Improving Quality of Voice in PD: By Dr. De Leon


We have all experienced a change in our voices as Parkinson’s has taken over our lives. It can be extremely frustrating for both the person with Pd as well as the caregiver to constantly be asking to reiterate what he or she said. This is because family thinks we either mumble or slur or words when we speak which only escalates the frustration when trying to have a conversation especially in noisy places.

First you must remember that your voice is produced by muscles in your throat which are also getting stiff and slow so you must take care of them.

Ways to Care for your Voice:

1) Do not strain them by shouting over loud noise when you speak. I often get severely hyphophonic (soft voice), aphonic (no voice) even dysphonic (difficulty producing sounds) if I have to force myself to speak very loud for a long time in a loud environment.

2) Rest your voice when is tired and cover your throat with a scarf, the warmth is not only soothing but heals it when has been over worked.

3) Make sure you don’t have heartburn because this can injure your vocal cords.

4) Drink plenty of fluids especially water.

5) Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages.

6) I recommend that everyone should be evaluated by a speech therapist and undergo the LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) program with a certified professional to improve output and projection of voice.

Another great exercise for maintaining your voice is singing! Join a choir or sing at home or join a PD singing group some of which are beginning to pop up around the country like the “Spokane Tremble Clefs.” people singing

But don’t strain your vocal cords; gently reach for both high and low notes while singing the lyrics as clear as you can. I guarantee that not only will your voice improve but your spirit will soar.

***One interesting scenario***

My daughter had a wonderful end of year music program in which I was so very proud to see her blossom. She put many hours of preparation at home singing. She was so excited that on one occasion she asked me to join in on the more popular songs. As we started to sing I quickly experienced spasmodic dysphonia. Although this was pretty funny to my daughter, we continued to sing. Then I switched to singing in Spanish since they were also popular in my native tongue what I discovered was something fascinating. I could sing perfectly well in Spanish (with a beautiful voice); yet I could no longer hold a tune in English. I knew that since my diagnosis with PD my voice had altered. Never had I noticed that it was only in my second language.

As a neurologist, I had witnessed many times bilingual patients suffering strokes in the areas of speech losing only their second language but never notice same type of phenomena occurring in my PD patients. There is something to be said for learning more than one language and brain’s ability to compensate for loss. So keep on singing and learning …if you already speak other languages give your PD voice a rest by switching languages or better yet learn a new one!

Johnson, Marjorie L. National Parkinson’s Foundation- “Parkinson’s Disease Speech and Swallowing.”


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