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May 2020

Speech can be impacted by a brain injury: Here’s how

After a brain injury, one of the hardest things for some patients to deal with is the impact on cognition and communication. It is possible to lose your speech or to see your speech altered as a result of a brain injury. Despite that, you deserve to be heard. Your speech may come back with time, but in the meantime, you still deserve an opportunity to make your wishes known in any way possible.

Normally, the effects of a brain injury do hit the hardest immediately following the injury. Some of the symptoms you have may be caused by temporary damage due to bruising or swelling. Thankfully, those kinds of injuries are usually temporary, and the symptoms they cause tend to go away once the injuries resolve.

In some cases, language problems will be temporary. In others, they may last much longer or become permanent in some way. Some of the common speech problems include:

  • Having trouble finding words
  • Lacking the ability to structure sentences
  • Having to use lengthy or faulty descriptions or explanations

In many cases, using long explanations or poor sentences is a direct result of being unable to remember words or recall them when needed. For example, someone looking for their boots may ask for their cow socks or use similar verbiage to get someone to understand what they need.

Speech can also be slowed by a traumatic brain injury. In some cases, a person with a TBI may be difficult or impossible to understand because of dysarthria. If someone has this problem, they may have suffered damage to the areas of the brain in control of the muscles that allow for speech.

Another possible issue with speech is called apraxia. This is when the coordination and strength of the muscles isn’t impaired but producing words is still difficult. For instance, someone might continue to stumble when trying to say “yesterday” or “sandwich” on their own but be able to use the words in a sentence.

Speech is complex, so it’s not surprising that it can be affected in so many different ways. The good news is that there are speech therapists and treatments that could help restore speech, at least enough for a person to be understood. Oral-motor exercises can be used when a person has trouble with swallowing or the muscles that help produce speech.

Overall, speech is a tricky issue with brain injuries, but it can often be improved over time.

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