Speech is controlled by many areas in the brain. MS lesions (damaged areas) in different parts of the brain can cause several types of changes in normal speech patterns. They range from mild difficulties to severe problems that make it difficult to be understood. Medically, problems with speech are called dysarthria. Dysarthria is commonly associated with other symptoms caused by lesions in the brainstem. These include tremor
, head shaking or incoordination.
- One pattern that is commonly associated with MS is scanning speech. Scanning dysarthria produces speech in which the normal "melody" or speech pattern is disrupted, with abnormally long pauses between words or individual syllables of words.
- People with MS may also slur words. This is usually the result of weakness and/or incoordination of the muscles of the tongue, lips, cheeks and mouth.
- Nasal speech is possible, which sounds as though the person has a cold or nasal obstruction.
- Sometimes due to weakness in the diaphragm, speech volume can be affected and it may be difficult to be heard.
Many people with dysarthria can by helped by a speech/language pathologist, who can evaluate and help to improve speech patterns, enunciation and oral communication in general.
If speech problems make communication challenging, assistive devices are available. Apps are available for smart phones that can help with communication and other devices are also available that may be of assistance. A speech/language pathologist will be able to suggest assistive devices.
Many persons with dysarthria also have dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing). Speech therapists are trained to evaluate, diagnose and relieve these problems.