Can Multiple Sclerosis Affect Speech?

Can Multiple Sclerosis Affect Speech?

Multiple Sclerosis is a medical condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide variety of symptoms which can include vision problems, difficulty with movements of the arms and legs, balance, and sensation. 

It is also common for individuals who live with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) to experience speech issues. These speech problems can occur frequently or for a short amount of time each day (a few minutes.) Individuals with MS may also produce slurred speech, or have a voice that sounds weak or faint due to weakness in the chest and lungs. 

Changing speech patterns are also commonly seen in individuals with MS. This phenomenon is known as “scanning speech” in which frequent long pauses when speaking create an entirely new rhythm of speech. Individuals with MS may also often forget certain words or struggle to follow conversations. In addition to difficulties related to speech, MS can cause problems with swallowing as these processes require the coordination of the same body parts. 

Problems with speech can occur at any stage of Multiple Sclerosis, but not every individual with MS experiences them. There are several things that can be done to manage this part of the disease, including speech therapy. Getting started with speech therapy through Great Speech is as easy as scheduling your free introductory call today! 

How Does MS Affect Speech? Is it hard to talk with MS?

MS is a medical condition that causes the immune system to attack the protective outer layer that surrounds nerve cells. The resulting nerve damage may cause a loss of coordination between the muscles that are necessary for speech. MS can also affect the parts of the brain that process language.

Experts divide speech problems related to Multiple Sclerosis into two types that are referred to as aphasia and dysarthria.

Aphasia occurs when there is interference with the brain’s language processing ability. This may cause the individual to forget or omit a word or they may have difficulty communicating through writing.

Dysarthria is linked to the loss of motor function or muscle control which can make it harder to form words. Dysarthria is more commonly seen among individuals who live with MS.

Additionally, Multiple Sclerosis can cause the individual to feel exceptionally weak or tired. Increased fatigue can also contribute to difficulties related to speech and swallowing processes. However, swallowing problems can also occur due to dry mouth, which can be a side effect of some medications used to treat the symptoms of MS.

Speech problems are relatively common among individuals living with MS and they can occur at any stage of the disease and range from mild to severe.

Speech production processes are controlled by several areas within the brain. Multiple Sclerosis lesions (the damaged areas) in various parts of the brain can result in several changes in normal speech patterns. These changes can range from mild speech difficulties to severe problems that make it being understood by others very difficult. 

One of these speech patterns that is commonly linked with Multiple Sclerosis is scanning speech. Scanning dysarthria results in speech in which the regular “melody” or speech pattern is disturbed, with exceptionally long pauses between words or certain syllables within words.

It is common for individuals with MS to also slur words. This is usually caused by weakness and/or poor coordination of the muscles that control the tongue, lips, cheeks, and mouth.

Nasal speech is also possible in individuals with MS, which can make it sound as though the individual has a cold or nasal obstruction. This can sometimes be due to weakness in the diaphragm, and speech volume can be affected as well, which can make it difficult to be heard.

Whatever the speech difficulties associated with MS may be, speech therapy is an essential resource when it comes to maintaining communication. Don’t wait to seek support for yourself or a loved one, get started by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

How Does Speech Therapy Help with Multiple Sclerosis?

Many people with speech problems related to MS can be helped by a speech and language pathologist. They are experts when it comes to evaluating speech and language problems and helping to improve speech patterns, enunciation, and verbal communication skills in general.

If speech problems due to Multiple Sclerosis are making communication excessively challenging, assistive communication devices are available. Apps are available for smartphones that can also aid with communication. A speech/language pathologist can suggest the right assistive devices for the individual’s needs.

To begin, the speech and language pathologist will conduct a thorough evaluation to identify which areas of speech are affected and design an effective and appropriate speech therapy treatment plan. They will also observe the individual’s breathing control and the way they move their lips and tongue when speaking. 

Depending on the underlying cause of the speech problems, the speech pathologist may suggest a prescription for a certain medication. Some medications that have been found to be effective for managing other MS symptoms can also help to alleviate speech problems. The best course of action, however, is to begin speech therapy as soon as possible. An experienced and qualified speech pathologist can help equip the individual, as well as their caregivers and loved ones,  with communication strategies that help make communication easier.

Speech therapy for speech problems associated with Multiple Sclerosis will also focus on working on energy conservation as well as techniques to control the rate of speech, and general muscle strengthening and control exercises. They will also try to identify specific circumstances that trigger speaking problems.
The most important thing when it comes to supporting individuals with MS is to ensure that those with speech problems are able to continue to effectively communicate and interact with others and enjoy a good quality of life. Getting started with speech therapy is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today!