooner you hire a professional, the more improvement you’ll see in your communication abilities. Early intervention is essential for managing all kinds of conditions. Parkinson’s disease is no exception.

Read on to learn more about how Parkinson’s affects speech and what a speech therapist can do to help.

How Does Parkinson’s Disease Affect Speech?

Parkinson’s disease affects speech in several ways.

People who suffer from this neurodegenerative disorder often experience two common conditions. One is dysarthria, or difficulty speaking. The other is dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

These conditions result from lowered dopamine levels and a weakening of the larynx, tongue, throat, roof of the mouth, and lips.

Some specific impairments that characterize dysphagia and dysarthria include:

  • Strained or hoarse voice
  • Slurred or unclear speech
  • Nasal-sounding or muffled voice
  • Choking while eating
  • Coughing or gagging while swallowing
  • Drooling
  • A feeling of food being stuck in the throat
  • Recurrent reflux and heartburn

These symptoms are, at best, frustrating and, at worst, dangerous. This is especially true for people with Parkinson’s who live alone or are on their own for large portions of the day.

This is where a speech language pathologist’s services come in. They can teach Parkinson’s patients techniques to manage their symptoms and maintain some of their independence.

How Can a Speech Language Pathologist Help?

When working with people with Parkinson’s disease, the job of a speech language pathologist is twofold. First, they help patients maintain their communication skills as much as possible. They also teach strategies to overcome symptoms and weaknesses.

Some specific areas pathologists focus on include:

Speech and Voice

A speech language pathologist will often implement programs to help Parkinson’s patients maintain and improve their communication skills.

A common problem that many pathologists address is changes in voice levels. Many people with Parkinson’s have a softer or more hoarse voice and don’t even realize it.

To make sure their patients are heard, pathologists work to strengthen the muscles and help patients safely restore their voice levels.

Pathologists also aim to make improvements in the following areas:

  • Speech articulation
  • Inflection
  • Intelligibility

The end goal is always to help patients maintain or improve their quality of life.


The same muscles that are used for speech are also used for swallowing. When these muscles weaken, swallowing becomes difficult and the chances of choking or developing conditions like aspiration pneumonia increase.

A pathologist will assess people with Parkinson’s disease and diagnose any existing swallowing disorders. They’ll also suggest exercise and other forms of treatment to treat the symptoms of the disorder.

Some potential treatments include:

  • Exercises to improve muscle movement
  • Teaching new positions to make swallowing easier
  • Changing the texture of foods and drinks to make them easier to swallow

A pathologist will also most likely teach a family member or caregiver how to help with the positions and exercises prescribed to treat swallowing problems.

Communication Devices and Strategies

are many devices available that can help people with Parkinson’s disease communicate effectively.

Some popular devices include:

  • Palatal lift:This lifts the soft palate to stop air from escaping out of the nose while speaking
  • Personal amplifier:This increases voice volume to prevent voice fatigue while speaking
  • TTY system:This system comes with a keyboard to type out speech and have it read out loud to the listener
  • SPEAK OUT!: Addresses the motor speech deficits associated with Parkinsonism. We have therapists that have completed SPEAK OUT! Training, and it works great with Teletherapy.

In addition to these high-tech devices, pathologists may also recommend “low-tech” devices and strategies to help with communication.

Some possibilities include:

  • Notebooks
  • Language boards
  • Training in gesturing or pacing to overcome stuttering

These options are beneficial for people who are in the early stages of treatment. They’re also good for those who can’t afford or don’t have access to high tech options.

Tips for Parkinson’s Patients

Working with a pathologist is very helpful when it comes to learning strategies to improve communication.

These tips can also help Parkinson’s patients improve their speaking abilities between appointments.

Change Your Environment

If you’re meeting up with friends or family, try to choose locations that won’t be very crowded. It’s also good to look for places that don’t have a lot of background noise from televisions or stereo systems. It’ll get very tiring trying to talk over the noise.

If you can’t find a totally silent location, at least try to sit outside or away from the speakers.

Make sure you’re sitting in a comfortable position, too. This will make it easier for you to converse for longer periods of time.

Speak Slowly and Use Short Phrases

This might be frustrating at first. But, it makes it easier for you to stay in control and be understood as you talk.

Make Sure You’re Seen

Make sure whoever you’re with knows that they need to look directly at your face while you talk. This will make it easier for them to understand you.

Carry a Pen and Paper

If you do end up feeling fatigued or are having difficulty communicating verbally, use a pen and paper to write down what you want to say.

It’s not the most efficient method of communication, of course. But, it’s better than getting frustrated or overwhelmed because you’re not able to say what you want to say.

You don’t need to use the pen and paper the whole time, either. Sometimes, people just need to take a short break from speaking and write for a few minutes before they jump back in.

Work with a Speech Language Pathologist Today

Do you think you could benefit from working with a speech language pathologist? Are you worried about making it to appointments or finding someone who can work with your schedule?

If so, you might want to consider working with a pathologist who offers online speech therapy services. It’s easy to fit online appointments into your busy routine since you can attend from the comfort of your own home.

Contact us at Great Speech today to learn more about our online speech therapy services. You can even sign up for a free consultation to see what our program is all about!