New Therapy Helps Parkinson's Patients with Speech and Vocal Loudness

Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital is proud to offer a new therapy for patients with Parkinson’s Disease, which can help improve the volume and clarity of their speech. Kerry Worthing, M.S. CCC-SLP, an Outpatient Speech-Language Pathologist at Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital, is certified to practice LSVT LOUD, a Lee Silverman Voice Therapy. “Impairments in voice and speech are very prevalent in individuals with Parkinson Disease,” she explains. “Sometimes, the first changes an individual may notice are reduced volume, hoarse voice and/or monotone speech. Other changes may include decreased intelligibility, imprecise articulation/ slurred speech or vocal tremor.”

Research has shown LSVT LOUD treatment not only improves vocal loudness and speech, but also supports positive changes in the brain, including facial expression, respiration and even brain function. “LSVT LOUD methods are consistent with theories of motor learning and skill acquisition as well as principles of neural plasticity,” says Worthing. “Neural plasticity refers to our brain’s capability to develop new connections enabling the brain to ‘rewire’ itself to compensate for injury or disease.  The method at which LSVT LOUD is applied encourages maximal plasticity.” 

The treatment is intensive over a period of 16 sessions in one month. Worthing explains why frequency is key to success for patients. “Research data indicates that intensive practice is important for maximal neural plasticity,” she says. “LSVT requires intensity of practice both within therapy sessions and outside of the treatment room with daily homework and carryover practice.  Research indicates that patients see the greatest results and best maintenance with this frequency of treatment.” LSVT therapy is offered in an outpatient setting to enable patients to continue their practice at home. 

Worthing says the high-level of effort and intensity pay off. “Maintenance research indicates that quality of speech and loudness is maintained for at least six months to two years following completion,” she adds. “During treatment, a homework routine is developed and well established so patients are able to continue to progress on their own. After the patient is discharged, the treating therapist will follow-up after two to six months to see how they are doing. Sometimes, one to two ‘tune-up’ sessions might be necessary.” 

While the treatment is ideal for Parkinson’s patients, it is also available to individuals with other neurological diagnoses including stroke, multiple sclerosis and ataxia. “There is exciting new research indicating that LSVT LOUD may be applied to treat individuals with these conditions; however, further research needs to be completed,” adds Worthing.

To learn more about this program, please call Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital at 505.727.4725.

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