Dramatic Gains for Patients with
to the Journal By Phyllis Mazurski,
Parkinson’s disease is widespread
in the United States. This chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder
affects 1.5 million people, with associated annual costs of about $34 billion
in direct health care for patients, disability compensation, and lost
productivity. The average age of onset is at 60 years and the risk for
developing Parkinson’s increases with age.
As the condition progresses, the
ability to walk and move about freely diminishes. One of the most difficult
aspects of Parkinson’s disease, however, is its impact on a person’s ability to
communicate. Because Parkinson’s affects the muscles in the throat and larynx,
speech becomes quieter, softer, more breathy, and less intelligible. It becomes
difficult to articulate and the voice drops into a monotone. Many people with
Parkinson’s choose to retire from their jobs because it becomes increasingly
difficult to be understood. They often become isolated.
Eighty-nine percent of people with
Parkinson’s have speech and voice problems, yet only about 4 percent of them
actually receive speech treatment.
there effective vocal therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease?
Yes, the Lee Silverman Voice
Treatment for Parkinson’s disease is a very effective approach to speech
treatment. I am trained and certified in this program and have had very good
success with it in helping Parkinson’s patients. We have had people come
through this program at the age of 90 who have made wonderful progress and
regained significant vocal quality.
is this approach different from traditional speech-language therapy?
The Lee Silverman approach is
different in that it is quite intensive. The patient meets with his or her
speech-language therapist four times a week for four weeks and also practices
at home. Each treatment session requires maximum effort on the part of patients
in order to achieve their goals. Patients do the same exercises on a daily
basis because repetition really helps to incorporate the new behaviors they are
do I know if I’m a good candidate for this kind of therapy?
Your doctor will refer you to a
speech-language pathologist for a speech evaluation. Our department is located
at Cayuga Medical Center in the Outpatient Services area, just inside the main
entrance. If you are an appropriate candidate and are interested in committing
the time and effort, we can commence with therapy.
What do the daily exercises entail?
Your homework will be specific to
you and your goals. Having said that, most people with Parkinson’s do share
some typical symptoms, one of which is abnormal sensory perception. Over the
course of the illness as their voices gradually change, individuals with
Parkinson’s become accustomed to speaking quietly. As a result, they perceive
that they are speaking at a sufficiently loud volume, even though people around
them have trouble hearing them.
From the very start of their speech
therapy, people engaged in Lee Silverman Voice Treatment must begin immediately
to use their new, louder voice outside of their therapy sessions. Together, we
identify specific phrases they use every day and we practice saying those
phrases in a new voice. Then, when they use that same expression spontaneously
at home, it triggers the learning process. When a patient leaves the first
therapy session, the first piece of homework is to greet their spouse or friend
in the waiting room with their new, louder voice. The response is always
positive and the patient gets immediate feedback that their new voice is being
While it’s true that Parkinson’s is
a progressive disease, if you get treatment and stay active and productive, you
can extend and improve your quality of life. Every patient we’ve worked with
using the Lee Silverman Treatment program has made very significant gains in
their voice quality. The results have been quite dramatic.
If you want to find out more,
please call (607) 274-4504. We would be happy to talk with you.
Mazurski, MS, CCC-SLP is a certified speech-language
pathologist who is trained and certified in the Lee Silverman Treatment Program
for Parkinson’s disease. She works in the Department of Rehabilitation at
Cayuga Medical Center where she can be reached at (607) 274-4504.