Communication and Swallowing Disorders are Common in Adults

During National Speech-Language-Hearing Month, Aspirus Health Encourages Learning the Signs and Seeking Help

STEVENS POINT, Wis. - Speech, language, and swallowing disorders are common in adults following stroke, head and neck cancer, and a variety of other illnesses and injuries. During National Speech-Language-Hearing Month in May, Aspirus Health encourages you to learn the signs and seek evaluation if you have concerns about yourself or a loved one.

“If you have experienced a change in health from an injury or illness, your ability to communicate effectively may have changed,” said Makenze Dix, Speech Therapist with Aspirus Stevens Point Hospital. “Effective communication is critical to your recovery and to your quality of life.”

“Communication is something we often take for granted until we are faced with challenges; but it is central to everything we do,” added Dix. “Luckily, speech-language pathologists can help people who have had strokes, traumatic brain injuries, and other life-alerting events make progress so they can share medical information, stay connected to friends and family, and return to the activities that make up their daily lives.”

The causes of speech and language problems that begin for the first time in adulthood can vary. Common causes - in addition to strokes, cancers in the head and/or neck region, and brain injuries - include Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Communication difficulties can also stem from breathing problems and voice damage.

Speech and language disorders that may be acquired in adulthood include the following:

  • Aphasia. Problems speaking or signing, understanding, reading, and writing. Often misunderstood, aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence. The most common cause of aphasia is stroke.
  •  Cognitive-communication disorders. Problems with thinking that can affect communication. Some examples are difficulty paying attention, remembering, organizing thoughts, and solving problems.
  • Apraxia of speech. The way the brain plans and coordinates movements for speech.
  • Dysarthria. Changes in the muscles and nerves used for speech and/or breathing.
  • Voice disorders. Changes in pitch, loudness, and vocal quality that negatively impact communication.

Speech-language pathologists also help people with swallowing disorders - also called dysphagia. Dysphagia is caused by numerous diseases and injuries in adults. A person’s ability to eat and drink is vital to their ability to maintain good health, recover from illness, ensure quality of life, and enjoy many social experiences and family traditions.

Speech-language pathologists treat dysphagia in various ways:

  • Exercises to help strengthen muscles for chewing and swallowing.
  • Techniques to help food and liquid move differently while chewing and swallowing.
  • Guidance to help reduce the risk of illness related to swallowing.

Learn more about speech, language, and swallowing problems in adults from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. If you wish to discuss speech, language, and swallowing concerns, you are invited to contact Makenze Dix or Jessica Hoffman at Aspirus Stevens Point Hospital at 715-346-5190. To learn more about these services, you may also visit


About Aspirus: Aspirus Health is a nonprofit, community-directed health system based in Wausau, Wisconsin, serving northeastern Minnesota, northern and central Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The health system operates 18 hospitals and 130 outpatient locations with nearly 14,000 team members, including 1,300 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians. Learn more at