Every year in the United States, approximately 1.7 million cases of traumatic brain injury (also known as TBI) occur.
Traumatic brain injuries come with a wide range of symptoms, including changes in consciousness, confusion, vision changes, and changes in speaking ability.
Even a very mild traumatic brain injury can have a negative effect on your speaking ability.
Read on to learn more about how these injuries can affect your speech and what you can do to correct the problem.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury is a type of injury that may involve a blow to the head or a penetration injury.
TBIs often occur when the head makes contact suddenly and violently with an object. They can also result when an object pierces the skull and then enters the tissue of the brain.
Common causes of TBI include:
- Vehicle-related collisions
- Violence (gunshot wounds, child abuse, domestic violence, etc.)
- Sports injuries (they’re especially common in sports like football, boxing, and lacrosse)
- Explosive blasts and/or combat injuries
The specific symptoms and long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries vary depending on their level of severity.
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Some common symptoms of a mild TBI include:
- Brief loss of consciousness (usually lasts for a few seconds or a few minutes)
- A dazed, confused, or disoriented state
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Speech problems
- Sleeping difficulties or changes
- Loss of coordination
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Light or sound sensitivity
- Difficulty remembering or concentrating
Changes in mood are also common, as is the development of issues like depression or anxiety.
Moderate-to-Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
In the case of a moderate-to-severe TBI, the following symptoms are more common:
- Loss of consciousness that lasts for several minutes or even several hours
- A persistent headache or gradually worsening headache
- Repeated vomiting and/or nausea
- Dilation of either one or both pupils
- Drainage of clear fluid from the nose and/or ears
- Difficulty awakening from sleep
- Numbness or weakness in the fingers and/or toes
- Severe dizziness and/or loss of coordination
People with moderate-to-severe TBI may also experience severe agitation or combativeness and severely slurred speech. They can even fall into a coma or experience other consciousness disorders.
Effects of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury of Speech
Speech problems are one of the most common issues associated with a mild TBI. Specific speech issues a person with a mild TBI might experience include:
Difficulty Producing Speech
Often, people who have experienced a mild TBI may have trouble producing speech. It might be difficult for them to articulate their words or produce sounds (phonation) the way they used to.
TBIs can sometimes affect a person’s breathing ability as well. This, in turn, can have a negative effect on speech quality.
Folks who cannot breathe normally may have a difficult time speaking for long periods of time and their words may sound more “breathy” than usual.
Dysfluent speech is also common in people suffering from TBI. People with dysfluent speech may repeat sounds, words, and syllables frequently.
They may also experience dysarthria. This condition is the result of weakened oral motor muscles and difficulty controlling them. It can cause slurred speech, slow speech, and difficulty articulating.
Language difficulties often accompany TBI, too.
People who have experienced a mild TBI may have trouble understanding words that are written or spoken.
They might have trouble expressing language as well. It’s not uncommon for people with TBI to switch topics or have difficulty keeping up with conversations.
Someone with a mild TBI may have trouble using or understanding words they already know. They might have difficulty understanding figurative language or following directions, too.
How to Correct Speech Issues Related to TBI
As you can see, there are a lot of speech issues that can occur when a person is suffering from a TBI, even a mild one.
The good news, though, is that there are lots of steps one can take to improve their speech and correct these issues. With mild TBI, the likelihood that someone can make a full recovery is also increased.
One of the best steps one can take to correct their speech issues is to work with a licensed speech therapist.
What Happens During Speech Therapy?
Every speech therapist has a slightly different approach when it comes to helping those who are suffering from TBI. But, in most cases, the treatment plan looks something like this:
Early Stages of Treatment
During the early stages of treatment, shortly after the TBI took place, speech therapists often focus on basic skills.
They might work with the individual on maintaining their attention and staying focused during basic activities. They’ll also work on reducing confusion and helping the individual stay oriented with regards to the date, their location, and the injury that took place.
At this point, they’ll introduce exercises that can help individuals improve their voice production, speaking abilities, breathing abilities, and swallowing skills.
Middle Stages of Recovery
During the middle stages of recovery, the speech therapist will continue working on memory and reasoning and problem-solving strategies.
They may also bring the individual into small groups (in-person or virtually) and have them work on communicating with multiple people at once.
Late Stages of Recovery
In the late stages of recovery, the speech therapist may have the individual work on communicating in larger groups and in public places where more stimulation is present.
They will also continue with speech, swallowing, breathing, and language skills to ensure the individual keeps progressing.
Work with a Speech Therapist Today
Whether it’s a mild traumatic brain injury or a more severe one, these kinds of injuries can have a serious impact on your speaking ability.
Luckily, though, you can often correct the problem by working with a licensed speech therapist.
Thanks to all the technology available today, you don’t even have to leave your house to work with a speech therapist!
At Great Speech, we offer affordable, accessible online speech therapy services for people of all ages. Contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule a free consultation.