Getting LOUD To Preserve Their Voices

Talking, telling jokes helps people with Parkinson’s keep their voices strong
Participants in the LOUD Crowd program exercise their voices.

Telling jokes may seem like a funny way to exercise. But for people with Parkinson’s disease, it’s an important way to give their voices a workout.

Parkinson’s, a brain disorder that affects balance and coordination, also affects voice and speech. Patients may speak more softly, talk faster or slur their words, and this can affect their quality of life and ability to maintain relationships, says Elizabeth Bandera, a certified speech language pathologist. 

That’s why she and speech language pathologist Amy Oleksiak lead the LOUD Crowd at RUSH Copley Medical Center. The program, developed by the Parkinson’s Voice Project to help people combat the disease and preserve their voices, is free to participants through RUSH Copley’s Movement Disorders Program.

In the weekly class at RUSH Copley Healthplex, participants do voice exercises and interact with each other for support, encouragement and accountability. People with Parkinson’s often have difficulty swallowing. This helps that, too. 

Maintaining progress

“It’s one of the few ways that really delays the progression of the disease,” says Mike, who has Parkinson’s. “It’s a good program. I was really thrilled when I found out RUSH Copley offers it.”

All of the participants have completed therapy programs, including SPEAK OUT! or LSVT LOUD. The program allows participants to continue with the programs and connect with others with similar issues. 

“It helps them maintain the progress they made in therapy,” Bandera says. 

During class, Bandera and Oleksiak encourage participants to “speak with intent” and project their voices so they can be heard across the room. 

“Be a little louder than you think,” they say as they remind participants to slow down, concentrate on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it and look at the other person when they speak.  

The group currently includes 12 men. This may be because the risk of developing Parkinson’s is twice as high in men than in women, according to the National Institute of Health. 

Helping speech and mind

The class helps, a participant says, explaining, “It helps you realize things you’re not doing properly.”

“I practice every day,” another class member says. “I warm up my voice before dinner or an appointment. It helps my mind stay stronger and more alert. It’s like a symphony player, tuning up their instrument before a performance.”

Participants can also practice at home using sessions online. Some also join singalongs, where they read, then sing lyrics.

“It’s another way of practicing speech,” explains David, a participant.

Support and connections

In addition to practicing their speech, a valuable component of the class is the connections that participants make with one another.

“They’re supportive of each other and they encourage each other,” Bandera says. 

“People understand what I’m going through,” one participant shares. “And, it helps my voice.”

“I look forward to this class every week,” says another class member. “I meet interesting people. Everybody listens to what you have to say.”

Open to anyone with Parkinson’s, the LOUD Crowd meets weekly for one hour every Friday at RUSH Copley Healthplex. For more info on this program or any of the programs for people with movement disorders, please email Cheryl Rerko at or call her at (630) 499-6681. 


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