Home ENT How Do You Treat Dysarthria? How Can Speech be Improved?

How Do You Treat Dysarthria? How Can Speech be Improved?

What is Dysarthria?

Dysarthria is a speech dysfunction in which speech muscles become weak or you find it difficult to control them. This condition can lead to slurred or mumbled speech that other people may find hard to understand.

More About Dysarthria

A lot of muscles contribute to speech ,  including facial muscles, lips, throat, and tongue. It becomes difficult to talk if these muscles become weak.

Dysarthria can happen because of the damage to the brain and the nervous system, and conditions that can lead to paralysis of the face or muscle weakness. Some drugs can also cause dysarthria.

Dysarthria, Aphasia, Apraxia and cognitive/communication impairment may happen after a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or can happen due to other neurological illnesses.

  • Dysarthria: Those with dysarthria experience “mumbled” or “slurred” speech due to limited jaw, tongue and lip movement. There may be changes in the pitch, or vocal quality (hoarseness or breathiness).
  • Aphasia: An individual may experience difficulty in expressing themselves (expressive language impairment) or difficulty in understanding others (receptive language impairment). There could be difficulty ‘getting the word out’ or having the word ‘on the tip of the tongue’ (word finding impairment). People with Aphasia may encounter difficulty reading and understanding printed material or experience difficulty writing their name, letters, or numbers.
  • Apraxia: Those with apraxia know what they want to say but experience difficulty with the complex neurological co-ordination of the muscle movements needed to say individual speech sounds. These people have difficulty producing and imitating speech sounds. The errors may include sound distortions, omissions and substitutions. And, the error patterns are inconsistent.

What Are the Types of Dysarthria?

There are different types of Dysarthria. The classification depends on the symptoms or underlying causes. It includes the following –

  • Spastic
  • Ataxic
  • Dyskinetic
  • Hypokinetic
  • Hyperkinetic
  • Flaccid
  • Unilateral Upper Motor Neuron
  • Mixed
  • Undetermined

What Are the Symptoms of Dysarthria?

The symptoms of this speech condition may vary from one person to the other, based on the type and underlying cause. Signs include the following –

  • Slow speech.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Inability to talk loudly (sounds like whispering).
  • Rapid speech, which is difficult to understand.
  • Uneven speech rhythm and volume.
  • Difficulty moving the face muscles or tongue.
  • Your voice will change. You might sound breathy or hoarse or like you have nasal congestion (stuffy nose).
  • Physical signs include tremors and weakness of the jaw, lips, etc.

When Should You Go to the Doctor?

Dysarthria can indicate something more severe than just a speech anomaly. Make sure to visit your doctor at the earliest if you experience unexplained or abrupt speech changes.

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What Are the Causes of Dysarthria?

There can be several reasons (underlying conditions) such as the following –

  • Head injury.
  • Brain tumor.
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), which is a nervous system disease.
  • Cerebral palsy (a congenital disease).
  • Muscular dystrophy (a genetic disease).
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (a neurological disorder).
  • Multiple Sclerosis (chronic central nervous system disorder).
  • Myasthenia gravis (a neuromuscular disease).
  • Huntington’s disease (a progressive brain ailment).
  • Lyme disease (an infectious disease caused by bacteria).
  • Wilson’s disease (an inherited disorder).
  • Stroke.
  • Parkinson’s disease (a central nervous system disorder).
  • Infections such as Lyme disease.
  • Other degenerative brain disorders.
  • Side effects of certain medicines like sedatives, anti-epileptics, etc.
  • Congenital trauma/ surgery.

What Are the Risk Factors of Dysarthria?

The following factors are likely to put you at a higher risk of dysarthria

How Is Dysarthria Diagnosed?

An SLP (speech-language pathologist) will examine your condition to identify the kind of speech disorder you have. This evaluation will help your doctor (neurologist) to provide you with the right treatment.

