Adult speech impairments include any symptoms that cause an
adult to have difficulty with vocal communication. Examples include slurred,
slowed, hoarse, stuttered, or rapid speech. Depending on the underlying cause
of your speech impairment, you may also experience other symptoms, such as:
- weakened facial muscles
- trouble remembering words
- expressive language deficits
- sudden contraction of your vocal muscles
If you experience a sudden onset of speech impairment, get medical care
right away. It may be a sign of a serious underlying condition, such as a stroke.
types of adult speech impairment
There are many different types of speech impairment and speech disorders,
- aphasia, the inability to
express and comprehend language
- dysarthria, slurred or
- spasmodic dysphonia,
which can cause your voice to be hoarse, airy, and tight
- vocal disturbances, changes in the sound and
ease of your speech causes by any factor that changes the
function or shape of your vocal cords
of adult speech impairment
Different types of
speech impairment are caused by different things. For example, you may develop
a speech impairment as a result of:
traumatic brain injury
degenerative neurological or motor disorder
injury or illness that affects your vocal cords
Depending on the
cause and type of speech impairment, it may occur suddenly or develop gradually.
If you’re having trouble
thinking of words or pronouncing them correctly, you may be experiencing
aphasia. It may be a symptom of brain damage, for example, caused by a
potential causes of aphasia include:
- head trauma
- brain tumor
- cognitive degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s
can occur when you have trouble moving the muscles of your lips,
tongue, vocal folds, or diaphragm. It can result from degenerative muscle and
motor conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral
palsy, or Parkinson’s disease.
Other potential causes include:
- head trauma
- brain tumor
- Lyme disease
- facial paralysis, such as Bell’s palsy
- tight or loose dentures
- alcohol consumption
Spasmodic dysphonia involves involuntary movements of your
vocal cords when you speak. This condition results from abnormal brain
functioning. The exact cause is unknown.
Your vocal cords and ability to speak can be negatively
affected by a variety of activities, injuries, and other conditions, such as:
- throat cancer
- polyps, nodules, or other growths on your vocal cords
- the ingestion of certain drugs, such as caffeine,
antidepressants, or amphetamines
Using your voice incorrectly
or for prolonged periods of time can also result in a hoarse vocal quality.
Diagnosing adult speech impairment
If you experience a sudden onset of impaired speech, seek medical attention
right away. It might be a sign of a potentially life-threatening condition,
such as a stroke.
If you develop impaired speech more gradually, make an appointment with your
doctor. It may be a sign of an underlying health condition. Unless your speech
impairment is caused by using your voice too much or a viral infection, it
probably won’t resolve on its own and may worsen. This is why it’s important to
get a diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible.
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will likely start by taking a
complete medical history and evaluating your symptoms. They’ll likely ask you a
series of questions to hear you talk and assess your speech. This can help them
determine your level of comprehension and speaking ability. It can also help
them learn if the condition is affecting your vocal cords, your brain, or both.
Depending on your medical history and symptoms, your doctor may order one or
more tests, such as:
- brain scans using X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans
- electrical current tests
- blood tests
- urine tests
for adult speech impairment
Your doctor’s recommended treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause
of your speech impairment. It may involve an evaluation by a neurologist, otolaryngolist
or speech-language pathologist.
Your doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist who
can teach you how to conduct exercises to strengthen your vocals cords, increase
vocal control, improve articulation, and expressive and receptive communication.
In some cases, they may also recommend assistive communication devices. For
example, they may advise you to use an electronic device to translate typed
messages into verbal communication.
In rare cases, you may need surgery or other medical procedures.
To help treat aphasia, your doctor will try to address the underlying cause
of your symptoms. If it’s caused by a stroke, for example, they may prescribe medications
and surgery. You may also receive a comprehensive cognitive-linguistic
evaluation by a speech-language pathologist.
If you’re diagnosed with dysarthria, your doctor will likely encourage you
to undergo speech therapy. Your therapist may prescribe exercises to help
improve your breath control and increase your tongue and lip coordination.
It’s also important for your family members and other people in your life to
speak slowly. They need to give you ample time to respond to questions and
There’s no known cure for spasmodic dysphonia. But your doctor can prescribe
treatments to help alleviate your symptoms. For example, they may prescribe botulinum
toxin injections (Botox) or surgery to your vocal cords. This may help
If you’re diagnosed with a vocal disorder, your doctor may advise you to limit
the use of your vocal cords to give them time to heal or prevent further
damage. They may advise you to avoid caffeine or other drugs that can irritate your
vocal cords. In rare cases, you may need surgery or other medical treatments.
Preventing adult speech impairment
Some types and causes of adult speech impairment are impossible to prevent.
But you can take steps to lower your risk of developing other types of impaired
speech. For example:
- don’t overuse your voice by screaming or placing stress
on your vocal cords
- lower your risk of throat cancer by avoiding smoking
and second-hand smoke
- lower your risk of brain injury by wearing a helmet
when riding your bike, protective gear when playing contact sports, and a
seatbelt when traveling in motor vehicles
- decrease your risk of stroke by exercising regularly, eating
a well-balanced diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood
- limit your consumption of alcohol
If you develop unusual vocal
symptoms, seek medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment may improve
your long-term outlook and help prevent complications. Ask your doctor for more
information about your specific condition, treatment options, and outlook.
If you’re diagnosed with a speech or vocal disorder, always carry an
identification card with the name of your condition. Also, keep your emergency
contact information in your pocket at all times. This can help you prepare for
times when you may not be able to communicate your health condition and needs