We all rely on speaking and hearing speech throughout the day. This can be directly in person or through the TV or radio. It can be very disturbing to discover that your usually effortless communication has become less reliable. Sometimes you can't find a word you need at a particular moment, or some phrase is just on the tip of your tongue, but not coming out in conversation.
These difficulties can feel very public, but its worth remembering that they will be much less obvious to those around you than they are to you. For most people with MS, it is unlikely that your words or phrases are lost forever. The difficulty lies with accessing them or using them appropriately. You will likely find that different words are hard at different times.
Although there are other factors that can affect your communication skills, such as fatigue or memory problems, your stores of words and their meanings are usually not significantly affected. This means that you can use some of these tricks below to help you speak and be understood.
There are many underlying reasons that can result in language difficulties. Your health professional will probably want to investigate exactly where the weaknesses are in your language, to develop effective management strategies with you. Your GP or MS nurse is the first port of call, but they may refer you to other health specialists.
there are muscle or nerve impairments affecting your breathing, which makes clear or loud speaking difficult
you have weakness or poor co-ordination in the muscles of the mouth and throat, which may make your speech slurred or make it hard for people to understand your speech
you need a communication device of some kind
A psychologist will be able to help you if you find it hard to:
turn your thoughts into speech
An audiologist will be able to help you if:
you need a hearing test
you are having trouble understanding what is said to you
If you talk to your family and friends about your difficulties with words it is likely that they will not have noticed that you are experiencing anything unusual. They may well seek to reassure you that they have the same problems. In some ways this could reassure you, because it shows that your slips have not been obvious.
However, if you feel that the slips and hitches in your speech are occurring more than they should, you could let your family and friends know. You could tell them exactly the kind of problems you are having, and give examples of when something was hard to say.
If finding the right word has become a fairly frequent challenge for you at work, think about how you can prepare in advance or get support. You may wish to give presentations in a different way, for example. If your workmates understand what is happening, they are more able to help.