Society always values people with good communicative skills. Such people can count on high positions and productive relationships with others. Efficient communication implies the successful creation, receiving, and transferring of the message between the communicators. When the message is successfully sent and received, people remain contented. Nevertheless, sometimes problems occur, which make communication incomplete. It is the common situation when traveling abroad. People who have a poor command of a foreign language find it difficult to send and receive messages. Still, some people do not manage to do it in their native tongue because they have the disease called aphasia.
Aphasia is the language disorder causing loss of the ability to speak due to damage of speaking lobes of the brain. People with this disorder become unable to understand human speech and to speak. It can be either a partial or a complete loss. Those who have aphasia recognize the sounds, but they perceive human language as some foreign unfamiliar sounds. In other words, the patient hears the speech but does not understand it. Sometimes, such a situation occurs when the patients lose the ability to speak and recognize speech simultaneously.
Aphasia can hardly be distinguished a single problem due to the complexity of the brain and its functions. The majority of them are either unknown or not studied enough so far. Therefore, doctors refer to aphasia as a collection of different disorders. The most common classification of aphasia distinguishes between the fluent and the nonfluent aphasia (Goodglass, Kaplan, & Barresi, 2001). The former is characterized by fluent speech, which may lack the content characterizes the former type. An individual having the fluent aphasia cannot understand others well. On the other hand, the effortful speech consisting of one or two words at a time is a peculiar feature of the nonfluent aphasia.
A narrower classification of the disease identifies two major subtypes, Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia (Manasco, 2014). The former is called “Motor Aphasia” and the latter is called “Sensory Aphasia.” Broca’s aphasia is associated with damage to the prefrontal cortex. People with Broca’s aphasia understand the meanings of the words and are aware of what they want to say. At the same time, they have difficulties pronouncing the words. The patients speak slowly and with great efforts, often interrupting their speech with interjections. People with Broca’s aphasia cannot to form the sentence grammatically correctly. Their fluency of speech is impaired and often a person tries to express a great number of ideas with the help of several words (Manasco, 2014).
Wernicke’s aphasia is associated with damage to the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex, so-called Wernicke’s area. The symptom of Wernicke’s aphasia is the loss of ability to recognize spoken language. At the same time, patients demonstrate remaining awareness that one speaks to them. Patients with Wernicke’s aphasia speak quickly, but their speech is nothing more than an irrational set of words. Often they make up nonexistent words and pronounce the existent ones inappropriately. They recognize separate words, but they cannot differentiate phrases and sentences. People with Wernicke’s aphasia forget the meaning of the words, but they are capable of recognition of the functions of the objects. For instance, they cannot name the key features during the demonstration of the object, but they can show the characteristic movement of turning it (Manasco, 2014).
There is a variety of intermediate forms of aphasia between Broca’s and Wernicke’s ones. Their symptoms depend on the location of the lesion focus in the brain (Henseler, Regenbrecht, & Obrig, 2014), its size, and individual characteristics of the patient. Their complexity reflects the complicated nature of human speech. In general, the language of those with aphasia is lexically poor; it lacks adverbs, adjectives, and descriptive turns of speech.
Meanwhile, speech impairments can take different forms. While one patient can lose the ability to understand written speech (dyslexia), another one may suffer from the inability to recognize the names of the objects (anomic aphasia). In the latter case, some people may not recall the necessary words, others have those words in memory, but they cannot reproduce them. Still, aphasia should not be confused with dysarthria, the loss of ability to articulate words clearly. Despite the outer similarity to language disorder, dysarthria is caused by the damage to the brain muscles producing sound and coordinating the movements of vocal apparatus. In severe cases, language is impossible. In mild cases, the speech is poor, effortful and has the telegraph character (Carlson, 2013). Other symptoms of aphasia include grammatical language impairments (misuse of declensions and conjugations), lateral paraphasias (replacement and rearrangement of letters in the words), logorrhea (excessive wordiness) and perseveration (seizure on certain words) (Coppens, Hungerford, Yamaguchi, & Yamadori, 2002).
