Finding Your Voice With Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disorder affecting more than 4 million people worldwide today. This disorder affects motor movement due to changes in the brain’s ability to produce an important chemical called Dopamine. This disease, which typically gets worse over time, affects a person’s movement due to changes in muscular endurance, strength, and stability. Difficulty in walking is often a frequent symptom of this disease. Another common symptom is vocal changes, changing how a person sounds.

What voice changes do we see?

A person will often state that their family and loved ones have trouble understanding them. Their voice sounds weak or breathy. Sometimes they also report that their voice sounds harsh or raspy. They have trouble being understood in loud environments or when speaking to someone new.

Why do we see changes in voice?

Our vocal cords, which vibrate to produce the sound of our voice, and larynx, which supports the vocal cords, consist of a variety of muscles. Our respiratory system, which provides the airflow needed for vocal cord vibration, also consists of

a variety of muscles. These muscles can be affected by the disruption of Dopamine causing stiffness, atrophy (weakness), and reduced movement. This can cause reduced vocal loudness, roughness or breathiness to the voice, and reduced ability to vary the pitch level (how high or how low the voice can go).

What is LSVT Loud?

LSVT Loud is a research based speech treatment designed specifically to treat voice disorders in those with Parkinson’s. A Speech-Language Pathologist must receive certification training and continuing education through LSVT Global in order to be qualified to implement this particular voice therapy. Treatment consists of 16 individual, 60-minute sessions with daily homework in one month’s time. It is a systematic approach consisting of multiple voice exercises focusing on improving vocal and respiratory strength and movement. LSVT Loud uses the principles of neural plasticity to make lasting changes in the voice. Therapy activities consist of repetition, increasing the intensity of exercises, and using practice materials that are meaningful to the patient. Homework is also provided during treatment and is to be continued on a daily basis after completion of therapy to aid in maintaining results.

Where can I find an LSVT Loud Certified Therapist?

You can find an LSVT Loud certified clinician in your area on the LSVT Global website at www.lsvtglobal.com. The initial visit with the Speech-Language Pathologist will require a physician’s order. After your evaluation, if it is determined that you could benefit from therapy, a referral to an Otolaryngologist is needed to visually assess vocal cord unction prior to continuation in an intensive vocal therapy. Treatment is then completed with the certified Speech-Language Pathologist.

How effective is LSVT Loud treatment?

LSVT Loud increases a person’s vocal loudness and ability to be understood by others by improving their respiratory and vocal strength. Research shows that 90% of patients improve vocal loudness from pre to post-treatment with the ability for most to maintain their improvement up to 24 months post-treatment. LSVT Loud is highly rewarding, fun, and can create lasting changes to a person’s voice. Upon completion, many say that their loved ones can understand them better and that they feel more confident speaking to others.

To schedule an appointment with Erin or another speech therapist at Speak Well Solutions please call 301-769-6456 or visit www.speakwellsolutions.com for more information.

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Erin O'Neil
Erin O'Neil MS, CCC-SLP is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist with over 10 years of experience working with both children and adults in a variety of settings including private practice, out-patient rehabilitation, acute care, and skilled nursing. She specializes in working with adults with acquired neurological communication disorders including Aphasia and cognitive-communication disorders as well as voice disorders. She joined the Speak Well Solutions Team in 2012. Erin has been certified in LSVT Loud since 2015 and has seen great results in her clients. She finds it very rewarding to see patients find their voice again and to improve their ability to communicate with their loved ones.