Improve Speech By Managing Dysphagia

Did you know that May is Better Speech and Hearing Month? This is a good opportunity to check out an area of healthcare we often don’t pay enough attention to. Good speech and hearing are necessary for effective communication and social well-being, but there are a number of factors, some of which we don’t usually think about, that can adversely affect our speech or hearing.

One common cause of speech disorder involves dysphagia, which is the impairment of swallowing ability. It may seem odd to you that swallowing problems are related to speech problems, but in fact, speech-language pathologists are the primary health care providers for dysphagia, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (asha.org).

Dysphagia can affect swallowing

Impaired swallow function after a stroke

Impaired swallow function after a stroke

Dysphagia can be caused by several conditions, such as stroke or neuromuscular disorders, that affect speech as well. Furthermore, dysphagia itself can be a cause of speech impediments. When food and liquid get stuck in our swallowing passageways, it can cause our voices to sound gurgly and make it strenuous to speak.

If you have dysphagia or are a caregiver for someone who does, read on for a comparison of our specially designed drinking cups for people with this and other conditions.

Flow control

Wedge Cup

Wedge Cup Photo by:Travis Gauthier

One strategy for drinking liquids is to practice “flow control.” The Wedge Cup, for example, allows the user to adjust the amount of liquid released upon each sip through an advanced and patented lid system. Following these instructions, you can adjust the flow and mouthpiece position to your preferences. This cup can be used with both thin and thick liquids.

PROVALE Cup

PROVALE Cup

The PROVALE Cup was developed with the input of hundreds of speech-language pathologists and is designed to encourage healthy drinking habits for people with dysphagia. Part of the goal of this cup’s design is also to prevent the reliance on pre-thickened liquids used to make swallowing easier. Therefore, thick liquids should not be used with the PROVALE Cup. Instead, the user is limited to 5 cc or 10 cc of liquid intake with each drinking motion. Small sips of liquid help prevent aspiration.

Sip-Tip Cup Package

Sip-Tip Cup Package

The Sip-Tip Cup Package represents another strategy for managing liquid flow. While the other cups mentioned are ideal for drinking without a straw, the Sip-Tip Cup Package is a cup with a straw that has a valve. The valve keeps the straw full of liquid after the initial priming. Priming is accomplished by pressing down several times on the flexible lid. This prevents the problematic swallowing of air or the need to draw the liquid up the straw with every single sip.

Keep head upright while drinking

Dysphagia Cup

Dysphagia Cup

Besides flow control, angle control is another method of managing dysphagia. Our Dysphagia Cup has and angled rim that allows you to drink without having to throw your head back. Keeping the head in an upright, straight position while swallowing facilitates the use of better swallowing mechanisms.

Getting rid of the “leftovers” stuck in the throat and esophagus will make you feel much better. Whatever the cause of your or your loved one’s dysphagia, treating it with these healthy drinking strategies may help relieve aspiration while also improving speech and vocal quality.