Not everyone has speech problems after deep brain stimulation (DBS).  DBS is surgery that involves implanting electrodes in the brain that regulate abnormal impulses such as tremor. My speech issues developed after my second DBS surgery for Parkinson’s disease tremor.

When my doctor and I tried turning off the DBS, my speech improved, suggesting that my speech problem might be DBS-program-induced. In DBS, speech problems can be triggered if the electrical impulses that overlap on both sides of the brain cause over-stimulation. The voice may get soft, hoarse, slow, monotone, or slurred, causing others difficulty in hearing what is said.

Nothing is easy, and at this time, I don’t have a common setting that provides good speech and no tremor without one function suffering a bit. Some people with DBS use two settings – one for when they really need to talk, and the other for when they really want to squelch the tremor.

People with DBS aren’t the only ones with speech problems. People with Parkinson’s disease, might experience changes in their voice or speech for reasons other than electrical overload.

I’ve always been a talker so I am looking for ways to beef up my gab-ability.

I’ve been amazed by the speech improvement achieved by Samantha Elandary of Parkinson Voice Project in Richardson, Texas. Exercise teacher Barbara McCormick is on to something good with shout and whistle exercises in her pool classes in San Francisco, California. Randy Hoffman, SLP at Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale, California, and a guest speaker at our Women and PD symposium (where this photo was taken) has a lively approach working with the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT®) speech therapy method which is available nationally.

The LSVT® program consists of an intense 1-hour a day, 4-week course of therapy that teaches patients to develop the strength required to speak at a normal vocal loudness. LSVT® has demonstrated results including improved vocal loudness and intelligibility, improved ability to swallow and increased facial expression. To work with Hoffman, people new to LSVT® should get a prescription for speech therapy from their movement disorder specialist or neurologist prior to making an appointment with the speech therapist.

We’re lucky to have a wealth of speech professionals for Parkinson’s. Talk it up!




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