How Parkinson’s Disease Harms Communication

Parkinson’s disease tends to interfere with many aspects of life—not just with motor functions, as is commonly assumed.

The Journal of Voice has just published a study showing that Parkinson’s disease interferes with one fundamental way we communicate. And that just adds to the isolation of people who suffer from Parkinson’s.

Many people with Parkinson’s disease know that they have problems with speaking and communicating clearly. The authors of this study reviewed some previous research in their article showing that Parkinson’s disease patients rated themselves as worse than other people at holding a conversation.

Researchers have not ignored this aspect of Parkinson’s disease, but available studies that have tried to gauge the amount of speech performed by patients have asked them to rate how much they thought they spoke per day.

The problem with self-reported speech frequency and amount is that people normally overestimate the amount they speak, which is true for both Parkinson’s patients and other people.

To overcome this problem, these researchers decided to ask their study participants to wear vocal monitors to record the amount of speech they performed daily.

They recruited 15 people with Parkinson’s and 15 without, asking them to wear these vocal monitors for three days.

In addition, they asked participants to complete the Voice Handicap Index, a questionnaire that records the psychosocial consequences of voice disorders, as experienced by patients with such disorders.

After processing the data, they reached two conclusions:1. People with Parkinson’s speak approximately 54 fewer minutes per day than other people do. This is about 60% less.

2. Those who report the highest number of negative psychosocial consequences because of voice/speech problems speak less than those who report fewer negative consequences.

This study is important because it supports previous studies in finding that Parkinson’s sufferers speak less than other people do.

It is also important because it shows how the fear of negative psychosocial consequences stemming from their speech difficulties motivates people to speak even less.

The authors suggest that, if future studies also use vocal monitors to record the speech output of Parkinson’s patients, interventions can be planned for improving communication, and these interventions can then be tested objectively for effectiveness.

This study also serves as a lesson to the rest of us to guard against critical responses to the speech problems of Parkinson’s patients, to listen, to refrain from interrupting, and to help with nonverbal communication methods when needed.

But if you suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, you’ll definitely want to do everything in your power to improve it. Parkinson’s is incurable, but you can stop it from progressing and even improve it quite a bit by using the simple, natural steps explained here…

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