Parkinson’s Disease and Communication Difficulties

Many people with Parkinson’s disease experience speech difficulties. These difficulties are often described as slurred, slow speech or difficulty with articulation. This is known as Dysarthria. Dysarthria can occur because the muscles used for speech don’t move as far as they did, or with enough strength and speed to make all the quick, precise movements needed for speech.

Some people find their speech becomes more slurred at certain times of the day, when they are more fatigued or when they are awaiting their next dose of medication.

Some people find that the sound of their voice is affected. Often, people report that their voice has become quieter and listeners can’t always hear what they are saying. Sometimes, people’s voices sound more breathy or a little hoarse. Also, the voice may sound a little ‘flat’ or monotonous, as it becomes difficult to make the voice rise and fall.

In more severe cases, people can have difficulty ‘getting started’ when they want to speak, in the same way that they may have difficulty getting started with other actions, such as walking.

Communication can also be affected by a reduction in facial expression, caused by rigidity in muscles in the face. This means that people may not be able to see how you are feeling so easily, for example, whether you are feeling happy or sad.

Speech and Language Therapists and assistants can provide therapy to help work on voice and slurred speech usually via exercises or group therapy. We can also advise on any Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) that may help support your communication such as communication books, alphabet charts and electronic tablets with communication software.

Strategies that may help you communicate if you are experiencing slurred speech/voice changes include:

  • Think loud and speak loud, you may feel you’re shouting but to others your speech will sound less slurred and at normal volume
  • Breath support, ensure you take deep breaths before you speak
  • Pause between words to help with clarity
  • Exaggerate and over-articulate
  • Reduce any background noise or distractions where possible