Speaking & Swallowing Issues & Parkinson's Disease

Most people with Parkinson’s disease will experience changes in speech, voice and swallowing at some point in their disease. The same PD symptoms that occur in the muscles of the body — tremor, stiffness and slow movement — can occur in the muscles used for speaking and swallowing. This can cause:

  • A soft voice
  • Mumbled or fast speech
  • Loss of facial expression
  • Problems communicating
  • Trouble swallowing

While PD medications help improve most symptoms, they are not as helpful with improving speech and swallowing problems. Most people have the most improvement with speech and swallowing when medications are paired with a speech therapy program.

Ongoing research into a speech therapy program known as the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment® (LSVT) method is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Office of Education. The LSVT method is effective in improving voice and speech in persons with PD. Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin have speech-language pathologists certified in LSVT, and our movement disorder neurologists often refer patients for this therapy. Early intervention is key to maintaining and improving communication and swallowing function.

Collagen injections have been used in the treatment of voice and/or speech impairment in PD. The purpose of the injections is to build up vocal folds that do not close completely while talking. Ask your movement disorder neurologist if you are a candidate for this procedure.