Adult speech impairment is simply difficulty experienced in the course of communicating vocally. Adults and children alike can be affected. If you have speech impairment, it might be that you stutter when you talk. It might also be another case where you have to talk very slowly or very fast or even in a hoarse manner.
Other characteristic symptoms of speech impairment are:
- expressive deficits in language
- weakened facial muscles
- trouble remembering words
- sudden contraction of your vocal muscles
It is always advised to seek help from a doctor whenever you find yourself beginning to have speech difficulties at any point in time. It might be that there is something more urgent to be attended to than the speech difficulty itself.
Common types of adult speech impairment
There are many different types of adult speech impairment and speech disorders, including:
- aphasia – difficulties in expressing and comprehending language
- dysarthria – speech difficulty defined by slurred (or choppy) speech
- spasmodic dysphonia – hoarse, tight, and airy voice
- vocal disturbances – sound associated changes in speech due to a structural or functional change in the vocal cords
Causes of adult speech impairment
Different things will cause adult speech impairment.
The following causes have been associated with it:
- traumatic injury to the brain
- any degenerative motor disorder
- injuries or illnesses that can affect the vocal cords
Speech impairment can be developed suddenly or overtime. The cause will determine this.
You are diagnosed of aphasia if you have issues pronouncing words or thinking of them. Most times, it is an indicator of stroke.
Other potential causes of aphasia include:
- brain tumor
- head trauma
- cognitive degenerative conditions i.e. Alzheimer’s disease
Dysarthria usually is characterized by difficulty in moving certain muscles associated with speech. These muscles are those of your vocal folds, tongue, lips, or diaphragm.
Generative diseases affect muscles associated with speech. Examples of degenerative diseases are muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease etc.
Other probable causes include:
- alcohol consumption
- brain tumor
- head trauma
- facial paralysis i.e. Bell’s palsy
- Lyme disease
- tight or loose dentures
Spasmodic dysphonia means your vocal cords move involuntarily when you speak. This is a brain malfunctioning whose cause is yet to be known.
Your vocal cords can be badly disturbed by factors that can eventually make your speech impaired. Some of such known factors are:
- brain injuries
- throat cancer
- caffeine use
- nodules, polyps, or other growths on your vocal cords
When your voice is wrongly used repeatedly for a long period of time, it can make your voice quality
Diagnosing adult speech impairment
If you develop a gradual or sudden onset of speech impairment, get your doctor to know about it right away.
It might be a pointer that something needs to be investigated and corrected before it gets out of hand especially if it is stroke.
In the absence of a viral infection in your throat or an excessive use of your voice, an impaired speech is usually indicating that some health abnormalities are locking somewhere in your body.
To diagnose you of speech impairment, your doctor will take your health history.
He will evaluate your symptoms. He’ll likely ask a series of questions from you so as to hear and assess how you talk. From asking you questions, your speaking and comprehension abilities will be evaluated to see if the condition is affecting your brain, vocal cord or both.
More tests will be carried out on you to really come to a conclusion of what the cause of your problem is. Likely tests to expect are:
- brain scans i.e. X-rays, MRI scan, CT scans
- blood tests
- electrical current tests
- urine tests
Treatments for adult speech impairment
Having assessed your condition and the cause known, you will be treated with what corresponds to the cause.
Otolaryngologist, neurologist or a speech-language pathologist might be involved.
A speech-language pathologist will teach you how to improve your articulation, strengthen your vocal cords and make you receptive and expressive in communication. He will do this by engaging you in specific exercises and trainings as will be determined by him. Communication devices might be given to you to assist your communication. In other instances, you might have to get a device that can help you translate typed messages into audio messages.
If the cause of your speech impairment is that bad, you might have to undergo a surgical operation to correct it.
In the treatment of aphasia, your doctor will find out what the cause of the problem is.
Medications and surgery will be employed if the cause is a stroke.
You might as well receive a comprehensive cognitive-linguistic evaluation. A speech-language pathologist will be involved here.
Dysarthria will require a speech therapy to be corrected. Exercises will form a part of the therapy you will be receiving as it will greatly enhance breath control, increase your lip and tongue coordination. Your loved ones should learn to speak slowly so you can have enough time to respond to them.
Spasmodic dysphonia has no cure for now but prescription treatments can help manage the symptoms. Botulinum toxin injections (Botox) is one of the prescription medications you will be given. Your vocal cords can as well be operated upon. Both approaches can bring down the intensity of the spasms.
You will have to restrict the use of your vocal cords, abstain from drinking caffeine or other drugs that can affect your vocal cords. Doing this will limit more damage to your vocal cord. Sometimes, surgery might be needful.
Preventing adult speech impairment
Steps can be taken to prevent speech impairment development.
- never overstress your vocal cord i.e. screaming
- eat a well-balanced diet that won’t raise your cholesterol or blood pressure
- wear a helmet if you must ride a bike to prevent brain injuries that might occur from an accident
- wear protective head gear when playing contact sports
- avoid smoking and even second-hand smoking to prevent throat cancer development
- wear a seat belt if you must travel in motor vehicles
- exercise often, say thrice a week
- restrict alcohol consumption
If you have any strange vocal symptoms, visit a doctor immediately. If it is diagnosed quite early and treated, complications can be prevented. You should ask your doctor for any information you need clarity on – treatment options, complications, and outlook etc.
Wearing an identification card that identifies you as one with an impaired speech can help you receive the necessary aids in emergency situations. Going about with your contact information can be of help too in critical situations.