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Helping Parkinson's Patients Find Their Voice

Thursday December 25, 2008

Robin Thibault

Arkansasmatters.com - People who suffer with Parkinson’s disease face many obstacles, including speech problems.

A new treatment now aims to help break down the communication barrier for patients.

Ten years ago Carolyn Reed was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But it wasn't until recently that her illness made talking a challenge.

"I could hear them, but they couldn't hear me."

Pathologists say this is a common obstacle for Parkinson’s patients. It's called Disarthrea. A patient's speech can become softer and harder to understand.

"It's difficult for them to be able to gage the amount of loudness or effort that's required for them to be understood at a normal conversational level." "Carolyn said the hardest part was that no one -- not even her husband could understand her ... but when she came here to total rehab care all of that changed." "You're talking about one month of treating a patient and seeing a life change in four weeks."

Results achieved using the Lee Silverman voice treatment.

The therapy has been around for years, but remains harder to find because therapists must be certified.

Carolyn was the guinea pig at Washington County Hospital, therapists used a sound pressure level meter to gage how loud Carolyn was talking and progressively brought her voice back.

"Her decibel level on the sound pressure meter was about 68 decibels and that was difficult to understand especially in a loud or noisy environment, by the time she left us she was consistently 75 decibels."

"I don't have to ask her as often to speak up or repeat herself."

"Definitely improvement. It encouraged her and encouraged me."

Two other patients have completed the program in Washington county, they're back to doing things they never thought they'd do again. For Carolyn that includes reading to her granddaughter.

"I read to her. She knows what I've read, which makes a big difference."

And that's not the only change, Carolyn's also using her new found voice to spread the news about the treatment.