MONTREAL - Almost nine of 10 people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease have difficulty speaking, which can intensify the already-daunting challenge of coping with the condition.

But experts are turning to a therapy which has shown positive results in allowing Parkinson’s patients to speak more loudly and clearly.

The approach is to ensure that the muscles involved in speaking do not atrophy.

“It's an intensive therapy and the principle is pretty simple: use your voice or lose it,” said Lorraine Ramig, co-founder of the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT).

Ramig, who came to town as one of 3,300 people from 70 countries attending the World Parkinson’s Congress, said that the exercises can help with the difficult task of projecting one’s voice. 

Along with troubles projecting their voices, the patients often need to be convinced that they're not shouting when they are talking at a normal volume.

“Patients also have this sensory mismatch where they think they're loud enough and yet when you bring their voice to normal loudness they say, ‘I can't speak like that, I’m shouting,’ and that's one of the most frustrating things for family members,” said Ramig.

It remains unclear why the Parkinson’s patients have a poor grasp on the real volume of their own voices, but Ramig offers a theory.

“When I'm talking to you, my second auditory cortex is suppressing myself hearing, so I don't over hear myself. In some of our early pilot imagining studies we documented that that mechanism was disordered in people with Parkinson’s.”

Those coping with the difficult condition know that the training could help out greatly, as difficulty communicating only adds to the burden.

“If I can't let my husband know that I need something and he's the only one in the house. Then I can be in a lot of trouble,” said Parkinson’s patient Gwendolyn Spurll.

The LSVT classes are currently available online in Canada.