Bell’s palsy is a condition that affects the muscles on one side of your face, and can cause a lot of discomfort in your life.
It comes with a number of symptoms, but in particular it can cause a difference in how you speak.
If you have Bell’s palsy, you may end up with speech that’s slurred or muffled, as well as issues with articulation.
While it can be difficult to adjust to these changes, an adult speech therapist can help.
Let’s take a closer look at Bell’s palsy – what it is, what causes it, and how a Washington DC speech therapist can help.
What Is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s palsy is a condition that affects the muscles in your face.
It happens when the nerve that controls those muscles is damaged – from inflammation, swelling, or compression.
This can trigger weakness and paralysis in these muscles.
In most cases, it’s temporary.
However, in some cases, it can be permanent.
One of the most notable people with Bell’s palsy is former prime minister of Canada Jean Chretien, who was in power at the same time as Bill Clinton.
Bell’s Palsy Symptoms
If you have Bell’s palsy, you may feel weakness in your face muscles.
It typically affects only one side of your face, and can cause it to feel stiff or droop.
You may also feel:
- Loss of feeling in your face
- Difficulty moving your facial muscles
- Frequent headaches
- Difficulty moving your eye on the affected side of your face
- Slurred speech
- Vocal weakness that sounds like mumbling
- Issues with speech articulation
- Difficulty smiling
In most cases, Bell’s palsy is temporary, and these symptoms will begin to subside within a few months.
What Causes Bell’s Palsy
Bell’s palsy is caused by a nerve issue.
In particular, it affects the seventh cranial nerve, which runs from your brain stem, through your skull, and to the muscles in your face.
The seventh cranial nerve is responsible for sending information from your brain to your muscles, so when it’s compressed, inflamed, or swollen, it makes the information transfer difficult.
This is what causes the symptoms of Bell’s palsy.
There are a number of different possible causes of that nerve damage, including:
- Lyme disease
- Epstein Barr virus
- Other bacterial or viral infections
- Physical trauma
- Sleep deprivation
- An autoimmune disorder
If your Bell’s palsy is caused by an infection, you may feel your face swell up as well.
If you’re pregnant, have diabetes, or have an upper respiratory issue, you’re at greater risk of Bell’s palsy.
It’s most commonly diagnosed in adults, but children can get it as well.
As a result, pediatric speech therapists are also trained in speech therapy for Bell’s palsy.
How To Improve Your Speech If You Have Bell’s Palsy
Bell’s palsy affects the muscles in your face, so it should come as no surprise that it can affect your speech patterns.
Because you may have difficulty moving your lips and one of your cheeks, it can cause your speech to become unclear.
Here are some general tips to help improve your speech if you have Bell’s palsy:
1. Face Your Audience Directly
Because your speech may be slurred or mumbled, your conversational partner may not be able to hear you.
Facing them directly can help you project in their direction.
It can also help them read your lips if they can’t understand you.
2. Slow Down
Words tend to slur together more the faster you speak.
As a result, speaking more slowly can help you to be better understood.
If you have a fluency disorder, like cluttering, speech therapy treatments for it may help.
3. Drink Lots Of Water
There are plenty of reasons to stay hydrated, but here’s one more.
Staying hydrated can help keep your speech a little clearer.
4. Reduce Background Noise
The louder the room, the harder it is to understand somebody.
That’s true in the best of times, but when you have Bell’s palsy it can be more difficult.
Turn down the stereo when you’re talking, or step into a quieter area.
5. Support Your Cheek
If you feel like the affected side of your face is really slouching, consider giving it some extra support.
Put your hand on it, and pull it up toward your ear.
This can help clarify your speech, as well as project it in the right direction.
How Can A Speech Therapist For Bell’s Palsy Help?
If you have Bell’s palsy, speech therapy can help.
Your speech therapist will work with you to understand what your primary concerns are.
In many cases, you may have difficulty creating certain speech sounds – like m, v, b, or p.
You may notice these speech sounds use your lips more so than others – that’s not surprising, considering the nature of Bell’s palsy.
Your speech therapist can help you find other ways to create these and other sounds.
They can also help manage the drooling you may experience, which can be particularly embarrassing.
Whether your Bell’s palsy is temporary or permanent, it can be a frustrating condition.
But speech therapy can help.
Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today
Do you or a loved one have Bell’s palsy?
Or, having read the symptoms above, do you suspect you may have it?
If so, we can help.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.