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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

Speech Problems and Multiple Sclerosis

By March 31, 2012

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Many people with multiple sclerosis experience issues with their speech as a symptom of MS. These problems can manifest as:

  • slurring
  • problems controlling volume of speech
  • word-finding difficulties
  • erratic cadence of speech
  • sounding hoarse or raspy

Very few people become unable to communicate verbally. In fact, most of these MS-related speech symptoms are barely noticeable.

What about you? Do you notice problems with your speech? What are your experiences? Does it tend to be worse when you are hot or tired? Share your stories with us in the comments section below, as well as any tips you may have for living with this symptom.

Read the full article: Speech Difficulties as a Symptom of Multiple Sclerosis

Comments
March 31, 2012 at 10:40 pm
(1) Linda says:

I also have trouble find the word I want, as well as dropping syllables sometimes. I realize I’ve dropped parts of words and run words together, but I don’t always know what was missing. I haven’t noticed that heat affects it, but tiredness definitely does. Since I’m tired most of the time, it happens a lot :)

April 4, 2012 at 11:29 am
(2) Jim says:

I also have occassional problems with speaking. Sometimes I speak the wrong word, using a similar sounding word instead. Sometimes, I simply cannot retrieve the word. For example, I might want to say “I am driving down the highway”. My words get to highway and then nothing. Usually, I quickly substitute another word; in this case “road”. Most times only I am aware of this problem as the substitution is made very quickly.

Another time when very overheated, I simply could not speak until I cooled down – how scary!

April 4, 2012 at 11:54 am
(3) Darcy says:

I also have difficulty when I am tired finding the right word. I love my husband but sometimes he will jump right in with the word I am looking for. This makes me irratated which makes the problem worse. If I slow my mind down and really think about what I am going to say it helps. That old saying think before you speak takes on a whole new meaning. (lol)

April 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm
(4) Jessica says:

The inability to find words was one of the things that frustrated me most when the MS was getting bad enough to finally get a doctor to diagnose me. I have always been a talker with an extremely large vocabulary. One day I was at work and had been stressed because my doctor kept telling me that he was certain I didn’t have MS because I never got better (as if RRMS is the only kind), I had been working a long shift at work that day and dealing with a lot of customers. I couldn’t seem to remember the word “easy”. I could come up with less difficult, more simplistic, and even the French version of easy, “facile”. I think that was the one thing that made me want to keep doing more and more tests until a diagnosis was found.

As for tips, I’m not sure I have one, I do play a lot of hidden object games to help exercise my mind and keep it active, and try not to stress when I can’t come up with a work (though I usually still do) and use one that is as close as I can find to it. I suppose the only tip I could suggest is to not worry too much about it. Unless it’s something you have to have right, just throw in a synonym, and keep going. Stress always seems to make it worse for me.

April 4, 2012 at 12:10 pm
(5) Gladys says:

Yes I also have problems with speech thinking of a sentence then forgetting what I started out to say. I try to make light of it and laugh and accept that it is part of my illness . I had a wonderfull partner who used to help me all the time unfortunatally he died in December 2011.So all that has been very stressfull for me BUT I have been so so lucky my son and his partner have moved in with me and are so understanding and protective to me .On another note something really funny did happen the other day I was talking about something but my mind was elsewhere and I suddenly said”‘ black puddings” then said what on earth did I say that for., so now when anything happens like that I start laughing and say that was a black pudding moment I have told this to other people I know so that is another way to manage my slurring, forgetting; with fun.I have said from the beginning this is not going to beat me . I have felt good writing this so anyone who gets depressed just think :: Black Puddings ;; I am a very intelligent person and really hate hate this illness ( .laugh and the world laughs with you cry and you cry alone)

April 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm
(6) Lisa says:

I just had a bad episode of this very thing last night. I couldn’t complete sentences, my cadence was really odd, I couldn’t come up with the right words (and if I did come up with the word I wanted I’d forget it seconds later), and my speech was very surred. I was also having double-vision and vertigo and my spasticity was much worse. My head felt hollow and like it was moving – at the same time! My husband and son reminded me that I have been under a lot of stress for the past few weeks and had been doing more than I should be doing. Them enumerating why I might be feeling this way calmed me down, I went to bed and woke up much better. Otherwise, I do what everyone else seems to do – use synonyms – but often find I have to explain the word I’m trying to find – for broom: the thing you use to sweep the floor, etc. It is a very frustrating cognitive symptom and if I try to explain what’s going on to someone because I don’t want to seem unintelligent it invariably sounds like, as was said in a recent article here – it makes it sound like I’m trying not to sound ditsy!

