In Canada, 1 in 10 people has a speech, language, or hearing problem. You or someone you know could be suffering from one of many conditions.
To combat these disorders, you may consider speech therapy. While speech therapy can't completely eradicate the condition, it can help you cope with any struggles that you may be having in daily communication.
What Are Speech Disorders?
A speech disorder is any condition that makes it difficult for a person to create or form words and/or sounds that are necessary for communication. There are multiple kinds of speech disorders that all come with different signs and symptoms.
In adults, there are several common types of speech impairment disorders. However, there are four main categories of speech disorders to consider:
- Spasmodic dystonia
- Vocal disturbances
Apraxia, also known as AOS, is a common neurological disorder. The effects of the disorder make it difficult for the patient to speak correctly.
Another common speech impairment is dysarthria. Common after strokes, dysarthria describes slurred or choppy speech.
Other conditions like spasmodic dysphonia may cause your voice to become hoarse, airy, and tight.
On the other hand, some conditions are structural rather than functional issues. Vocal disturbance conditions cause a change in the sound of your speech due to changes in the shape of your vocal cords.
If you don't seek help for your speech impairment, it is likely to get worse over time. You have to talk to a trained medical professional about getting the right diagnosis and proper treatment. The sooner you have a professional assess your speech, the better your outcome will potentially be.
How Are Speech Disorders Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose your speech impairment, your physician is going to ask a bunch of questions about your current and past medical history. They'll then ask about and evaluate your symptoms, signs, and other important information.
It's also likely that your physician will have you answer questions or repeat phrases to assess your speaking ability and comprehensive capabilities. This evaluation can help your physician figure out what kind of speech impairment you have.
Depending on your medical history and physical exam, your physician may order one or several of these tests:
- X-ray of the head and neck
- CT of the head and neck
- MRI of the head and neck
- Electrical current tests
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
After getting the results, you and your physician can determine the next steps to take.
What Causes Speech Disorders?
Because creating speech is a complex process, speech disorders can occur due to different kinds of conditions. They may be related to neural processes, muscular disorders, or another layer of problems.
Here are some of the most common causes:
- Brain damage
- Vocal cord damage
- Vocal cord paralysis
- Vocal polyps
- Vocal nodules
- Respiratory weakness
- Muscle weakness
Some of these problems are structural while others are functional.
If you or someone you know has a speech disorder, it may help to understand where it came from and how it developed.
Symptoms of Speech Disorders
The symptoms of speech disorders will vary based on the kind of speech disorder that you're talking about. However, there are some common signs that someone has a speech disorder:
- Repeating sounds such as stutters
- Adding extra sounds
- Adding extra words
- Making words longer than they should be
- Making jerking movements while talking
- Blinking often while talking
- Becoming frustrated while trying to talk
- Hearing distorted sounds while talking
- Having a hoarse or raspy voice
If you or someone you know is displaying these symptoms, alert a doctor as soon as possible. Whether the patient is a child or an adult, they should get treatment quickly.
Speech Therapist vs Speech Pathologist
A speech-language pathologist gets their training at a university. They have the education and training necessary to assess and treat patients with speech difficulties.
The term "speech therapist" is the old term for speech-language pathologists. The title of "speech-language pathologist" is preferred because it is more accurate.
Speech-language pathologists focus on all aspects of communication rather than just speech.
What Is Speech-Language Pathology?
Speech-language pathology is the field of expertise in communications.
Experts in speech-language pathology work to assess, diagnose, and treat all kinds of communication disorders. This includes conditions affecting speech, language, social cues, cognitive cues, and swallowing.
Who Can Speech-Language Pathology Benefit?
Speech-language pathologists can help a variety of patients with a variety of medical conditions. Depending on the condition that a patient presents with, a speech-language pathologist may be able to alleviate or completely solve a communication problem.
Adults may suffer from a variety of issues, such as structural, functional, and neural conditions.
As adults become older, neural degeneration conditions may affect their ability to swallow, eat, and communicate. For example, elderly individuals can develop Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, dementia, Huntington's dementia disease, and more.
What Happens During a Speech Therapy Session?
Depending on the kind of speech therapy a patient is getting, their therapy session will look different. The speech-language pathologist is going to use a variety of techniques to try to reach that individual and their symptoms.
An adult speech therapy session is going to be similar to other kinds of therapy sessions. The speech-language pathologist is going to repeat exercises over and over again so that the patient can practice there and at home.
The pathologist may use books, songs, and more to evaluate the patient's progress.
What Can Speech Pathology Help With?
Because speech pathologists deal with much more than talking-related conditions, they can help patients of all kinds. Here are some of the most common conditions that speech-language pathologists can help with.
Speech Delays and Disorders
Speech-language pathologists can help patients cope with speech delays such as developmental speech delay, language delay, expressive language disorder, and receptive language disorder.
Voice and Resonance Disorders
Resonance disorders include those conditions that affect how the air flows through the oral and nasal cavities while a person is talking. Inconsistent air movements and obstructions can cause this.
Fluency disorders include awkward pauses, stuttering, cluttering, and similar conditions. These all involve the patient having trouble speaking in a fluid way.
Cognitive-communication disorders include those problems that patients have after strokes, tumours, brain injuries, and other brain degenerating conditions.
Swallowing and Feeding Disorders
Neurological conditions can cause problems with swallowing and feeding. These are most common in elderly patients, but they can happen in infants.
Pre-Literacy and Literacy Skills
Most commonly found in children, pre-literacy and literacy skills include conditions that affect how children read. These may include mental processing setbacks like dyslexia.
Communication and Swallowing Disorders Related to Other Issues
Speech-language pathologists can treat any other conditions that affect swallowing and communication. No matter what their point of origin, speech-language pathologists can help with easing symptoms.
How Long Would One Need Speech Therapy For?
Each patient's experience with speech therapy is going to differ based on the condition that they're suffering from. During your first appointment, the speech-language pathologist will evaluate your current condition and give you a general idea of the time that it may take to ease your symptoms.
Adults have to work at correcting speech more than other age groups. The conditions that affect adults may cause a more permanent set of symptoms than children.
Adults may need to attend for several hours a week. Then, they may need to go for a few years.
What Is the Success Rate for Speech Therapy?
The success rate of speech therapy is significant. With each additional hour of speech therapy, patients show more and more improvement with their condition.
Compared to other kinds of therapy, speech therapy is the most effective form of treatment for speech disorders.
However, the exact outcomes that you can expect will depend on the speech disorder that you have and the age that you are when you start speech therapy.
The earlier you start, the better.
There are a variety of exercises that your speech therapist may use:
- Breathing exercises that improve cadence
- Tongue and lip coordination exercises that improve intonation and pronunciation
- Accommodation exercises to improve understanding from others
One of the most important parts of speech therapy is finding the right therapist. You should take the time to find a professional who's going to work with your needs, wants, and goals.
Final Thoughts on Speech Therapy
If you or someone you know is suffering from a communication deficit, speech therapy is a must. Speech-language pathologists are educated and experienced in assessing, diagnosing, and treating these conditions. So, even if you aren't sure what's going on, your speech-language pathologist may be able to help you.
To find a health insurance plan that covers speech therapy, check out our health insurance quotes. Our team at Insurdinary can help you find a healthcare plan that covers whatever condition you or your loved one has.
Feel free to shop around today so that you can get scheduled for therapy as soon as possible. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can see results.