Another cause of aphasia is the damages to the left hemisphere of the brain, either the cortex or the white matter. The most likely consequences of the damages of these parts of the brain include the stroke (Ross & Wertz, 2001), the growth of the tumor, head injury, inflammatory process, or mental disease. Diseases like cancer, epilepsy, herpesviral encephalitis, and dementia can contribute to the development of the aphasia (Kuljic-Obradovic, 2003). Besides, given pathology often accompanies the Alzheimer’s disease. All of them impair the language function, at least partially. Severe damages may result in almost absolute loss of speech. During the recovery process after such a complete aphasia, special language and writing disorders as well as impairments of spoken language are observed. As a rule, isolated language disorder occurs rarely. It is always a sign of another illness, which requires further diagnostics.
For diagnosing the aphasia, doctors use the examination of the spoken language, including checking of speech, storytelling, repetitions, and poems. Apart from that, the doctor takes into account the patient’s desire to talk, poverty or richness of the language, grammatical constructions, occurrence of perseverations and paraphrases (Porter & Howard, 2013). Another useful method of diagnostics would be written language analysis (such as dictation, copywriting, retelling), oral language comprehension that is words, phrases, and deliberately stupid instructions. Methods of diagnostics also include regular reading to get an idea of the patient’s abilities to read and understand written texts.
Because of the inability to speak or recognize the language, those who have aphasia usually cannot live a normal life. The worst thing is that their relatives often misinterpret their condition being persuaded that the patient cannot think clearly and is mentally deficient. Meanwhile, the truth is the opposite. In the majority of cases, mental abilities of the patient remain functional (Carlson, 2013). It means that individuals recognize their defect, but they cannot do anything to influence it. It causes the patient severe psychological sufferings. As a result, many of the aphasic patients avoid communication and live in social isolation, which results in the low quality of life.
Treatment of aphasia consists in the therapy of the main disorder that led to the language impairment. In the case when aphasia has developed after the insult, head trauma, or some other conditions that caused the language impairment, the patients may benefit from the speech therapists. As a rule, they start treatment as soon as the patient’s physical condition allows. Sometimes, even without the treatment, full language recovery and disappearance of the symptoms of aphasia are observed; as a rule, it happens after the short-term damage of blood affluxion to the brain (Schmitz & O’Sullivan, 2007).
Luckily, there is a possibility of partial spontaneous recovery of the language function without the inner intervention. Most often, speech therapists treat aphasia with the help of restoring language abilities through the therapy. Different methods of restoring language abilities are used within the program of special rehab centers. These include such categories as communication- and impairment-based therapies, PACE therapy, conversational coaching, and supported conversation. The frequency of the therapies varies as “therapy session may be the only time of the day in which the mental mechanics of language are exercised with minimal frustration” (Davis, 2011).
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Furthermore, qualified speech-language pathologists and intense home exercises usually give positive effects. As a rule, the relatives of the patients are encouraged to stimulate their communicative abilities on a daily basis. They should follow common instructions for productive contact with the patient. These include speaking in a slow manner, as well as using short sentences, gestures, pictures, dictionaries, or special vocabularies (Manasco, 2014). The speed and degree of language recovery vary depending on the individual characteristics of the patient. Though the speed of recovery may be slow, the persistence of the patient contributes to it. However, full recovery from aphasia is extremely rare. Unfortunately, no medicine or surgery has been known to cure the disorder. Speech therapy does not guarantee a cure, as well.
In conclusion, aphasia is a disorder related to the loss of the ability to speak due to damage of speaking lobes of the brain. Common symptoms of aphasia include lexically poor language that lacks adverbs, adjectives, and descriptive turns of speech. The most frequent cause of the disease is a stroke. Other causes include head injuries, inflammatory processes, or diseases like cancer, epilepsy, and dementia. Speech therapists treat aphasia by restoring language abilities. Patient’s families also engage in treatment. Still, the full recovery of the disease is unknown.