A bearded man struggles to maintain his speech, with talk bubbles of varying frequencies floating around him.

"What Did You Say?": My Speech Issues with Parkinson's

It started with "what did you say?" from my lovely bride. Then she is gesturing for me to speak louder while in a conversation with someone. Why the question and the gesturing? I am speaking normally. But then I notice people leaning forward to hear what I am saying. Is everybody hard of hearing? Slowly I start to recognize, "it must be me." My speech had gone south and I didn't recognize it. Self-awareness is a funny thing. I have Parkinson's friends who speak very softly. I am often asking them to repeat as I am leaning forward to hear. So, I know how it feels. Along with the now realized soft speaking voice, I notice a raspy tone and a lot of clearing of the throat.

Yep, another of those nasty symptoms has raised its ugly head. I finally recognized that my voice has softened and that sometimes I had difficulty swallowing. I realized that I have a new issue emanating from the nasty behemoth. Maybe it wasn't new, but the realization was new.

Dose of reality

As fate would have it, at this time, I was contacted by a speech pathologist who was conducting a study on swallowing and speech for people with Parkinson's. The end goal is to develop an app that will lead to early detection of the symptoms and earlier and better treatment.

The timing was perfect. I was right in the wheelhouse of the people with Parkinson's they wanted to test. The test consisted of measurement of tongue strength, making different sounds, swallowing one piece of dry pretzel, and drinking water. And a lot of questions.

When finished, the leader of the team (a highly educated and experienced speech pathologist) said to me, "you need to see a speech therapist as soon as possible. You need some tools to deal with your speech, as it is only going to get worse." OK, you have my attention.

She gave me a couple of exercises to do, suggested I enroll in one of the speech treatment programs and start training with a device to strengthen the affected muscles.

Research and plan

We all have a team to deal with Parkinson's, and it seems I am about to add to mine. A speech therapist is now on my calendar, joining the movement disorder neurologist, physical therapist, Rock Steady Boxing trainer, support group. This group is not exactly who I planned to spend my "golden years" with, but they are also the reason that I have been able to maintain and slow the progression for the last six years. So, I welcome the newest member.

I am about to start down another path of the Parkinson's treatment regimen. I have a lot to learn, and it begins with additions to my Parkinson's vocabulary. Hypophonia (soft speech) pops up first followed by dysarthria (difficulty speaking) and dysphasia (difficulty swallowing). As I start my research, I wonder, is the dreaded open mouth/slack jaw related to the speech and swallowing problem? Are the drooling, dental, and sleep apnea issues all part of the same problem?

Questions and research come first. Why do I feel like I have done this before with other symptoms? But it's the only way.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ParkinsonsDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.