April 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm
(7) Ally says:

The other day I used watering instead of rain. Guess the concept is the same but my mind couldn’t come up with the word others would understand.

April 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm
(8) victoria says:

I can relate to all of this. I used to be so articulate in my speech. I work in management in a hospital so I am surounded by “intellgent” people. I find myself more and more avoiding talking to these people for fear of sounding like a blithering idiot. My memory is shot. I find myself wanting to butt into a conversation with someone because by the time they finish what they have said, I will have forgotten what I wanted to tell them .Or I dont remember having conversations with people at all. It is really affecting me in the work place. I can deal with all the physical annoyances, the cognitive is impacting me the most.

April 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm
(9) Pam says:

I, also, “exchange’ words with you realizing it. I do a lot of word searching. I was once very good with spelling and now I have to look words up or substitute a word if I don’t have a dictionary.

April 4, 2012 at 5:05 pm
(10) moe says:

I WAS DIAGNOSED 2 YRS AGO WITH M.S. 2YRS BEFORE THAT MY VOICE STARTED ACTING FUNNY. FROGGY SOUNDING SQUEEKY SOUNDING. PEOPLE WERE TELLING THAT I HAD A LOUD VOICE. I DIDNT RECOGNIZE IT. IM NOT A SMOKER. COULDNT FIGURE IT OUT. WELL 2 YRS AFTER THAT I FIGURED IT OUT. PEOPLE USE TO ASK ME HOW TO SPELL THINGS. WELL NOT TO MUCH ANYMORE.

April 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm
(11) Sharonda says:

I, too, occasionally forget words. However, a greater problem I have is the inability to regulate the rate of my speech. My words often come out so fast that i often spend a large part of my conversations repeating what I’ve already said. Very frustrating!

April 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm
(12) Mary says:

I frequently forget simple words and must describe the essence or function of the word. It is quite frustrating. I am better at writing (but must have the energy to do so. ) I suspect it has to do with being able to slow the pace of writing. I believe that this symptom (word retrieval) is getting worse for me but it seems quite difficult to measure. I particularly have difficulty with words when I try to give directions in the car or under any pressured situation.

April 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm
(13) Cindy says:

I have also had speech problems. It was the first MS symptom I had probably 15 years before I was diagnosed. My doctor contributed it to stress at the time and it got better so I believed that to be the case. Now I talk too loud most of the time and I will say words out of order realizing it didn’t come out right after I say.it. I too have completely forgotten conversations. While most of us can hide our MS when we choose to we can’t hide what we say.

April 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm
(14) Mark says:

I’ve been accused of being drunk with the word sluring, stutering and not being to find the right words. It’s frustrating, having to explain that I have MS and it’s just another one of the symtoms like stagering. This all happens mostly when I’m tired or it’s hot & humid.

April 5, 2012 at 12:47 am
(15) Sarah Harvey says:

I often forget words, haven’t noticed it being more frequent when hot, tired or anything else and as long a I can describe the missing word or find a substitute it’s not a problem, in fact “room you cook things in” has become a much more common way for my whole family to say “kitchen”. Helps to be able to laugh about it.

Good to read this article, I have often been asked why I’m shouting, when I didn’t think I was. Had never thought it could be an MS symptom…we learn something new every day!

April 5, 2012 at 10:41 am
(16) milesap says:

Yes I had a problem getting sentences together and having pauses finding words. That situation went away when I had CCSVI treatment.

April 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm
(17) Jane says:

What I experience, especially when I’m tired, is that my speech slows down (to a crawl). I also sometimes have trouble retrieving a word and this can be so frustrating to me! (and to lots of others I see…..comforting to know it’s not just me) Thanks!

April 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm
(18) Jennifer says:

I have a tendency of slurry my words, it really gets bad when its the end of a long work day and I’m tired. I also have difficulties putting my sentences together, so frustrating! Even with sending ema
ils, what I’m thinking and what I end up typing are usually two different things …

April 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm
(19) Anita says:

I have experienced about all these symptoms at some time, I just
pray and wait and they go away most of the time shortly

April 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm
(20) maggie says:

I don’t actually have S but my sister ,full Aunt and my 2nd cousin all have MS , I have noticed what I want to say can quite often come out as something else.Also I should know how to spell a word and struggle to spell it, I am 45 it should not be an age thing yet .Could this be the start of MS? maggie

