What is the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) for Parkinson’s Disease?
For many people with Parkinson's disease, making their voice heard can become challenging. Parkinson’s disease is a brain and nervous system disorder, so it can affect nearly every system in the body. This often leads to changes in communication and speech, like speaking more quietly or in monotone, slurring words and even speaking without the type of emotion or engagement they may have used before their diagnosis. Parkinson’s disease can also cause changes to facial expressions that can affect how someone communicates.
Changes in the brain can also lead to an impaired self-perception causing those with Parkinson's disease to mistake their volume as normal while feeling that their family and friends need to check their hearing. This is a common problem among those with Parkinson’s disease: They often feel that the world needs a hearing aid.
What can patients do to improve communication?
Though medication for Parkinson’s disease can sometimes help, the Michael J. Fox Foundation notes that the primary treatment for these voice issues is speech therapy. Speech-language pathologists work with patients to improve communication through adjustments to vocalizations and facial expressions while also addressing memory and language recall.
The most researched and utilized speech therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease is The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) LOUD program which focuses on volume. This plan of care was developed to help people speak more loudly and clearly as they navigate Parkinson’s disease.
What is LSVT LOUD?
The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment LOUD was developed and named for Lee Silverman, a woman with voice issues brought on by Parkinson’s disease. The four-week treatment program is high-intensity speech therapy with the goal of helping people with Parkinson’s disease regain their voices. Once a patient graduates from the program, they can continue to work on maintaining their gains in volume. That’s where the LOUD for Life program comes in. Rather than one-on-one therapy, LOUD for Life is a group session that meets for an hour-long session once a week. During the session, a speech therapist will lead the group through voice exercises and loud group discussions. Many participants enjoy the added social benefit of talking with other people who have Parkinson’s disease and have faced similar challenges.
“I’m making more of an effort to be heard and not just giving up. My voice has certainly become stronger, and I’ve become more confident in using my voice.” – Dorothy M., Ochsner LSVT LOUD participant.
Does it work?
In short? Yes. Research shows that participants in LOUD and LOUD for Life achieve significant improvements in voice volume, especially for those who complete the full program. The program is evidence-based, meaning it is practical approach to scientific medical research to help people get real results. Some benefits of the program are:
- Improved voice volume
- Understanding of volume and home exercises
- Enhanced motivation
- Positive social interaction
- Reduced care partner burden
- Improved focus on wellness
The program has also been shown to improve other speech-related Parkinson’s symptoms like facial expression, swallowing and even articulation and enunciation, which help you make each word sound to speak more clearly.
How do I know if this treatment is right for me?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have Parkinson's disease?
- Do I speak too softly?
- Do people have difficulty understanding me in conversations?
- Do people often ask me to repeat myself?
- Do I feel like the world needs a hearing aid?
If you answered yes to any of these, you could benefit from speech therapy and the LSVT LOUD program. Talk with your neurologist or primary care doctor about your options.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Parkinson's Foundation, Ochsner Therapy & Wellness is now able to offer the LSVT LOUD for Life program at no cost.
If you think the program could benefit you or a loved one, please reach out to our program coordinator for more information.