How can speech pathology help a person with lung disease?

Do you have lung disease? Perhaps you hadn’t thought much about speech pathology until one day your doctor suggests a referral to a speech pathologist. And now you are wondering: what do lung disease and speech pathology have in common?

Lung disease and speech pathology: protecting your voice

I recently presented to a room full of people who had lung disease. This event was hosted by the Lung Foundation of Australia, and presented at the Master Builders Club in Wollongong. I posed the question: “Do you constantly cough?” And guess what? Almost everyone in the room raised their hands! People told me that they cough all the time, that they can’t control it, that they cough until they feel sick. It’s obviously a common and unpleasant problem. Every time a person coughs, they slam their vocal cords together. So if you are coughing a lot, you might notice that the sound of your voice is changing. This is a sign that your vocal cords are damaged from slamming together so much. My advice is to start looking after your voice. There are some simple steps you can take to care for your voice, such as:

  1. Avoid shouting
  2. Try to reduce coughing and throat clearing
  3. Drink good amounts of water every day and reduce caffeine
  4. Rinse your mouth well after inhalers and use a spacer if possible
  5. Avoid smoking
  6. Rest your voice when you have a sore throat or a cold

And if you are really concerned, contact a speech pathologist for advice that is tailored to you.

Lung disease and speech pathology: swallowing safely

People will lung disease might also start to have problems eating and drinking. Every time we swallow, we hold our breath for a moment. So if you are struggling with breathing, you might find that problems arise while you are eating and drinking. You may even cough and choke on your food and drinks. This is where speech pathology comes in. We are skilled at assessing your swallowing skills, and can offer advice to make mealtimes more safe and enjoyable.

Take home message

To answer my initial question, speech pathologists can help a person with lung disease IF that person is having problems with communication or swallowing.

If you are concerned about your voice, or if you are concerned about the way you are eating or drinking, make an enquiry to your local speech pathologist.