Besides physical examination, blood tests, and urine tests, your doctor is most likely to perform the following tests as well –

  • Imaging tests. Tests like CT scan or MRI might help identify the reason for your speech issue, as they provide detailed images of your head, neck, and brain.
  • Nerve and brain study. These tests will help to identify the exact cause of your symptoms. Nerve study measures the speed and strength of the electrical signals when they travel from the nerves to the muscles.
    • An EEG (electroencephalogram) will measure the electrical activity inside your brain.
    • An EMG (electromyogram) will assess the electrical activity within your nerves when they transmit messages to the muscles.
  • Blood and urine tests. These tests help to identify if any inflammatory or infectious disease is the cause of your symptoms.
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture). This procedure helps diagnose spinal cord or brain cancers, central nervous system disorders, and severe infections. For this test, the doctor will insert a needle in your lumbar region (lower back) and take a small sample of your cerebrospinal fluid for lab testing.
  • Brain biopsy. Your doctor will take a little sample of your brain tissue for this test. This is done if your doctor suspects a brain tumor.
  • Neuropsychological tests. These tests measure your capacity to comprehend speech, cognitive (thinking) skills, writing and reading, and other skills. Dysarthria does not have an effect on your understanding of speech and writing and cognitive skills.

How Will Your Doctor Treat Dysarthria?

The treatment for this speech disorder mainly depends on the underlying cause, the severity of the symptoms, and the kind of dysarthria that you have. So, your speech is likely to improve with your treatment. Your doctor will begin your treatment by treating the underlying cause.

Language and speech therapy.

Your doctor is more likely to start language and speech therapy to help you improve your speech and communication. The goals of your treatment might include the following –

  • Strengthening your weak facial muscles.
  • Modifying your speech speed
  • Increasing your breath support.
  • Developing speech articulation.
  • Assisting your friends and family to interact with you.

Alternative communication methods.

If the language and speech therapy does not work for you, then your doctor might suggest trying other methods of communication like –

  • Gestures.
  • Visual cues.
  • Alphabet board.
  • Computer-aided communication.

Lifestyle and support.

If your speech condition is making it tough for people to  understand you , the following suggestions can help you communicate in a better way –

  • Talk slowly. If you talk slowly, others may understand you better.
  • Start with brief sentences . Start with a small introduction before going into the conversation. This way, the listeners will understand what you are exactly talking about.
  • Confirm understanding. Try to understand if the people that you are talking to can understand you. You can do this by asking them to confirm whether you are clear to them or not.
  • Try shortcuts. Instead of talking all the time, you can also write messages, draw something, or use photographs to communicate.

A note for the caregiver and other family members.

If you are a caregiver to a person with dysarthria, you can consider the following points for better communication with them –

  • Allow them the time they need to talk.
  • Try not to correct mistakes or finish their sentences.
  • It’s better to talk in a yes and no pattern.
  • Look at them when they are talking.
  • Try to reduce every possible noise of the surrounding.
  • Always keep a pen and paper handy.
  • Try not to make them feel like you are finding it hard talking to them.
  • Talk in your normal tone and speed as much as possible.
  • Involve them in regular conversations.

What Can be the Possible Complications of Dysarthria?

As dysarthria causes communication problems,  possible complications may include the following –

  • Relationship issues.
  • Social issues.
  • Isolation.
  • Depression.

Conclusion

If you ever notice any symptoms of dysarthria, then do not neglect them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Is dysarthria completely curable?

If your dysarthria is because of medication or poorly set dental implants, it can be cured. If it is due to a brain injury or stroke, it may improve with treatment. If you have developed dysarthria after voice-box or tongue surgery, your symptoms may improve with proper treatment.

  1. My child has dysarthria. Can they go to a regular school?

Having dysarthria does not mean that your child lacks cognitive skills and intelligence. So, yes, he or she can go to a regular school. However, if you can provide them with some assistance, it would become easy for them  to communicate.

  1. Which medical professional should you see for treating dysarthria?

You can go to an SLP (speech-language pathologist) and an ENT specialist who, if needed, will refer you to a neurologist.

Request an appointment with ENT Specialist

Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

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