April 6, 2012 at 6:12 am
(21) Daneen says:

I have volume issues with my speech, I speak softly and don’t realize it. When I get overly tired my speech slurs. My voice sometimes gets very raspy and doesn’t sound like me. I brought these issues to my neuro, however he denies they are related to MS. He also denies my 5 minute headaches in various parts of my head are MS along with my shallow breathing, hearing problems and the fact that I can’t read. words blur I get double vision and I can’t follow a sentence to the next line. been to all the eye doctors, and they say I am fine. Unfortunately for me, my neuro is a well known specialist at the Partners MS clinic in Boston Mass at Brigham and Women’s hospital, so who am I to argue despite what I read on line?

April 6, 2012 at 8:23 am
(22) trish says:

I work as a Marketer so find my speech problems a huge challenge.I simply forget words or find them in my brain but somehow cannot get them out

April 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm
(23) Dan says:

I have trouble retrieving the correct words and I also have a tendency of sluring the words too. Also I talk fast at times that people tell me to slow down because they can not understand me. I was diagnosed a year ago but I have noticed my symptoms way before then.

April 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm
(24) carlene says:

I get so tired that I don’t finish my sentences- my daughter always helps me complete whatever I am trying to get out- and sometimes I just can’t process the information I am receiving – sometimes I feel like suck a stupid person- and I know others this I have just lost my mind- that sometimes hurts also

April 13, 2012 at 11:39 am
(25) Jeri says:

It’s really helpful to see that other people are having similar problems! I start to speak and my face twitches. I end up making a noise that’s not a word and I’m embarrassed. It used to be occasional but has become practically daily. Word finding is another one,. I tried to tell another mom that a school assembly would be in the auditorium but that was too big a word for me that day. I stopped, had nothing come to mind, so described it, ” Big room, sloping floor, lots of seats?”

I’m a lector at our church as well, and even though what I have to read is right in front of me, I can’t get it out the way I should sometimes. I stop where there’s no punctuation, or I’m too loud or too soft. I’m thinking of taking myself off the list of lectors because it’s too stressful. My husband tells me I yell into the phone, too.

Thanks to everyone for sharing what happens to them. It’s always good to know it’s not just me!

April 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm
(26) julie rochell says:

I have that all the time. Yesterday I was trying to say the word Disco, but the word would not come to me, All I could come up with was the Bee Gees dancing.

April 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm
(27) milesap says:

I had a real problem grabbing words to make a sentence with slurred speech. That went away along with the bear hugs, improved heat tolerance, headaches reduced and improved fatigue after I had CCSVI treatment.

April 26, 2012 at 7:26 am
(28) Glad Tay says:

I have speech difficulties when my mouth is dry which is nearly allways dry I now carry a small drink with me . Also get sprays from doctors which is a temporary I also find Trident SPLASH chewing gum is a great help but it must be SPLASH . It makes me very anti social ..My children say to me “Get a drink mum ” Also sometimes when I am talking my mind will not let the words speak so I tell friends and family to help me to finish the sentence which is a very great help.I try to make light of it because once in the middle of a sentence I actually said “Black puddings ” why I do not know so when I am like that I whisper “black puddings ” and they then help me and we have a laugh about it..My answer to julie rochell and others is also nice to hear that other people suffer the same as me .

April 26, 2012 at 7:30 am
(29) Glad Tay says:

after reading all the comments suddenly saw that I had said all this before on another of my comments soreee

June 10, 2012 at 5:46 am
(30) Louise says:

I am now retired @actually got to 65 albeit after being on long term sickness leave for 3 years. In the last 5-6 years this problem with using the wrong words speaking then suddenly pausing because I couldn’t remember what I was going to say, the ‘raspy’ voice. it just goes on!
I was in senior management and conducted training sessions on a regular basis, it was terrible when halfway through a sentence I just stopped speaking. The other problem is when typing a letter or just a paragraph and the words come out wrong for example I may be wanting to type ‘the’ and when I look back at the words I may have typed ‘teh’anyone else have that problem? it is most frustrating thank goodness for computers at least you can delete a word and start again.
I was diagnosed with MS 32 years ago – last year my consultant informed me that it was thought that I had it 10 years before I was diagnosed!!! so 42 years. When I retired I had been employed for 50 years so keep going – don’t let it beat you.

