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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What voice and swallowing issues are common in people with Parkinson's?

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  • 1

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    Nikki Martin

    Speech Pathologist

    I have over 13 years experience in adult Speech Pathology and specialise in voice and swallowing problems/cancers of the face and throat. I work very ... View Profile

    Both voice and swallowing issues are common in people with Parkinson's.

    The swallowing issues tend to progress ie get worse as the disease progresses. They can involve difficulty chewing and or swallowing food, liquids, medications or saliva. People with Parkinson's often report that their swallow function is the best about half an hour after taking their Parkinson's medication. Some signs and symptoms that someone with Parkinson's is having swallowing difficulties are as follows: drooling of saliva/drink/food, coughing when eating/drinking, weight loss, longer time to eat a meal, recurrent chest infections/pneumonias. There are food and fluid modifications that can be made and safe swallowing strategies that can be recommended by a Speech Pathologist. Someone with severe swallowing issues may be admitted to hospital with a chest infection that may required intubation/ventilation. Seek help from a Speech Pathologist if any of the above signs apply to you.

    In regards to voice, someone with Parkinson's will speak with a breathy/soft voice. This happens because the vocal folds (sound source) are bowed and don't come together to produce a strong sound. People with Parkinson's also have poor breath support (from the lungs) which causes a low volume voice. The good news is that there is a fantastic voice therapy program call LSVT-Loud which increases the volume and clarity of people's voices. This program is specifically taregetted to people with Parkinson's. It also can improve swallow function. There is an exciting new therapy that will be coming to Australia this year that will help people with Parkinson's- both with their voice and swallowing.

    If any of you have any questions/need help, please don't hestitate to contact me.

    Nikki Martin
    Speech Pathologist

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    Dr. Matthew Broadhurst

    Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon

    Dr Matt Broadhurst is a fellowship trained laryngeal surgeon specialising in laryngeal surgery and voice restoration. He returned to Brisbane from Boston, Massachusetts in 2007 ... View Profile

    Parkinson's patients often have a weak or soft voice which can fatigue quickly. This can lead to social withdrawl and isolation, reducing the quality of life.  LSVT is a speech therapy tecnique that can benefit some patients, while a simple awale injection into the vocal fold to help them close better, can help others.

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