Which speech tendencies should be assessed in patients with Parkinson disease (PD)?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019
  • Author: Robert A Hauser, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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As the patient is speaking, the vocal loudness, intonation, and quality, including fluidity of speech and articulation, should be assessed. Sustaining vowel phonation (eg, "ah") for maximum duration, counting to 50, and reading a passage that tests articulation (eg, the rainbow passage) provide reasonable speech samples. Closely listening for reduced or diminishing loudness and intonation and increasing breathiness and hoarseness helps differentiate Parkinson disease from hyperkinetic disorders such as spasmodic dysphonia. [28]

A soft, monotone voice, vocal tremor, poor articulation, variable speech rate, trouble with the initiation of speech, and stuttering-like qualities are all characteristics of Parkinson disease. Perhaps the most telling vocal symptom is the marked contrast between habitual vocal volume (soft and diminishing) and the patient's response to a request to increase loudness. A request to "say that again, twice as loud" often results in increased loudness, improved voice quality, and a dramatic improvement in speech intelligibility.

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