Stroke survivors have ‘great opportunity’ to restore speech skills through singing

After a brain hemorrhage, stroke patients are at risk of aphasia, a speech and communication disorder. “Aphasia can affect a person’s ability to understand speech, speak, read, write and use numbers,” notes the Stroke Association. The charity explains: “This does not affect intelligence, as people with aphasia still think in the same way, but cannot easily express their thoughts.

“Aphasia affects people differently and no two people have the same difficulties.”

A new study by researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland has shown that singing can improve language function in stroke survivors.

Singing-based rehabilitation can “support communication and speech production” and provides “opportunities for peer support”.

Postdoctoral researcher Sini-Tuuli Siponkoski said, “Our study used a wide variety of singing elements.”

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These include “choral singing, melodic intonation therapy, and learning to sing with a tablet.”

She explained that in melodic intonation therapy, speech production is practiced gradually, using melody and rhythm to move from singing to speech production.

In addition, rehabilitation sessions were conducted by a trained music therapist and a trained choir conductor.

Researcher Siponkoski added: “In addition to language training, group rehabilitation provides an excellent opportunity for mutual support for both patients and their families.”

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Complications of a stroke

Neurologist Dr. Robert Brown said: “Sometimes a stroke can lead to temporary or permanent disability.”

Complications may include paralysis or loss of muscle mobility; for example, a stroke survivor may lose the ability to move the left side of the body.

Brain damage can lead to memory loss or problems with thinking, which can affect a person’s judgment.

According to Dr. Brown, there may be difficulty controlling emotions, or depression may develop.

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Stroke survivors may experience “unusual sensations” in the body that can be described as “tingling” in the limbs.

“People who have had a stroke may become more withdrawn. They may need help with self-care and daily activities,” added Dr. Brown.

“Damage to the left hemisphere of the brain can cause speech and language disorders,” said Dr. Brown.

Most stroke survivors go into rehabilitation, but treatment is individual.

Experts involved in aftercare may include:

  • Neurologist
  • Rehabilitation doctor (physiotherapist)
  • Rehabilitation Nurse
  • nutritionist
  • Physiotherapist
  • occupational therapist
  • Recreational therapist
  • Speech therapist
  • Social worker or case manager
  • Psychologist or psychiatrist
  • chaplain.

“Maintaining your self-esteem, connecting with others, and having an interest in the world are important ingredients to your recovery,” Dr. Brown said.

People with speech and language difficulties are advised to practice speaking in a comfortable environment and to “speak your own way”, even if that means relying on gestures.

Dr. Brown added: “You may find it helpful to use flashcards with frequently used words.”

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