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I’m a Better Listener Because of Parkinson’s

listener

I’ve always liked attending different events, such as movies or concerts, or having lunch or coffee with friends. But I don’t get out to socialize much anymore. It’s not that I can’t or don’t want to. I merely am hesitant and for one reason or another usually talk myself out of it. 

You do that when you have Parkinson’s disease (PD). You feel like you’re constantly yelling because your voice is no longer heard. Skirting older people with canes and walkers while trying to balance a plate of food takes skill when balance is a struggle. And then there’s the work of trying to keep up with a conversation. Before you can organize your thoughts to respond, the people around you have changed topics 12 times. So you listen.

I committed

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to accept an invitation to dinner at the park where we live. My neighbor asked if I was attending because she needed a ride to the clubhouse, and I said yes.

The festivities started at 5 p.m., but the invitation said 4. Frustration spread among the neighbors who gathered for their free evening meal, as they were mostly over 70 and used to eating at 4 p.m. Their graciousness began to dissipate and was overtaken by grumbling and complaining.

I turned my attention to the front, where boxes of various sizes were stacked atop one another and wrapped with bright, colored paper and festive ribbons and bows. Santa and Mrs. Claus sat by the Christmas tree in the corner waiting for a photo-op with children who might come, of which none had yet.

Dinner is served

A Christmas caroler and country soloist began to tune his guitar. He readied himself for the audience to chew in rhythm to the tunes of “O Christmas Tree,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and more. But people gobbled their food and mumbled about not wanting to sing at the same time, so the music stopped. We were left to chatter between bites. I listened attentively to the woman next to me, as no one else seemed to be paying attention.

We were nearing the end of our meal when the country boy drew us back to singing carols. Another woman across from me sang with gusto, loud and strong. Her vibrato was much like mine, thanks to PD, and was made up of short bleats like an old, tired sheep. That’s the sound of your tremor, showing up in your vibrato. 

The evening was coming to a close, and the raffle had yet to occur. Winners were chosen (everyone but me and one other person), and attendees opened candies, cookies, and beef sticks. Then people began to leave, taking their leftovers and prizes home.

Reflecting on the night

When I arrived home, I thought about my evening. I realized that I have a greater tendency to withdraw now, for reasons that are justified or imagined. But I also realized that I am happy to listen and observe. I honestly enjoy myself.

Why am I OK to merely listen and observe? My voice doesn’t carry enough to be heard anymore. Combine that with the fact that most of my neighbors need hearing aids they forget to turn on, and I better be content with listening and observing!

I may find that PD makes me less talkative, and I may find it harder to keep up with conversations, but that’s OK with me. My neighbors often want someone who will listen, and PD enables me to be a better listener. And that’s a good thing.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post I’m a Better Listener Because of Parkinson’s appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

When Silence Is Golden

silence

There is a story of a little girl who was late coming home from school one day. Her mother was beside herself with worry. When the girl finally came through the door, her mother’s concern quickly turned to frustration.

“Where have you been?” she asked her daughter. “I’ve been worried sick about you!”

“I was walking home from school with the new girl in class,” the little girl said. “She dropped all her homework papers and they blew into a puddle. She was so upset that she sat down on the curb and cried. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just sat down and cried with her.”

When a loved one is hurting, sad, and overwhelmed by life, there’s not much we can do to help them. Sometimes the only thing we can do is listen. Listen while they pour their heart out. Listen in silence. 

What I mean by that, is this …

Words are not always needed. Sometimes, we need only to sit next to the one who is suffering and allow the tears to fall.

I just finished reading a book in which one of the characters was reluctant to speak. He wasn’t comfortable talking to people if he didn’t know them well. He was content without having to fill the silence around him. Because of him, the main character soon discovered how much could be said without the use of words. By just sitting beside someone, not feeling the need to talk, he was able to offer silent support and comfort. 

With Parkinson’s, it becomes more difficult and frustrating to talk. The words are harder to get out. Sometimes they don’t make much sense, unless you are listening well. Even then, a person with Parkinson’s may be hard to hear because they talk softer than they once did.

People often say, “I know what you are going through,” or “I understand.” But unless they have experienced exactly what you are going through, they cannot understand.

That’s when it’s time to sit down on the curb — when no words are needed and silence really can be golden — and just listen.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post When Silence Is Golden appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

The ABCs of Parkinson’s: ‘M’ is for Musings on Mumbling

mumbling

Sherri Journeying Through

If you asked me which symptom of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most annoying, I may reply, “My soft voice.”

I have always had a soft voice. Perhaps I have always had Parkinson’s disease! I have had a diagnosis of the disease a much shorter amount of time than when my symptoms initially began, in high school. It wasn’t until after my diagnosis, however, that people began telling me to, “Speak up!”, “Quit mumbling,” or, “You talk too softly.”

Too many times since my diagnosis, I have replied to those statements with my own feelings of frustration. 

“I am speaking up!” I will state.

“Well, I can’t hear you. Maybe you should yell,” they have retorted.

“I am yelling!” I scream, unaware that the decibel of “yelling” I feel I am projecting in volume is nowhere close to what they hear.

Since I have started meeting with a group of other people with Parkinson’s for a boxing class, I have seen a different side to the mumbling factor.

I often would ignore those who would tell me I am speaking too softly. I would mutter to myself that perhaps they are the ones who need some help hearing. But then, little by little, I was beginning to feel as if people were just downright ignoring me when I would say something. Then I started boxing and realized there are other people in the class similar to me. People who trip. People who have tremors. People who mumble.

Mumbling? Saying something quietly in such a way that it makes it difficult for others to hear you. Usually, it’s intentional. The hard thing for people with PD? We are perceived as mumbling when, in fact, we think we are talking normally. We truly do believe that we are talking loudly enough. Unfortunately, that often is not the case.

A few people with PD have explained it as:

“No one listens to me anymore.” –Shirley

“… my struggle with my voice has been the most challenging, caused me more heartache and frustrations.” –Mike

“People talk over me as if I am not talking.” –Mary

Parkinson’s disease can cause a soft voice/speech (known as hypophonia), which makes it difficult for others to hear those who experience it. Not all people with PD will struggle with speech difficulties, but for those who do, it can be extremely frustrating and can cause embarrassment, leading you to avoid socializing with others. 

If you have speech problems while living with Parkinson’s, you may want to look into the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment LOUD, a method that has shown improvements in voice and speech quality. In the meantime, sing. Loudly. It’s been known to help strengthen the muscles. And try to force yourself to speak loudly when talking. No mumbling. No muttering. No giving up. 

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post The ABCs of Parkinson’s: ‘M’ is for Musings on Mumbling appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.