August 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm
(31) Lynn says:

I was sent to speech therapy for my voice being hoarse or missing, they called it dysarthia. We quickly learned I could not gargle (I choked instead, that is where dysphagia came in), nor could my vocal cords move up and down the scale with any ease. My voice fades to nothing the higher end of the scale. I do voice exercises and have to remember to lower the tone of my voice when it is very hoarse so I have a voice at all. While the worst of the problem is intermittent, I never have a strong voice. I have never had a problem being too loud, my problem is the opposite.

I also have been diagnosed with a word find problem. I am blessed to have Bruce in my life to help me find the right one. Some times my brain just shuts down and he will be there to help me.

August 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm
(32) Shelley says:

I have found I am removing myself from social situations more and more often. Prior to being diagnosed with MS (2003), I was extremely social. I never had difficulties carrying on or participating in conversations. Now I find that I can’t get my “idea” out. I forget what I wanted to say. I can’t find the correct words to help explain thoughts. Eventually the words will come to me but that happens LONG after I needed them. Therefore, I remain silent so as not to appear “stupid”. VERY FRUSTRATING!!!!

August 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm
(33) Kim says:

I have always loved words and had a very large vocabulary. I work in a large facility and have always been the “go to grammar person” that everyone called to have check their grammar. Now I dread people asking me for grammar help because I can’t remember diddly. Punctuation was another area I was very good with and now I can’t remember what “the thing at the end of a sentence” is even called much less where that little hicky (;) goes! LOL The only thing to do is to remember that it isn’t going to cause a national catastrophe if I can’t remember a word here or there or where to place the hicky and laugh at myself before anyone else gets the chance! :-)

August 15, 2012 at 7:32 pm
(34) Mary-Ellen says:

Reading with interest about the speech problems. I am finding lately, that I can be quite ‘silent’. I sat outside, beside a couple of neighbours that were just chatting. I enjoyed listening, but I realized I had nothing to say, could think of nothing to say or join in on the conversation. It’s like I have periods of time when I’m literally ‘speechless’. I have conversations in my mind, but the words can’t seem to find their way out of my mouth.
I just feel like I’m being very quiet and I think that must be really boring for other people to be around. What I want to be like and what I appear to be like, are two different things. I find myself being more ‘by myself’, cause it is easier. Am I crazy….feels like it.
Mary-Ellen

August 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm
(35) JJ says:

Word finding – word memory, scanning, blank pauses, spelling etc are not related to speech problems, that all falls into the catagory of ‘cognitive issues’! Which is more common than actual ‘verbal speech issues’, and is controlled by a different part of the brain and can be inter connected to TNJ and or oral muscle fatigue etc.

pwMS who stutter or slurr, and or have issues with articulation etc usually they find that they can ‘think’ the word or an entire sentence they are having difficulty verbally saying, its the actual delivery thats the problem, chewing and swollowing often cause them problems too.

My speech is affected by physical fatigue, oral muscle fatigue from chewing or talking, heat, infections etc. Tips: pause to interupt the stutter/slurr, mentally think the word your trying to say, repeat the word and continue speaking your sentence. Rest your oral muscles, remember if your fatigued its more likely to happen, know your triggers and try to avoid them to keep things working to your best advantage.

August 16, 2012 at 6:20 am
(36) Lisa says:

I would like to know if other people with MS have a feeling of drowning on their own saliva,and if they suffer with runny noses and blocked noses and struglying with the air passages feeling blocked even though there is nothing in my nose.

August 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm
(37) Karen 46 says:

I have been diagnosed MS two years ago. I am one who suffers from speech problems along with other problems. I have the raspy hoarse voice and it is worse under stress which is at work and the new computer system or when I am going on vacation and need to have all my work done.

I jsut tell them allergies are acting up..I also have the problem of finding the right word or using the wrong word..If I know my speech problem with words is acting up… I stay quiet at work and jus tell tjhem I am very busy today so I might not be as talkative today.

I also at times slurr and that is if I am tired or hot and sometimes under stress. My daughter and I laugh especially when I use the wrong word.

No one at work knows what I have as I need the job so I do my best and keep on trucking…( I am not a truck driver I am a paper pusher) either way I get the work done and the new system is thankfully easier for me

August 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm
(38) Richard says:

Some very interesting comments here. I am currently going through many different tests for numbness on the right side of my face combined with ear pain and a feeling of water in my eye. One of the other symptoms I have is some slurred speach now and then. I lose words and blank regularly. Drs have mentioned MS only briefly once in conversation!

August 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm
(39) faye says:

i am 54.sometimes i can,t remember the word,it look like the shape of word or thing is front of my eyes but it ,s not coming to my mouth. it takes a few minute to remember . oh it,s so scary .please someone give me the answer.

