Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Scanning Speech and Multiple Sclerosis

Last year, I wrote an article talking about some of the speech issues that I encounter because of MS and how they are part of the reason I dread using a telephone. Today, I want to focus on one of my more common speech issues. One that can literally leave me speechless or at least sound confusing to those around me. When I am having a bad day, I often struggle mightily with what some people call “scanning speech”.

What is scanning speech?

Scanning speech (also known as staccato or explosive speech by some) is a form of ataxic dysarthria (a motor speech disorder caused by a neurological injury to the cerebellum. It is often seen in people with MS who have a lesion in that part of the brain). When someone has scanning speech, their words and even the syllables of their words are broken up. I may be saying the sentence “The sun is shining today!” but it may come out “The sun”, then a long pause, then the rest of the sentence. It may even come out as “The sun is shin”, long pause “ing today!”. The flow of what you are saying gets interrupted by long pauses. Many people describe it as the “melody” of the way people talk being disrupted. In fact, the word “scanning” in this case comes from the word “scansion”, a literary term for determining the rhythm of a line of poetry, usually by looking at the patterns of syllables in each line.

Different from aphasia

It should be noted that this is different than Aphasia (something I and many people with MS also suffer from), which is the loss of words. That old “it’s on the tip of my tongue but I can’t get it out” issue. Scanning speech is different, because you know what you are trying to say, it’s just getting interrupted as your body is trying to physically say it.

How does it affect us?

Like most speech disorders, scanning speech can have a pretty negative impact on communicating. As I mentioned before, it’s a big reason I hate talking on the phone (a lot of people actually end up thinking that the phone connection keeps getting interrupted). It can also be a little embarrassing when I’m talking to people I don’t know that well. Even if they know I have MS, they may not realize that this is a symptom. Since I often slur my speech as well, it can make me come off like I’ve had a few too many drinks. Speech issues like this can really make people shy away from others, making a lonely disease even more lonely. Aside from all of that, it’s extremely frustrating to experience this, especially when you are trying to get your point across to someone.

It’s very noticeable

We often talk about the invisible nature of many of our symptoms; this one certainly isn’t visible, but it’s very noticeable. The problem, again, is that few people realize this is a symptom of MS and can tend to think it’s some other issue. So I hope I can help raise some awareness about this and some of the other speech issues that those with MS may encounter. The best way to battle scanning speech, as well as other speech disorders, is to meet with a speech therapist. They can often work with you to help lessen the issue or come up with other coping strategies.

Thanks for reading!


My Other Articles On MultipleSclerosis.netFollow Me On Facebook

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Mike H
    9 months ago

    The sentence in your head of what you want to say & reply with is smooth but when you begin to speak it it comes out in pieces, making you sound retarted. The you feel embarrassed. Telephone talk & even face to face conversation is tough for me anymore. I try to avoid it whenever I can. Not healthy to do as we all know.

  • WeenieDogMomma
    9 months ago

    I have seriously struggled with this in the last year, so much so, I quit looking for a new job because everyone insisted on a telephone interview first. My husband asked me why I was acting like I didn’t know what I was talking about during the phone interviews. And he was right. I have trouble in person but so much more on the phone and I feel even worse when the person doesn’t know me. After 5 HORRIBLE phone interviews I decided I should just be happy I have a job.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thank you WeenieDogMomma! Having trouble with phone calls is actually what made me write my first article about speech issues because it has had such and impact on me:
    So I very much understand!

  • LuvMyDog
    9 months ago

    I was once described as verbose by a neurologist. Wordy, used a lot or maybe, too many words in answering a question or while in a conversation. I loved to talk. I had a good education, worked in a field where I talked to many people on a daily basis for many years.
    After 37 years of MS, my conversations are pretty limited. Some days I think I sound like a nut case, attempting to use words I’ve never used before because my speech is sometimes halted, there are spaces between words that shouldn’t be there. If I were someone else, talking to me…I would most likely feel sorry for this poor woman who appears to have very little education, has a problem putting 10 words together and gets annoyed sometimes when trying to do that.
    MS has changed my life in an ugly way.
    I am not the person I used to be.
    I have become someone who chooses to stay out of the public eye as much as possible and I have to practice at times what I’m going to say in order for it to sound right.
    But, I am not going to spend money on a speech therapist. I do not believe it would make that big of a difference.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thank you for sharing LuvMyDog, as always, very much appreciated!

  • ClumsyMumsy2
    9 months ago

    My hubby had a couple strokes earlier this year that did a similar thing to him. If he needs to phone people other than family, I usually have to handle it. I feel so bad at how it frustrates him. I wish he would meet with the speech therapist!

  • CatDancer
    9 months ago

    Hey Devin, this is an interesting topic you bring up. I don’t read or hear much about this topic, even though I know it exists. Probably one reason why I’ve gotten more quiet over the years.
    I just have one question: Do you ever feel embarrassed about the stuff that others do see? I know that as things change or I go through harder times, I get embarrassed sometimes when people can see it. It’s hard to deal with.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thanks so much CatDancer! I certainly get embarrassed, and I’m a person that normally doesn’t get embarrassed much when it comes to other aspects of my life. This particular issue, and others with my speech, because they are so noticeable cause me a lot of embarrassment. I even go through great lengths to avoid talking on the phone, where it’s extremely noticeable. It’s important to remember though, that most people don’t notice, most people, even if they do, don’t think anything about it. Everyone, MS or not, has something they are a little self conscious about. Everyone has something they are hoping others aren’t noticing, something they are embarrassed about. I think that’s just part of being human. Remember though that there is nothing to be embarrassed about, especially MS related, because you’ve got a legitimate excuse for whatever happens! Still, that’s an easier mindset to preach, than it is to follow.

  • Poll