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Diseases That Can Affect Speech

As we or our loved ones age, there are things we may expect, such as a loss in strength or stamina, increased difficulty moving, and even issues with memory. But few of us consider losing the ability to speak and communicate; it’s so intrinsic to who we are that it’s difficult to imagine ourselves without it. However, certain diseases and illnesses can impair our ability to communicate, necessitating speech therapy to get back some or all of what we’ve lost.

Here are some of the ailments that can impact speech.

Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), is a progressive disease that attacks the muscles. As the disease becomes more severe, muscles atrophy and weaken, including those in the mouth responsible for swallowing and speaking. Speech therapy can help reduce difficulties communicating.


Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis impacts speech and communication on two fronts. Like ALS, it has a progressive, degenerative effect on the muscles, again impacting the ability to swallow and speak. Additionally, MS can have a detrimental effect on cognition, impacting a person’s ability to understand. In fact, as MS progresses, a person may not recognize their own speech issues. Once again, speech-language pathologists can help patients alleviate some of these difficulties.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is something folks tend to have an idea about, with an image in their head of someone suffering from muscle spasms. Like the two ailments described above, Parkinson’s disease is progressive. In this case, it acts on the nervous system, thereby impairing movement. The same involuntary muscle spasms many of us are familiar with can make it difficult for someone to articulate their words. Fluency suffers as well. Thankfully, there are a number of strategies that a speech-language pathologist can employ to help patients regain some of their ability to communicate.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are greedy. While they’re most known for how they affect memory, they also take a toll on speech and comprehension. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, those suffering from the disease can become nonverbal. However, a speech-language pathologist can help improve both verbal and nonverbal communication.

The Benefits of Speech Therapy

That mention of nonverbal communication may come as a surprise. That’s because the term “speech therapy” may be a little misleading. Rather than focusing exclusively on the spoken word, speech-language pathologists aim to bolster all forms of communication, including non-verbal communication. They help to improve oral muscle strength in order to speak and swallow more effectively, work with the hearing impaired, and aid in the recovery of language and memory skills. Their focus is on more than just communication; they help patients bolster their physical, social, and emotional well-being.


Speech therapy is often a vital part of long-term care. The speech-language pathologists here at Princeton Health Care Center are some of the best, with the expertise to help you express yourself. Call us today at 304-487-3458 to schedule a tour and learn more about this and the other services we provide.


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