Erin Hemphill’s patients have always made progress but now she hopes to see even better results for those with neurological voice disorders.
Hemphill is the speech-language pathologist at St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center, where she sees patients in Rehab Services. She recently completed all the requirements to offer Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, which is referred to as LSVT LOUD.
"The emphasis of the treatment is on being loud," Hemphill said. "It targets volume, which encourages patients to speak with effort and intensity. All they concentrate on is increasing their loudness.
"This triggers a reduced rate of speech and improves articulation," Hemphill explained. "While the treatment is intense, volume is the only thing the patient has to focus on; the goal is being able to automatically carry over this louder voice into daily communication."
This option was initially offered only to people with Parkinson Disease. Now it is also used for speech problems that result from other neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. It is also offered to those who have suffered voice problems because of a stroke.
LSVT LOUD entails four treatments a week for four weeks. It is akin to building body strength through high intensity and multiple repetitions.
"It is an intensive treatment but patients and their families will discover the results can be impressive," Hemphill said. "It can be especially effective if they seek the treatment right away – as soon as they are diagnosed."
A doctor’s referral is required, and the treatment is used for children and adults.
Many Parkinson and other patients exhibit reduced loudness, unclear speech, monotone pitch, vocal tremor, hoarseness and a rapid rate of speech. LSVT LOUD is the first treatment program that has been proven by researchers to be successful in treating such speech disorders.
Hemphill, who earned a master’s degree in speech-language pathology at Kansas State University, is the only local outpatient speech therapist. She is also certified in VitalStim therapy, which helps those with difficulty swallowing.
VitalStim helps with the symptoms of dysphagia, Hemphill said. These include coughing during or after swallowing; choking on food or liquid; the sensation of food getting stuck in the throat; pain during swallowing; and shortness of breath while eating.
In addition, Hemphill works with developmental and other speech disorders, as well as cognitive-linguistic skills including memory, problem solving, safety and orientation.