How to Recover Speech If You Can’t Talk After Stroke

How to Recover Speech If You Can’t Talk After Stroke

If you or your loved one can’t talk after stroke, this article will teach you how to recover your speech.

While your rehab team is the best source for information, sometimes you need to find answers on your own.

And that’s what you have us for.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Why stroke can completely impair speech after stroke
  • How to retrain the brain and improve speech after stroke
  • Where to look for more answers

Let’s get started.

Left Brain Strokes and Speech Impairments

The language center of the brain is located in the left-hemisphere.

So if you had a left-brain stroke, it’s likely that stroke damaged your brain’s language abilities.

Types of Language Difficulties

man talking to confused woman to demonstrate types of problems with speech after stroke

There are 3 main types of speech impairments that can occur after stroke: dysarthria, apraxia of speech, and aphasia.

There are many different types of aphasia, but overall it encompasses expression/comprehension difficulties.

Dysarthria is a motor problem and apraxia of speech is a cognitive/planning problem.

Here’s a breakdown of each one:

  • Dysarthria involves consistent weakness or impaired control the muscles used for speech – it’s a motor problem
  • Apraxia of speech involves inconsistent difficulty planning and coordinating your words – it’s a cognitive planning problem
  • Aphasia involves difficulty with language expression, language comprehension, writing, reading, and using numbers – it’s a communication problem

Examples:

  • You might have dysarthria if you know perfectly well what you want to say, but you can’t get your mouth to say it
  • You might have apraxia of speech if you omit parts of your sentences
  • You might have aphasia if you have trouble reading, understanding numbers, or comprehending speech

Those are just some examples, but it gives you an idea of the difference between these speech conditions.

Which Speech Impairment Do You Have?

man holding up brain scans to discuss why patients can't talk after stroke

If you can’t talk after stroke, it’s likely that you have dysarthria or apraxia of speech.

However, we really don’t know since we can’t see you or your medical history. Your therapist is the best person to ask about which speech impairment you have.

If you can’t get a hold of your diagnosis, we can work around it; because recovery from speech impairments after stroke always revolves around one thing:

Retraining the brain.

And next, we’ll show you how.

Bonus: Download our free stroke recovery tips ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)

Rewiring the Brain to Improve Speech After Stroke

electric brain showing rewiring of speech functions

To relearn how to talk after stroke, you need to retrain your brain to control your speech.

You will rely on neuroplasticity for this. Neuroplasticity allows your brain to form new neural pathways that will take over your speech function.

When the language center of the brain becomes damaged by stroke, neuroplasticity allows the healthy parts of the brain to take over.

Neuroplasticity is activated whenever you practice something.

For example, when you practice writing cursive, your brain forms and strengthens new neural pathways for that skill. The more you practice your cursive, the stronger those pathways become, and the easier writing cursive gets.

The same goes for your speech.

Learning How to Talk Again After Stroke

tips on recovery if you can't talk after stroke

To relearn how to talk again after stroke, you need to practice speech therapy exercises.

By practicing the skill of speech, you will rewire the brain and learn how to talk again.

For example, if you have dysarthria, then you need to practice using your mouth and tongue muscles to improve your speech.

The more you practice using these muscles, the better you will get. Your brain will rewire itself based on what you repeatedly practice.

Now, we know what you might be thinking: “Yes, that sounds great, but I can’t even say one word! How do I get started then?”

Singing Therapy Helps Stroke Patients Who Can’t Talk At All

Some stroke patients can’t talk after stroke – not even a single word. In these severe cases, there’s still hope!

Singing therapy can help mute stroke patients regain their speech.

This works because language is a left-brain task, but singing is a right-brain task. So if left-side stroke patients cannot talk, they still might be able to sing their words.

As with all severe stroke side effects, progress may come slowly.

A stroke patient named J.M. could not speak after stroke, so he participated in singing therapy. After 57 sessions of singing therapy, he was able to recite his entire address!

If you have the work ethic to participate in consistent singing therapy, then go for it! There’s plenty of hope and evidence backing it up.

How Long Does It Take a Stroke Patient to Regain Speech?

timeline of how long it takes to recover speech after stroke

This might have you wondering how long it takes to regain speech after stroke.

Generally speaking, most patients regain their speech within the first year if speech therapy is aggressive.

For patients who have more severe speech problems, recovery can take a few years. It depends on the size and location of the stroke along with the individual’s work ethic.

Since every stroke is different, every stroke recovery timeline will be different.

It’s often best to stop focusing on how long recovery will take and focus on the best practices that will help you recover — like speech therapy and singing therapy!

When to Seek Professional Speech Therapy

speech language pathologist working with patient

If you cannot talk at all after stroke, it’s likely that you have a severe speech impairment.

With all severe impairments, it’s best to seek the help of an expert.

Just like you work with a physical therapist to improve movement after stroke, you can work with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) to improve your speech.

SLP’s are highly trained in the different types of language difficulties after stroke, and they can tailor a regimen specific to your unique impairments.

We highly recommend working with an SLP – at least in the very beginning – so that you can get an idea of how to continue your recovery at home.

Continuing Speech Recovery at Home with Therapy Apps

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The best way to improve your speech without the direct help from an SLP is to use a speech therapy apps like CT Speech and Cognitive Therapy.

These apps can help you identify your “problem areas” and practice exercises that target those areas.

For example, if you have aphasia and particularly struggle with number comprehension, a speech therapy app will likely assign you plenty of number games to improve your skills.

Speech therapy apps are a great way to get targeted therapy without direct help from a clinician.

Recap: Speech After Stroke

Difficulty with speech after stroke often happens when a left-side stroke damages the language center of the brain. This can result in dysarthria, apraxia of speech, or aphasia.

The best way to recover from these conditions is to rewire your brain through speech therapy exercises or singing therapy if you can’t talk at all.

We hope this article will help you reclaim your voice after stroke!