What Is a Speech Impairment?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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If a person is diagnosed with a speech impairment, it usually means that he has a problem speaking. Some types of speech impairments can be caused by a physical injury or deformity. Others may be caused by genetics or a mental deficiency, or there may be no apparent cause. Speech impairments often have a negative effect on a person's social life, and treatment may include surgery and speech therapy.

The term speech impairment usually refers to the inability to speak or speak coherently. People with these types of impairments will sometimes have trouble communicating with others, depending on the severity of the impairment. Speech impairments may be mild, moderate, or severe.

Signs of a speech impairment will often vary, depending on the cause of the impairment. Some speech impairments may cause a person to have trouble pronouncing words, making them difficult to understand during a conversations. Other impairments may also render a person incapable of speech altogether.

Physical damage can cause a speech impairment. This may include an injury or a deformity. Brain injuries, for example, can damage certain parts of a person's brain responsible for speech. This can result in that person finding it difficult to control or regulate their speech.


Cleft lips and cleft palates are some of the most common causes of speech impairments. This occurs when an infant is born with a gap in either his lip or the roof of his mouth. This birth defect usually occurs because parts of the skull did not form properly while the fetus was in the womb. Not only is this deformity unattractive, it also makes it very difficult for a person to speak properly.

Muteness is another type of speech impairment, and it refers to a disorder in which a person can not talk. Damage or deformity to certain parts of the vocal anatomy, such as larynx, can cause muteness. Many people who are deaf may also be mute. These two problems often go hand in hand, since a person who can not hear will often not be able to imitate sounds.

Stuttering is another common speech impairment. One major sign of stuttering is the involuntary repetition of certain sounds when a person speaks. A person who stutters may also draw out syllables in some words. Some scientists now believe that stuttering is genetic.

An individual with a speech impairment will often have trouble socially, since it may be hard for him to express himself. He may also become so self-conscious of his impairment that he may stop speaking altogether. Social problems are typically more of a problem for children with speech impairments. They may become targets of bullies due to their speech difficulties.

Treatment for a speech impairment will often depend on the cause. Impairments caused by damage or deformities can often be corrected with surgical procedures and speech therapy. Other speech impairments, like stutters and lisps, can also often be corrected with speech therapy.



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