Slurred speech after a head injury is a common effect of traumatic brain injury. Of course, that doesn’t sound very comforting when you are the one stuck living with it.
It can be intensely frustrating, not to mention lonely and depressing, to feel unable to communicate with others. Thankfully, speech therapists have come up with ways to treat this condition and reduce the amount of word slurring head injury patients experience.
This article will show you how to manage slurred speech after a head injury and how to communicate effectively in spite of it.
Slurred Speech After Head Injury
The condition that causes slurred or slow speech is called dysarthria. It occurs when the areas of the brain that control the muscles we use for speech are damaged.
This is why it is often hard for head injury patients to fully form words, even though you may know exactly what you want to say.
Dysarthria is closely related to but separate from aphasia, which involves difficulty expressing yourself and finding or remembering the right words.
Treatment for Slurred Speech After Head Injury
While treatment of dysarthria must be individualized to address specific needs, there are two general approaches a speech therapist may use to help improve speech function:
Approach #1: The Restorative Approach
The restorative approach focuses on improving speech intelligibility and efficiency.
This approach uses a variety of speech therapy exercises to help increase muscle strength in the mouth and tongue in the hope of restoring function.
These exercises also help activate neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s method of rewiring itself.
Approach #2: The Compensatory Approach
The compensatory approach to treating slurred speech involves inventing different creative strategies in order to improve communication with others.
For example, learning the best posture you should use for speaking, learning how to avoid difficult words without sacrificing your meaning etc…
All of these techniques are aimed at helping you make sure others can understand you.
The best option for recovery is to combine both approaches for maximum effect. But in this article, we are going to take a closer look at some of the tactics you can use right now to improve communication with slurred speech in your daily life.
Tips For Communicating With Slurred Speech
The following are four helpful tactics speech therapists often give their patients to help cope with slurred speech issues in day to day activities.
These techniques should help you convey yourself easier to others.
1. Speak slowly
It may be frustrating at first, but consciously speaking slower will make articulating your words a little easier and also give your listener time to comprehend you better.
2. Use short words and phrases
Start with smaller words and sentences so that your conversation partner will be able to easily follow. This also reduces the chances of you tiring out before finishing what you want to say.
A great method you can try using is to say one word or phrase that signals what the topic is going to be before moving on to full sentences. For example, you could say “food” before talking about what you want to eat for lunch.
3. Pause often
It’s helpful to periodically pause and check to make sure your listener is understanding you well. It also gives your facial muscles a little break, which will help you to speak for longer.
4. Use Gestures
Never underestimate the power of hand gestures! They are often very effective and most people use them already.
If all else fails, you can always get creative with a drawing or written message.
Patient and Caregiver Tips for Family and Friends
Communication is a two-way street. You don’t need to do all the work on your own to make yourself understood. There are techniques your listener can also use to make conversation easier.
Here are some more tips you can share with your family and friends so they will be able to communicate with you better.
5. Read My Lips
Encourage your listener to pay close attention to you as you speak. This will help them understand what you are saying.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Your listener shouldn’t try to pretend they can understand you when they actually cannot. This is not helpful to either of you. Encourage them to be honest and ask questions!
It might even be helpful for them to repeat back what they think you said and what they are not sure of, so you don’t have to start all over from the beginning.
7. Ask Yes or No Questions
With that said, your conversation partner should try to use yes or no questions as often as possible. This puts less strain on you and will make communication flow smoother between you.
Coping with Slurred Speech After Head Injury
Slurred speech can be extremely frustrating. You may feel as though you will never be understood again. But as this article has hopefully shown, that is not the case!
There are many different treatments available to help you manage your slurred speech.
By utilizing the techniques listed above, and sharing them with your family and friends, you can make meaningful improvements and start to communicate effectively with others once again.