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Speech changes in PD aren't just aging

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#1 Dr. Mahler

Dr. Mahler

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 12:38 PM

Are people with PD different from age-matched peers?

Although the incidence of speech and swallowing disorders in PD is high, the referral rate to speech-language pathologists for treatment is relatively low. One reason for the low referral rate is that the average age of diagnosis of PD is 60 and the perception is that speech and swallowing changes are just the result of normal aging. However, several studies have documented that people with PD experience changes in speech and swallowing different from healthy age-matched controls.

A study by Fox & Ramig (1997) demonstrated that people with PD were statistically significantly softer than healthy age-matched controls. This makes it harder for them to be understood in conversation. Another study by Baker et al., (1998) compared EMG activity of the thyroarytenoid muscles between young, healthy aged and people with PD. They found that EMG activity of people with PD was significantly less during a variety of phonatory tasks than for the healthy age-matched participants. This finding partially explains why people with PD speak at reduced loudness levels. In a swallowing study comparing people with PD to healthy controls it was found that people with PD swallowed more often during inhalation and at lower lung volumes than healthy age-matched controls placing them at greater risk for aspiration (Gross, Atwood, Ross, Eichorn, Olszewski, & Doyle, 2008).

If you are experiencing changes in communication that make it difficult for people to understand you OR if you are experiencing changes in swallowing that make it difficult to take your pills or have coughing during meals, please talk to your physician and seek a referral to a speech-language pathologist (SLP). It is better to receive services before speech and swallowing are significantly impaired.

If you have specific questions, please write to us at this forum.
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Leslie Mahler, PhD, CCC-SLP

Associate Professor

University of Rhode Island

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