For people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, recovering from the virus may not be the end of the road. Complications from a COVID-19 infection can include uncharacteristic forgetfulness or trouble remembering words. Such difficulty is often labeled as “brain fog,” a condition affecting an estimated 22-32% of patients experiencing long COVID.
Patients often describe brain fog as the feeling of sluggish thinking and forgetfulness. It has often been associated with a lack of sleep or a result of medications that trigger drowsiness. But it’s a new world with COVID. Long COVID has been strongly associated with self-reported linguistic and communications complications..
A considerable portion of low-risk people with mild COVID-19 reported “long-term” symptoms that disrupted work, social, and home life. That can be distressful. The good news is that patients seeking help from speech therapists can better develop strategies to manage their communication difficulties.
Speech therapists also have proven specific protocols to help patients with memory concerns. Many of these protocols involve speech therapists teaching patients to help themselves and may include:
- Life Participation Approach: Patients work with their speech therapist to design a treatment protocol with long-term life goal touchpoints that are relevant and meaningful to them.
- Spaced Retrieval: A technique in which patients practice recall and use of relevant information over increasingly long intervals of time.
- Melodic Intonation Therapy: Sometimes, when patients have difficulty speaking, they can sing their speech. Studies have demonstrated that music memories and ability are governed by a dedicated brain area separate from other functions.
- Script Training: Patients work with their therapist to develop scripts for familiar and regular routines in their life. Such repetition gradually improves sentence formation, rate of speech, and confidence.
- Semantic Feature Analysis Treatment: This therapy helps patients improve their ability to recall and use naming abilities. Training typically involves auditory and visual cueing.
- Word Retrieval Cueing Strategies: Patients with brain fog often have difficulty recalling the correct word they want to say. Association and sound cues are incorporated to aid such patients.
Speech Therapy Treatments to Manage Long COVID
According to the UK study source, 18% of those recovering from long COVID say their ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been “limited a lot.” The World Health Organization (WHO) also confirmed long COVID physiology in an October 2021 study.
The study noted that speech complications associated with long COVID were related to planning and sequencing. A US academic article found that COVID patients who spent significant time on ventilators or experienced low oxygen levels were especially susceptible to communication challenges. COVID-related strokes were also linked to a patient’s ability to understand and speak and read or write.
COVID Linked to Neurological Damage May Effect Speech
A University of Kansas Post COVID Clinic treatment program concluded that “speech therapy plays a critical role in getting people through their recovery more quickly.” The speech therapists in that program found that much of the brain physiology in long COVID patients is similar to patients with traumatic brain injury.
Diagnostic imaging reveals that some people who have suffered the virus have a change in the brain’s white matter, where long nerve fibers control the flow of information. Such “white matter disease” might contribute to cognitive difficulties that patients experience, such as the functions associated with speech.
Patients can experience some 200 symptoms linked to long COVID. Speech therapy is an integral part of treatment. All long COVID patients should undergo an evaluation for speech therapy, with virtual access as a vital tool for care.
The Benefits of Virtual Speech Therapy in Treating Long Covid
Virtual Speech Therapy has reinvented the speech therapy space. It creates benefits for patients, therapists, and providers. These benefits include:
- Virtual speech therapy is effective: Patients are more comfortable and progress faster when they receive care in the familiar surroundings of their homes. Patients also progress with a combination of live therapy and online exercises.
- Virtual speech therapy provides a great match between the patient and therapist: A patient can be precisely matched for their disorder – and is enhanced with Great Speech’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology to optimize pairing patients with the most qualified speech therapist. This tool considers multiple data points to create the best-indicated therapy/patient care partnership to provide more specialized care, more focused therapy, and faster results in a shorter timeframe.
- Virtual speech therapy can save families time and expenses: there’s no need to travel to a brick-and-mortar location. This is an especially helpful benefit for patients living in rural areas who often travel an hour or more to healthcare providers or those with mobility issues.
Great Speech has also developed a long COVID treatment program, including individual and group therapy, to effectively help people in the U.S. suffering from long COVID conditions to leverage the advantages of virtual speech therapy. The program creates access to peer support and assures patients they are not alone in their journey to recovery. Great Speech’s licensed speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work with patients to help them regain communication skills, improve confidence and overcome other potential challenges resulting from long COVID.
In addition to individual therapy, speech and language group therapy can help patients affected by long COVID to confidently return to work, handle daily life and resume an active lifestyle. Virtual speech therapy provides the added benefits of allowing people to get help from their homes, eliminating travel to an off-site brick-and-mortar facility, and minimizing opportunities for viral transmission.
About Great Speech Inc.
Great Speech is the pioneer and recognized leader in virtual speech therapy and, since 2014, has delivered convenient, specialized services to clients anytime, anywhere. Its innovative approach leverages technology to match credentialed therapists with children, adults, and seniors who need and seek better speech communication. Proud recipient of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification. www.greatspeech.com
About Avivit Ben-Aharon
Avivit Ben-Aharon is the Founder and Clinical Director at Great Speech, Inc, founded in 2014. She trailblazed virtual access to speech therapy, allowing anyone who is committed to improving their communication to receive expert services–regardless of location or scheduling limitations. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, the US News and World Report, the Miami Herald, and more.
When Avivit was 14 years old, her family immigrated to the United States. At the time, she didn’t speak English and struggled to communicate at school. This inspired her to help other people avoid the frustrations she experienced.
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However, after working as a speech therapist for over a decade, she saw countless situations where people could not access the therapeutic services they needed. Traditional methods of therapy didn’t integrate easily with modern-day lifestyles. Avivit began experimenting with technology to deliver speech therapy entirely online.
Not only did this allow greater convenience, but it also enabled her to hire the best therapists in the country and leverage a highly personalized client-to-therapist pairing process. Now, Great Speech employs over 50 speech therapists and serves thousands of clients with varying focus areas.
By: Avivit Ben-Aharon, M.S.Ed., M.A. CCC SLP, Founder, and Clinical Director, Great Speech
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