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Monday, May 21, 2018

I've Gotta Speakin' Problem

The title of this story reminds me of a country song by David Ball called Thinkin' Problem. The opening lyrics are: 
Yes, I admit I've got a thinkin' problem,
She's always on my mind, 
Her memory goes round and round, 
I've tried to quit a thousand times

My new lyrics would be: 
Yes, I admit I've got a speakin' problem, 
My words don't come out right, 
I sound like I've been guzzling beer, 
All day and all through the night

Hmm, maybe I've got the beginnings of a new humorous Parkinson's disease song parody? But the truth is, I never liked the taste of beer and I don't drink any other alcoholic beverages either. I have milk on my cereal and the rest of the day, I drink water. 


No matter how hard I try, I sound like I'm drunk. My upper lip just doesn't move like it should when I am speaking. Try putting a wad of gauze or a big piece of chewing gum between your teeth and your upper lip and then try talking. It isn't easy, is it?? And this isn't my only speech problem.

I also have a difficult time speaking in complete sentences. In some ways, my speech is reverting back to how you speak as a toddler. I will want to blurt out something like, "Hey, why don't we go to DaBoyz for lunch today" and instead it comes out, "Go Boyz lunch." It's extremely frustrating to me.

On top of those two problems, I also have a chronic frog in my throat, so sometimes the first few words I do get out sound scratchy. I am always clearing my throat. Add in a loudness issue and you can imagine how badly I sound. 

Then I saw an advertisement for a research study testing interaction via the internet with the SpeechVive device. SpeechVive is a device that you wear in one ear. It makes a babbling noise whenever you speak and stops when you stop. The premise is that you will speak louder because your brain will try to talk over the noise. Louder might also be clearer. I promptly signed up.  

I qualified for the study and they sent me a left-ear device, computer cords, a tape measure, a USB microphone, reading material, cartoons and instruction sheets. 

 
That black thing in my left ear is the device

I met with my online speech therapist in early January. Brianna had me set up the microphone exactly 12 inches from my mouth (hence the tape measure), take a deep breath and say Ahh for as long as I could. The she had me read a two page story about rainbows WITHOUT the device in. 

Then she had me put the device in my ear with the computer cord attached. She set the loudness of the babbling noise and adjusted when it would start and stop. 

Then she had me do the Ahh again and read the rainbow story again with the device in. I definitely spoke louder. Then I had to make up stories, lasting 2 minutes, to go with the cartoons provided. Who would have thought I would EVER have trouble talking for 2 minutes about anything??

I agreed to wear the device daily and to talk a minimum of three hours a day, even if it meant reading out loud to Parky Raccoon and his friends Miss Bacon, Jerry Giraffe and Parky Penguin. They mostly paid attention and didn't interrupt me too much. 


Miss Bacon, Jerry Giraffe, Parky Raccoon, Parky Penguin

I did as I was instructed and had friends ask me if the thing in my ear was one of those Bluetooth cell phones or if it was a hearing aid. I tried my best to explain that it was to help me speak louder, but I don't think they understood. Most people don't know that Parkinson's affects our voices, too.

After six weeks, I had another online session with Brianna. Again I did the Ahh and rainbow story with and without the device and I was louder than the first sessions. We did the make up a two minute story about the same cartoons and then she just had me talk for two minutes about any topic. I chose talking about the years my Wonderful Husband and I travelled in a RV. She gave me some exercises to do about the upper lip rigidity and I agreed to continue to talk 3 hours a day.

Six weeks go by, and I have another online therapy session with Brianna. Once again I do the Ahh and read the rainbow story with and without the device and my voice is louder. We do the cartoons and a topic of my own (this time I tell her about my flight stories.) At the end of this session, she informs me the research study is done.

A few days later, the research coordinator contacts me and wants to know if I want to purchase the device for my own personal use or return it. I choose to return it. While it did trick me into talking louder, it didn't help with the other problems I have. I mostly ended up sounding like a loud drunk with a bad cold.

I will have one more follow up session, three months from now. I am still trying to facial exercises and have turned up the humidifier in my bedroom at night to see if I can help the scratchy throat. 

At least I can still type my thoughts clearly. Maybe I'll work on the rest of those song lyrics? Ahhhhhhhhhhhh

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