October 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm
(40) Baz says:

Yes speech problems were one of my first symptoms, though it used to be intermitent and has now become a permanent issue. My speech is very slurred and weak and it is difficult for people to understand me particularly on the phone which can be very frustrating. I find that people who do not know me think I have a learning disability and tend to talk to me like I am a child which can be hard or otherwise they probably assume I am drunk especially as I have problems walking too.

I find speaking slowly and delibrately helps and trying to rest for awhile before continuing as my speech tends to get worse the longer I am talking. I also have problems with chewing and swallowing but the speech and language therapist I see is very good and i can eat most things if I am careful. Often it is a case that things that you would have done automatically without thinking about them you have to really think about when you have MS.

October 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm
(41) buslady says:

I have speech problems as well. I hate it! I haven’t been diagnosed with ms. I have TN Trigemeral Neuralgia. So I am getting a MRI and blood work today to see if I have MS. I hope I don’t. My husband is mad at me because I told him it’s hearing. He went to a doctor and his ears are great. I start off normal and trail off or I will say wrong words. I forget words! I also get bad headaches. I never get headaches! I have foot drop due to l5 nerve being cut during back surgery. Im scared!

November 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm
(42) DesiJ says:

I have been through a battery of tests for MS. My neurologist tells me she doesn’t have enough evidence to diagnose it at this point. Despite, multiple symptoms which coincide with MS. (My brother has MS).

I also slur my speech and frequently cannot complete my thoughts. My question is…..does anyone ever combine two words into one when speaking? For example. I was going to say “I think I’m going to throw up” but instead I said “I think I’m going to thromit”. Thromit being a combination of throw up and vomit. Another example is “pringling” which was a combination of prickling and tingling. (I was trying to describe to my neurologist the sensation in my left side) She just laughed.

I don’t do it every day. When I do say one of these combination of words it comes out very naturally without thinking. Anyone having been diagnosed with MS do this?

December 8, 2012 at 11:09 pm
(43) Patti says:

Same as all the other posts. I ‘had numerous systems since DX 2001 , optic neuritis, left side of body numb, could not open left hand, spasticity right shoulder & arm, drop foot, balance, nasal sounding speech and now slurred speech. All the other symptoms seem to get better but the slurred speech has been going n one year now. Sometimes it’s so bad I just don’t talk. Very hard for me since my nickname use to be chatty patty.

I too have issues where I combine words and come up with a new one, like my son is Alex & hubby is Mike, I’ll say malex. They laugh.

Oh one more symptom which is very strange is emotional incontinence, I will start laughing or crying for no reason. Mostly crying. I make the Ok sign with my hand so hubby knows I’m really ok and not upset for any reason, it’s just the condition. I keep waiting for something else to pop up , nothing surprises me anymore.

December 11, 2012 at 10:29 am
(44) adiel portillo says:

i connsider myself good at most of things i’m required to do but not at verbal communication, i have the ideas but at the time for speaking ill always do a mess. what is my problem? how can i help it? tanx for your attention.

January 14, 2013 at 2:12 am
(45) Qamar says:

I have speak problem whenver nobody near to me I speak truly but when any person talk with me or i takl to his/her I FCE speak problem plz reply me am 22years old

February 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm
(46) Abhinav says:

I have a speaking problem. My voice sounds very different most of the times and specially when i speak to others. I also have slurred speach sometimes. Actually i had a throat infection for the past 2 months and now after i recovered it has more worsened as much ive noticed. So please help me out..!
Thanking you.

June 15, 2013 at 7:27 pm
(47) Shaquan Williams says:

See my problems is when i talk it sometimes slurs, changes pitches, and i sometimes have it hard remembering words, i’m a former Mary Jane smoker but i stopped I’m now 3 months clean but i want to change the way i talk. I sometimes think if i slow down and think about the word before i say it then it’ll come out correct but i often forget when I’m in a conversation. But whats weird about my problem is it usually happens around people I’m not normally used to being around. But because of this problem i became shy and sometimes socially awkward. Im hoping someone can come up with a solution to my problem because i hate it.

August 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm
(48) Stevi says:

I’m 22 and over the past year noticed problems with my speech , the past month it has gotten worse , I’m finding myself trying to not speak to people because its too much like hard work , I know wat I want to say in my head but the words feel like they have a block in my mouth & I need to think quickly for another word I can say , does anyone know what this is ?
Thank you

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