Speech Impairment In Alzheimer’s Patients

Speech Impairment in Alzheimer's Patients

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s likely that your physician will mention one of the main reasons for speech impairment in Alzheimer’s patients. This is their common symptom. In fact, most physicians now see this as a major reason why people develop dementia.

Causes Of Dementia

Dementia is a complex syndrome and as such, it has many different causes. Among these causes are:

To better understand what causes speech impairment in Alzheimer’s, it’s helpful to know how normal speech functions. It has two basic parts, which are voiced sounds and lip movements. Alveolar folds are skin folds that form a cavity between the soft palate and the upper teeth and help control the flow of air within the mouth and throat.

What we now refer to as “voiced” sounds are also known as voiced vowels of articulatory movements. These are actually the result of the tongue moving upward. People with Parkinson’s disease use their tongues to move their jaws to their back. As a result, the soft palate rises and creates a sort of backward “V” of the tongue movement.

Speech Impairment in Alzheimer's Patients
Speech Impairment in Alzheimer’s Patients

Tongue Movements

When the movements of the tongue aren’t controlled properly, the voice box moves and vibrates in a way that is not appropriate for normal speech. This movement causes sounds to be uneven or foreign to the listener. The sound becomes indistinct or just plain weird.

In order to protect the motor neurons in the brain, speech is primarily performed with the movement of the tongue. There are two different types of movements that a person makes with their tongue when speaking. There is a longitudinal movement called the cliche, which is made while one part of the tongue is in contact with the palate. This movement is common in rapid speech.

The other type of movement is called the symmetrical part, which makes both sides of the tongue move simultaneously. This movement causes difficult vowel sounds. It also can produce a tongue block, in which the lower and upper portions of the tongue don’t move as they should.

Speech Impairment in Alzheimer's Patients
Speech Impairment in Alzheimer’s Patients

What do You need To Do?

In order to preserve normal speech, people with dementia often have a great deal of difficulty pronouncing vowels, particularly when they are trying to speak slowly. Sometimes the inability to pronounce vowels is so severe that only a few words will be spoken at a time.

While some of the sounds in the basic vowel sounds are difficult, those that occur frequently are the ones that cause the most problems. The result is that speech in Alzheimer’s patients becomes short and choppy, as they try to reconstruct speech patterns in their minds.

As the speech is distorted, it is often hard to understand because the words sound too close together. It’s hard to distinguish which word is the subject and which is the object of the sentence. In the same way, it’s hard to pinpoint what words are related and which are not.

This is a very common reason for speech impairment in Alzheimer’s patients. Other patients may not have any difficulties with their articulation but still, need to repeat what they’ve said many times to ensure that it is understood. Most patients speak better and clearer when they are able to move their lips and tongue independently of each other.

Bottom Line

Some people with Alzheimer’s actually have speech impairment for the same reasons that people without the disease do. However, in those cases, the speech does not degenerate but rather continues to improve over time.