Lee Silverman Voice Treatment in Parkinson's Disease

The Lee Silverman Voice Treatment is an intensive program of voice exercises for people with Parkinson's disease. It targets several areas where those who suffer from Parkinson's have significant problems: loudness and clarity of speech.

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The therapy, which is named for Mrs. Lee Silverman, an Arizona woman whose family funded initial research, first was developed in the 1980s and has been refined continuously since then. Research shows that the treatment can help most, but not all, people with Parkinson's disease improve their voice quality and communicate better.

Here's what Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (also known as LSVT and LSVT LOUD) involves.

Intensive Voice Therapy

Some 90% of those with Parkinson's disease have trouble speaking. Mostly, they speak too softly to be heard, or not clearly enough to be understood, even by close family members.

LSVT is designed to address those problems. The program is intensive: it usually involves four training sessions per week over the course of one month, for a total of 16 sessions (and 16 hours) in therapy.

The therapy was designed that way because research shows that short, intensive (and time-consuming) therapy works better than programs that are drawn out. The idea is that the constant therapy sessions enable Parkinson's patients to understand when their speech is too soft or not understood, and to speak louder and more clearly on a consistent basis.

During these sessions, participants learn to monitor their own speech quality and to correct themselves when necessary. This increased self-awareness seems to improve all aspects of speech, including their volume and their pronunciation.

Results of Treatment

Although anyone with Parkinson's disease can participate in the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment program, the therapy appears to be most effective for those in the early or middle stages of the condition. This is because it's much easier to maintain speech that is still strong rather than working to restore speech that's been lost.

Although research shows that LSVT therapy is beneficial for those with Parkinson's disease, further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of LSVT.

The Bottom Line

Lee Silverman Voice Treatment does appear to help most people with Parkinson's disease, especially those whose conditions haven't progressed very far. However, the therapy takes a significant time commitment over the course of a pretty intensive month.

If your family is having trouble hearing you and/or understanding what you say, you may want to talk with your doctor about whether you might benefit from this voice treatment.

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