Speech disorder in adults: what is this, causes, symptoms, diagnostics, treatment, prevention

Speech impairment in adults; Language impairment; Impairment of speech; Inability to speak; Aphasia; Dysarthria; Slurred speech; Dysphonia voice disorders

Speech and language impairments can be any of several problems, that make it difficult to communicate.

Speech disorder in adults – it's a term, which describes the difficulties, associated with the production or use of speech. This may include difficulty choosing or using words., mispronunciation of words, inability to pause or change the pace of speech, Other problems. Speech impairment can be caused by various factors..

Types of speech disorders in adults

The following are common speech and language disorders.


Aphasia is the loss of the ability to understand or express spoken or written language.. Usually occurs after stroke or traumatic brain injury. It can also happen in people with brain tumors or degenerative diseases., affecting speech areas of the brain. This term does not apply to children, who never developed communication skills. There are many different types of aphasia.

In some cases of aphasia, the problem resolves itself over time., but in others it does not improve.


In dysarthria, a person has trouble expressing certain sounds or words.. In the presence of this disorder, speech is poorly expressed (eg, gibberish), change in rhythm or speed of speech. Usually a nervous or brain disorder makes it difficult to control the language, lips, larynx or vocal cords, who are speaking.

dysarthria, which presents difficulties with the pronunciation of words, sometimes confused with aphasia, which presents difficulties with speech pronunciation. They have different reasons.

People with dysarthria may also have trouble swallowing.

Voice disorders

Everything, which changes the shape of the vocal cords or, how they work, causes voice disturbance. Cone-shaped growths may be to blame, such as nodules, Polyps, cyst, papilloma, granulomas and cancer. These changes lead to, that the voice sounds different, than usual.

Causes of speech disorders in adults

Some of these disorders develop gradually, but any person may experience a sudden impairment of speech and language, usually as a result of a stroke or injury.

Causes of aphasia

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Encephaloma (more common with aphasia, than dysarthria.)
  • Imbecility
  • Head injury
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

Causes of dysarthria

  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Imbecility
  • Disease, affecting nerves and muscles (neuromuscular diseases), such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), cerebral paralysis, myasthenia gravis or multiple sclerosis (RS)
  • Facial trauma
  • facial weakness, such as Bell's palsy or weakness of the tongue
  • Head injury
  • Surgery for head and neck cancer
  • Nervous System Disorders (neurological), affecting the brain, such as Parkinson's disease or Huntington's disease (more common with dysarthria, than with aphasia)
  • Poorly fitted dentures
  • Side effects of drugs, acting on the central nervous system, such as drugs, phenytoin or carbamazepine.
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

Causes of voice disorders

  • Growths or nodules on the vocal cords
  • People, who actively use their voice (teachers, coaches, vocal performers), voice disorders are more common.

Home Care for Adult Speech Disorders

Ways to improve communication with dysarthria include speaking slowly and using gestures. Family and friends should give people with the disorder enough time to express themselves.. Typing on an electronic device or using pen and paper can also help with communication..

With aphasia, family members may need frequent orientation reminders, eg, about the day of the week. Aphasia often causes disorientation and confusion. It can also help to use non-verbal ways of communicating..

It is important to keep relaxed, calm environment and reduce external stimuli to a minimum .

  • Speak in a normal tone of voice (this condition is not related to hearing or emotional problems).
  • Use simple phrases, to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Do not think, what a person understands.
  • Provide means of communication, if possible, depending on the person and condition.

Mental health counseling can help with depression or frustration, that many people with speech disorders have.

When to See a Doctor for Speech Disorders in Adults

Contact your doctor, if:

  • Speech impairment or loss occurs suddenly
  • Sudden onset of any unexplained disturbance in speech or writing

What to Expect When Visiting a Doctor for Speech Disorders in Adults

If the problems did not develop after the emergency, the doctor will take a medical history and conduct a physical examination. Medical history may require assistance from family or friends.

Doctor, probably, ask about a speech impediment. Questions may include, when the problem arose, whether there was an injury and what medications the person is taking.

  • Diagnostic tests, which can be fulfilled, include:Blood tests
  • Cerebral angiography to check blood flow in the brain
  • CT or MRI of the head to identify such problems, like a tumor
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the electrical activity of the brain
  • Rheotachygraphy ( DOH ) to check the health of muscles and nerves, that control muscles
  • Lumbar puncture to check cerebrospinal fluid, that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
  • Urine
  • X-rays of the skull

If tests reveal other health problems, you will need to consult with other medical specialists.

Help with speech problems, probably, you will need to consult a speech therapist or social worker.

Used literature and sources

Kirshner HS. Dysarthria and apraxia of speech. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 14.

Kirshner HS, Wilson SM. Aphasia and aphasic syndromes. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 13.

Rossi RP, Kortte JH, Palmer JB. Speech and language disorders. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 155.

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