How Can I Improve my Speech After a Brain Injury

How Can I Improve my Speech After a Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury can have serious effects on an individual’s everyday life. One of the most life-altering of these can be the effects on speech and language abilities. A serious injury to the brain can sometimes result in the loss of muscle control within the mouth, lips, tongue, and jaw, making speech production difficult and a reduced clarity and fluidity of speech. For others, a brain injury can make recalling certain words or retaining information difficult. The good news is that many people make a complete recovery from a traumatic brain injury and are able to regain speech and language skills. One of the most important parts of a recovery treatment plan is time with an experienced speech and language pathologist. 

Don’t wait to get help for yourself or a loved one. Getting started with speech therapy is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today! 

How Does a Brain Injury Affect Speech?

How a brain injury affects speech depends on how severe the injury is as well as where in the brain the damage has occurred. Difficulties related to speech and language are just some of the many potential effects of a traumatic brain injury. 

If an individual who has suffered an injury to the brain is struggling with speech and word formation, this is most likely due to the fact that the injury occurred in the area of the brain that houses the language centers. The language centers are located in what is referred to as the “dominant hemisphere” which for the majority of people is the brain’s left side. 

There are 3 kinds of speech and language disorders that are most commonly linked to a traumatic brain injury. They are:

Dysarthria: Dysarthria occurs when the muscles that are responsible for speech production become paralyzed or weakened. This can result in speech becoming mumbled or slurred. This is due to damage to the part of the brain that controls the muscles in and around the mouth, such as the tongue and lips. 

Apraxia of Speech: Apraxia of speech occurs when an individual struggles to initiate or follow through on certain patterns of movement that are necessary to correctly produce speech. This is caused by coordination impairments stemming from damage to the brain. Unlike in cases of dysarthria, apraxia of speech is not caused by weakened muscles but by the way that pathways in the brain are affected.

Aphasia: Aphasia occurs when an individual has problems related to speaking fluently and comprehending the speech of others. Aphasia differs from apraxia in that it affects cognition, word retrieval, and general language comprehension. Those with aphasia may also have difficulty with reading and writing abilities. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with communication due to a traumatic brain injury, don’t wait to seek help. Getting started with speech therapy is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today! 

Is it Possible to Regain Speech After a Brain Injury?

Regaining speech and language skills following a brain injury is possible due to the natural ability of the brain to heal itself. This phenomenon is referred to as ‘neuroplasticity’ and it permits the brain to rewire the neural circuits to make adaptive changes. As a result of this phenomenon, almost any function that is affected by a brain injury has the potential to be relearned and fully recovered. 

When recovering from a traumatic brain injury, it is essential to promote the process of neuroplasticity. This typically involves continuously practicing the exact skills that need improvement. This type of consistent repetition works to stimulate the brain and reinforce the demand for that particular function. 

This means that in order to improve the control of oral muscles, the individual must routinely practice moving them. In order to improve speech, individuals must consistently practice producing speech by saying words and forming sentences. 

How Long Does it Take to Regain Speech after a Traumatic Brain Injury?

While every brain injury, and the subsequent recovery, is unique. Some individuals may require intensive rehabilitation for months, others may progress through the recovery stages more quickly. How quickly an individual recovers and regains communication skills depends significantly on the severity of the damage to the brain, as well as the area of the brain that was affected. 

How Does Speech Therapy Help Regain Speech After a Brain Injury?

Because every brain injury and its recovery are unique, a personalized approach to restoring speech and language skills is essential.

Producing speech is a highly complex process that requires several different parts of the brain to work cooperatively. Apart from being able to physically form words using the muscles within the mouth, multiple other skills are required, including:

  • Memory and Recall
  • Breathing
  • Listening
  • Swallowing
  • Comprehension
  • Problem-Solving
  • Focus and Attention

It is critical to focus on developing the multiple skills that are involved in speech and language production in order to communicate effectively. Depending on how speech and language are affected, a variety of treatments and therapies may be recommended. 

The first step when recovering speech abilities following a brain injury is to undergo a thorough evaluation by a qualified speech and language pathologist. The pathologist will assess the speech and language abilities, determine whether a specific communication disorder is present, and develop a customized treatment plan to help the individual regain lost skills and reach their communication goals. 

For example, an individual who may be struggling with dysarthria due to a brain injury will be encouraged to practice such exercises as blowing a whistle, yawning, and making various humming and popping noises with their lips. If the challenges are more related to cognitive deficits (as opposed to muscle weakness) the speech therapist will encourage the individual to practice identifying photos or listing words that belong to a specific category. 

The key to regaining speech and language skills that have been affected by a traumatic brain injury is to practice speech therapy activities multiple times a day, every day. As practice continues, the brain will be increasingly stimulated which in turn promotes neuroplasticity. The sooner you seek the help of a speech therapist, the better the potential outcome. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!