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When My Voice Won’t Work

Since I was young, I’ve been given a hard time about how soft-spoken I am. Not only that, but I’m soft-spoken and I tend to mumble. To me, I feel that I talk normally, but to others, I speak softly and it’s difficult to hear. I didn’t have any idea until a couple of years ago that this could be because of my MS.

My voice feels weak after speaking up

I am unsure of which speech problem I deal with the most, but I do know that I struggle with speech volume as well as a shaky voice on occasion. I will touch on the different types of speech issues in a second. My husband always tells me I have two volumes. He says I’m either barely talking or I’m yelling. As I mentioned earlier though, while to him it seems like I’m barely talking, to me it feels like I’m speaking normally. And then when I speak up so that he can hear better, I am actually yelling. I always feel like when I try to make extra effort to talk more loudly, that I feel like I strain my voice. Heaven forbid if I actually do yell, too, because then my voice really feels tired. After talking loudly or yelling, even if unintentionally, I can immediately tell how weak my voice feels. It feels so weak that it is almost painful. As I mentioned earlier, I am a mumbler. It is one of those things that I don’t even realize I am doing, but I am told I do it often. MS comes with many symptoms, but I had never really considered how my speech issues and MS were connected.

Different speech issues: dysarthria

In multiple sclerosis, there are several types of speech issues. MS lesions are in different parts of the brain for everyone, but depending on where they are located, they can cause several speech difficulties. These problems with speech are called dysarthria. I did not know this until I read it on the National MS Society’s website, but dysarthria is commonly associated with other symptoms caused by lesions in the brainstem. These symptoms include tremor, head shaking and or incoordination, all of which I have experienced. Another speech issue is called scanning dysarthria. This means our normal speech patterns are disrupted causing abnormally long pauses between words or individual syllables of words. Slurring of the words and nasal speech are also possible.

Dysphonia

MS patients may also deal with dysphonias. Dysphonia is difficulty speaking due to reduced control of the muscles of your lips, tongue, mouth, throat, and/or vocal cords. In MS, dysphonia causes trouble controlling the volume of speech, meaning speaking too softly to be heard or louder than what is usually appropriate. Some other examples include hoarseness, raspy voice, or a change in pitch when you try to talk. Actress Selma Blair, who recently came out with her diagnosis, revealed that her MS led to Spasmodic Dysphonia. This condition caused for her a speech pattern marked by a strained choppiness. She bravely shared this part of her disease in a televised interview. During the interview, viewers were clearly able to hear the choppiness, shakiness, and strain in her voice. While speech issues can be incredibly embarrassing and hard to deal with, she shared so openly and allowed others a view into some of the more unknown aspects of MS. I couldn’t help but tear up watching her interview because I know how terrifying and embarrassing speech issues can feel. Yet, she shared without hesitation on national television and raised such awareness about MS.

How does MS affect your speech?

Thanks for reading!

Calie

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

Comments

  • itasara
    2 months ago

    Interesting article. My problem is that I am a singer. I still sing, but I have had some vocal issues that may nor may not be MS related. I think my biggest contributing factor is aging.
    Speaking too at times I find tiring. I have what is called a bowed vocal cord. My ENT vocal doc can’t say that it is MS per say but more likely heredity or age. He thinks I may also have some silent acid reflux. So I try to avoid acid foods and take a pill for it every day. Not sure how much all that is helping. My sx are hard to explain but I noticed a change in the ease of singing a couple years ago. I was dx’d with MS 13 years ago. It has been somewhat a mild course for me. I was 57 at dx and now am 71. I still take voice lessons and until Sept. I was a cantorial vocalist, but decided it was time to retire. I feel like I have edema around my vocal cords most of the time. Maybe it is some kind of allergy I don’t know about. I have never been an allergic type. I feel vocally tired at times and although I maintain most of my high notes I feel like my throat closes in on them or I feel strained when singing. Could it be neurologic? hard to say. Aging is very difficult for most singers, especially women. I have been and am still on HRT for 25 years and I feel good in general, maybe because of it. There is new research on this but still early and no one really has a grip on this.

  • itasara
    2 months ago

    I’d like to add to my post that I have had a really difficult time memorizing lyrics any more. I was never a great memorizer but not like now. For my recital I worked on memorizing a few lines for over a month. But still did not have the confidence to be sure I would remember them. So I did not use music ( the notes I usually remember) but had the words in front of me for security. This could be MS or it too could be aging. I take all kinds of supplements for cognition. Do they help? Not sure.

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    2 months ago

    @itasara it sounds like singing is very special to you! I’m so sorry to hear that it’s gotten more difficult with age. Thank you so much for sharing and for commenting!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • BeckyAnn
    3 months ago

    I have a lot of trouble keeping my train of thought and getting the words out.
    I also seem to get strangled a lot more lately.
    Sometimes when I am not even eating or drinking.
    I have stopped going out to restaurants because I am afraid of getting strangled.

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    3 months ago

    @beckyann I also struggle with keeping my train of thought. It often is hard for my mouth to keep up with what my brain is firing. I am so sorry to hear you feel strangled. Have you mentioned this to your doctor? I know that must be every.

    Thank you for reading and commenting!!

    Calie

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    3 months ago

    Must be *scary

  • Intimid18
    3 months ago

    By the end of the day, my voice is almost nonexistent. My wife is an angel, patiently waiting as I repeat what I said 2 or 3 times.

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    3 months ago

    @intimid18 I understand! It’s so nice having patient spouses. I often have to repeat myself as well! Thank you for sharing!!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • Kim Dolce moderator
    3 months ago

    Calie, thank you for this informative personal narrative about impaired speech. I can relate to so much of it myself and have often wondered whether it’s MS-related. This info will be invaluable to our readers, too. Thank you so much for sharing this! –Kim, moderator

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    3 months ago

    @kimd thank you so much for your kind and uplifting words!!

    ❤️ Calie

  • Fawsiya
    3 months ago

    Thank you for sharing Calie.

    I can 200% relate, you have essentially told my experience with speech related symptoms. My psychologist has told me that I need to practice voice modulation as I have a very soft monotone voice. It make me sound uninterested/disconnected.

    Becoming more aware of my speech just means that I’m now noticing all these ‘problems’ that were never really problems.

    Bright side, when I say something stupid atleast no one will hear it

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    3 months ago

    @fawsiya thank you for sharing your experience and thank you for reading! I’m also thankful when I say something stupid, often times no one can hear it, ha!

    Best wishes, Calie

  • mwrightorlando
    3 months ago

    Thanks for writing… Good evening Calie!

    Extremely informative, personal and heartfelt. Thanks for sharing…

    Selma Blair’s interview was extremely brave, She is an actress, which in fact is the art of reacting, that reacted purely in that moment. She offered a raw, real look at what some of us may cope with.

    Definitely display symptoms of both dysarphia and dysphonia, more the dysphonia when relapsing.

    What type of MS do you have?

    Namaste’
    Mike

  • Calie Wyatt moderator author
    3 months ago

    @mwrightorlando Mike, thank you for your kind words and thank you for reading!! I appreciate your comment! I was diagnosed with RRMS 15 years ago. It has been a rollercoaster for sure!

    Best wishes, Calie

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