Almost every process in our body, from how we view colors to our breathing patterns, is determined by our brain. This single organ handles so many different aspects of our everyday life, that we often take it for granted. That is why traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can be so devastating. Beyond sometimes being fatal, they can also unsuspectingly influence our basic functions, including our ability to speak. It is not uncommon for victims of head injuries to suffer from stutters or slurred speech after an accident.
Side-effects of Brain Damage
Brain injuries can happen in any number of ways, from auto accidents to slip and falls, and just as there are many ways to suffer brain damage, there are just as many side-effects of such an injury. Speech patterns are one of the clearest signs after a collision. You may have had perfect speaking abilities prior to a motorcycle accident, but following a collision with a passenger vehicle, you suddenly find yourself with a stutter. While some issues do go away as your brain heals, others can follow you for the rest of your life.
Oftentimes, there is no outward damage to the body that indicates there is an issue, but even a close-head injury can cause extensive trauma just underneath the skull. The brain is very delicate and each structure within it performs very specific functions. Included in these functions is our ability to convert our thoughts into language by manipulating our vocal cords and tongue.
While some speech impediments are a result of damage to our tongues, vocal cords, or even how we were taught language, much of our ability to speak is a result of our brain functions. When our brains are damaged, we can suffer from several different impediments, including:
Stutters: Stutters can develop after a TBI if the injury happened in one of two ways: aphasia or apraxia. Aphasia means the brain’s language center was damaged, making it difficult to process language and find the right word to say. In contrast, apraxia involves damage to your cerebellum, which controls the tongue and vocal cords, making it difficult for you to produce the right sound.
Slurred Speech: Sometimes referred to as dysarthria, slurred speech often involves the inability to properly produce sounds and words. You may find it easy to answer a question off the top of your head, but long, complex sentences can become slurred because your brain is having difficulties telling your muscles how to work.
Vocabulary problems: After a TBI, your brain may not be able to quickly remember certain words or phrases. You may even get them swapped around in your head or take a long time to recall a specific, yet commonplace object.
Understanding language: Although indirectly related to speaking problems, some TBI victims have trouble keeping track of conversations and dialects. This can be because their ability to process language has been damaged, making it difficult for them to understand what someone is saying and respond appropriately.
Sounding breathless: If your breathing was damaged in an accident, it can also have an effect on how you speak. Breathing is directly connected to how our mouths produce sound and when it is interrupted, we often sound out of breath or overly tired.
Recovering from a Speech Impediment
Treatment for a speech impediment typically involves various forms of speech and cognitive therapy. A therapist may work with you to help you relearn how to control your tongue, lips, and vocal cords, or identify certain sounds or words that you have difficulty with. While some people may recover their speech fully with therapy, others may have to contend with certain issues for the rest of their lives, as is the case with breathing problems. Individuals who sound breathless while speaking may have to speak slower or take breaks from talking to better control their speech patterns.
If your brain injury was the result of the reckless actions of another person, such as a negligent driver or careless business owner, then you may be able to cover the costs of your treatment and therapy in a personal injury claim. Brain injury treatments can be extremely expensive, but if you are covered under a liability policy, then a skilled attorney can advocate for the maximum available compensation in a claim.
Your best option after suffering a speech impediment after an accident is to contact a New York brain injury attorney at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. Our attorneys specialize in filing claims for serious injuries and can work with your doctors to ensure every medical procedure is included in your claim. To learn more, contact our offices at (212) 986-7353.