Slurred Speech – What Causes Sudden Speech Problems?

Gradual or sudden deterioration in the way someone speaks could well be a sign of a brain problem. Slurred speech, for instance, is very common in people who have had a mild stroke, but this does not always mean a stroke. Anyone with such problems should seek medical advice right away, as timely intervention is critical. It is possible to prevent a worsening of the condition, or even achieve a degree of recovery, through speech therapy.

At Fairview Adult Day Care Center in Brooklyn NY, we use speech therapy for people with slurred speech due to neurological disorders. Other elderly clients can also benefit from speech therapy which is administered exclusively in-house.

Elderly woman suffering from slurred speech getting speech therapy

Does Slurred Speech Always Mean A Stroke?

No, not necessarily. While difficulty speaking is often associated with stroke victims, there may be other reasons why a person cannot speak properly. Where blood supply to the brain has been interrupted for some reason, brain function can be impaired. Speech problems are common in elderly people with neurological conditions such as dementia. This can, in turn, affect muscles in the mouth and throat and hence verbal communication.

Speech problems do not always indicate a stroke, however. Sometimes old age or extreme tiredness may mean that someone is unable to enunciate words properly. Problems with the facial, throat or mouth muscles can also make speech difficult to understand. Alternatively, drinking too much alcohol can lead to an inability to communicate normally. When the brain is unable to tell your muscles to make the right sounds, speech may become slurred.

What causes sudden slurred speech?

Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, or Bell’s palsy affect speech. A detailed physical examination is needed to determine the precise cause of speech problems.

Difficulty speaking can be the result of a migraine, brain tumor, or an allergic reaction (as in a tongue swelling). Brain infections such as encephalitis or meningitis are further possible causes. A swelling in the throat, or muscle and nerve problems, can also lead to slurred speech. Early speech therapy can sometimes help with diagnosis, as subtly different speech problems can indicate different causes.

Is it serious?

Not being able to communicate properly is serious and can lead to anxiety, depression, frustration, and lack of self-worth. Slurred speech may be due to something relatively trivial like poorly fitting dentures or other dental problems. On the other hand, it can also indicate a potentially life-threatening condition requiring urgent treatment. That’s why it’s vital to get medical advice as soon as possible.

Fairview Adult Day Care Center’s speech and rehabilitation therapists see all kinds of clients with speech problems of one kind or another. After a thorough assessment, speech therapy can improve slurred speech and make a big difference to quality of life. The therapists and other medical professionals at our center are always ready to help clients improve their speech problems, and offer great advice and recommendations to avoid them in the future. We also offer therapeutic recreation activities that help clients relax and have fun.