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Speech Therapy for Adults: Everything You Need to Know

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Speech therapy is a form of treatment for communication issues and speech disorders. A speech therapist can develop a treatment plan that will help alleviate a person’s speech issues and overcome communication barriers such as stuttering and voice disorders. 

Children are most commonly affected by speech impediments and often undergo speech therapy in early childhood. However, as some adults grow older they may need speech therapy due to medical conditions.

You or a loved one may experience a medical condition that complicates speech and language abilities, which is difficult and often lonely. Specialized treatments are available to help relieve the stress of overcoming these complications.

What is Speech Therapy?

Speech therapy helps adults overcome speech impairments such as:

  • Apraxia
  • Dysarthria
  • Stuttering
  • Voice disorders

A speech-language pathologist (SLP), more commonly known as a speech therapist, is a trained professional who specializes in rehabilitating a person’s speech. 

Since speech therapy helps people overcome verbal communication challenges, many treatments involve exercising the mouth, tongue, and throat to strengthen them for everyday use when talking. Some speech therapists focus specifically on adult speech impairments.

Symptoms of Speech Impairment in Adults

Some symptoms of adult speech impairment include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Throat contraction
  • Uncontrolled drooling
  • Weakened facial muscles
A woman practicing how to pronounce different words

Medical Conditions That Might Require Speech Therapy

Adults typically develop speech impairments because of medical conditions that affect the brain, mouth, or throat. There are some cases where a person may develop some speech impairment symptoms without a known medical condition. In these cases, seek medical assistance as soon as possible. 

An adult might experience speech impairment because of complications from another medical condition or injury. In these cases, the road to recovery is long, but speech therapists are well-equipped to help regain a person’s ability to communicate verbally.


Dementia can make life more difficult, affecting a person’s memory and thinking skills. A person with dementia will often require special care to maintain a joyous and fulfilled life. 

Common symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Impaired motor function
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Difficulty completing tasks

One of the main goals in treating dementia is maintaining a high quality of life. Speech therapy can help people with dementia remain independent and clearly communicate their needs. Dementia can impair a person’s communication skills, but speech therapy can also help maintain a person’s thinking and reasoning abilities. 

A speech therapist can help a person with dementia:

  • Problem solve
  • Maintain attention
  • Exercise memory
  • Communicate clearly

Being experts on how the mouth functions, speech therapists often help people with dementia develop strategies to eat safely, which can help them maintain some independence. 

Laryngeal Cancer

Your vocal cords are located in your larynx, or voice box. When you speak, air is pushed through your vocal cords and out your mouth, allowing you to communicate verbally with other people. Laryngeal cancer affects the larynx and can cause:

  • Vocal hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Throat discomfort
  • Severe coughing

Laryngeal cancer is often treated through a surgery called a laryngectomy to remove cancerous cells. Being primarily responsible for vocal communication, a speech therapist can help you find a new way to speak after surgery.

Losing your ability to speak sounds scary, but speech therapists are experts in helping you communicate verbally, and are dedicated to helping you develop new speaking skills. These can include:

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer covers any instance of cancer in your lips, jaw, tongue, cheeks, throat, or gums. Oral cancer can significantly impact how a person speaks because it affects mouth movements. A person may need to relearn how to chew and swallow as well. 

Treatments for oral cancer include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. A speech therapist can help someone undergoing oral cancer treatment since treatment will often cause soft or irregular speech. Speech therapy is also helpful in learning new eating strategies.

Right Hemisphere Brain Injury

While the brain’s left hemisphere controls language skills, the right hemisphere is responsible for attention, memory, and problem-solving. These are essential skills that a person with a right hemisphere brain injury can find difficult to recover, especially after receiving treatment. 

Speech therapy is a critical component of assessing a person’s recovery progress by testing their communication, attention, and memory skills. As experts in communication and reasoning, speech therapists can help develop strategies to make daily life easier.

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious condition that often requires months or years of treatment. A TBI is usually caused by a severe blow to the head that directly impacts the brain through the skull and leads to immediate brain damage. Someone suffering from a TBI can experience difficulty with speech, language, eating, and thinking. 

Speech therapy is essential to regaining brain function after a TBI. A speech therapist can help:

  • Redevelop speech & language skills
  • Create strategies to maintain attention
  • Suggest ways to improve memory
  • Learn how to eat safely
  • Work on understanding new information

Speech Therapy Can Help Improve Quality of Life

A person’s ability to communicate can greatly affect their quality of life, helping them participate socially and remain independent. Whether it’s because of a medical condition or to improve communication, speech therapy is an ideal resource for you or your loved one. 

Written by kaplan

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