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

woman that can't talk after stroke but is capable of singing

If you can’t talk after stroke, then you might have sustained a severe language impairment.

Although the inability to speak can require special treatment techniques in speech therapy, there’s still hope for recovery.

You’re about to learn which types of speech therapy after stroke can help patients regain speech even when they cannot speak at all.

Before we dig in, it’s important to understand the cause of severe speech impairments like this.

Cause of Severe Speech Impairments After Stroke

A stroke occurs when the supply of blood in the brain has been compromised by at clogged artery (ischemic stroke) or burst artery (hemorrhagic stroke).

When brain cells are deprived of oxygen-rich blood, it leads to the death of those brain cells. That’s why swift stroke treatment is essential for both saving a life and preserving brain tissue!

When a stroke occurs in the left-hemisphere where the language center of the brain resides, it can lead to language impairments.

Speech problems are often seen in stroke patients that have sustained left hemisphere strokes.

Types of Severe Speech Problems After Stroke

There are many different types of speech problems that can occur after stroke. For the best diagnosis, be sure to work with a speech expert called a speech-language pathologist (SLP).

An SLP can help assess your cognitive communication skills, motor speech skills, and other areas involved with communication. (S)he may diagnose you with some form of aphasia, dysarthria, or speech apraxia.

doctor holding up brain scan to show patient

You can also ask your neurologist about the location of your stroke, because that has direct implications on the type of speech problems that occur.

The most common speech impairment that causes the inability to talk after stroke is non-fluent aphasia.

This occurs when the person knows what they want to say, but cannot communicate it to others. When it’s severe, it can inhibit speech completely.

However, non-fluent aphasia doesn’t apply to every person that can’t talk after stroke. That’s why it’s best to work with your medical team for diagnosis and treatment.

Which begs the question, how do you treat severe speech impairments like this?

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Rewiring the Brain to Improve Speech After Stroke

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 the function of language when hard work is done during rehabilitation.

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 cursive, the stronger those pathways become, and the easier it gets to write cursive.

The same goes for your speech.

Learning How to Talk Again After Stroke

illustration of brain circuitry that's being rewired to regain speech 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 (a weakness that causes slurred speech), 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.

People who can’t talk after stroke may not be able to accomplish traditional speech therapy exercises in the beginning.

Fortunately, there’s another technique that can help!

Singing Therapy for Patients That Can’t Talk After Stroke

A surprising form of speech therapy after stroke called melodic intonation therapy (or singing therapy) can help patients that cannot talk at all.

It’s well-studied and well-understood that stroke patients with severely limited speech are better at singing their words than saying them.

That’s because singing involves music and rhythm, which are right-hemispheric tasks. So even after a left-hemisphere stroke impairs the ability to speak, patients can sometimes sing their words instead.

It’s still difficult, but with the help of a skilled speech-language pathologist, words can finally be accessed.

To see how this works, watch this video

Continuing Recovery at Home with Speech Therapy Apps

Working with a speech-language pathologist is essential for stroke patients recovering severe speech impairments.

Singing therapy is complex, and a one-on-one rehabilitation environment will produce the best results.

Once you recover some speech, you can begin to take some matters into your own hands by practicing speech therapy exercises at home.

There are mobile apps that you can use like the CT Speech and Cognitive Therapy App. It helps identify your problem areas and create a speech exercise regimen customized just for you.

These apps are a great way to get the repetition necessary for recovery in between outpatient therapy sessions.

You can even work with your SLP to make sure that you’re doing appropriate exercises.

Hope for Speech Recovery

Overall, there is hope for speech recovery after stroke no matter how severe your language impairments are.

Even patients that can’t talk after stroke may begin to access language by harnessing the power of the right-hemisphere through singing therapy.

Then, once some progress has been made, patients can continue therapy on their own at home using speech therapy exercises like the ones found in the CT App.

Best of luck on the road to recovery!

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Get Inspired with This Stroke Survivor Story

5 stars

Mom gets better every day!

“When my 84-year-old Mom had a stoke on May 2, the right side of her body was rendered useless. In the past six months, she has been blessed with a supportive medical team, therapy team, and family team that has worked together to gain remarkable results.

While she still struggles with her right side, she can walk (with assistance) and is beginning to get her right arm and hand more functional. We invested in the FitMi + MusicGlove + Tablet bundle for her at the beginning of August.

She lights up when we bring it out and enjoys using it for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time. While she still doesn’t have enough strength to perform some of the exercises, she rocks the ones she can do!

Thanks for creating such powerful tools to help those of us caring for stroke patients. What you do really matters!”

David M. Holt’s review of FitMi home therapy

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

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More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Step 1: Download Free Rehab Exercises

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Step 2: Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

Step 3: See What Other Survivors Are Saying