Speech scanning: overview, causes and treatment


Scanning speech is an abnormal speech pattern involving long abnormal pauses between words or syllables. It occurs as a result of muscle weakness. The problem often occurs with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Speech scanning alters the normal flow and pattern of speech. This change in the rhythm of speech makes it difficult for someone with this problem to understand.

There is no cure for speech scanning. Some drugs used to treat MS can improve the problem. Speech therapy can also help you adjust to speech with a speech scan.

This article discusses speech digitization, its causes and its treatment.

Solskin / Verywell Health

What is speech digitization?

Speech sweeping is a type of dysarthria, a speech problem related to the muscles that control speech.

Speech scanning results in the inability to achieve proper word formation and speech rhythm. Long unnecessary pauses interrupt the normal flow of speech, breaking up sentences or words. When it occurs with MS, it can also be slurred speech.

Sweeping speech is sometimes referred to as “explosive speech” because speech segments can involve erratic periods of loud and rapid speech.

This problem makes communication difficult. A person with scanned speech can say the words of a sentence or a thought. However, the unnatural pauses make it difficult for the listener to put the fragments together and understand the meaning of the speaker.

Example of speech digitization

People with scanning speech may vary in how their speech sounds depending on the degree of nerve damage. However, long pauses between words or syllables, as in this example, are typical:

I live on the four (pause) 10th floor of an apartment (pause) construction of ment (pause) P.Eng.


Speech sweeping results from damage to the nerves that stimulate muscles in the lower face, tongue, lips, and throat to speak. Typically, this is the result of damage to an area of ​​the brain called the cerebellumwhich is responsible for speech and muscle coordination.

The damage often occurs due to the formation of lesions on the cerebellum, a common effect of MS. This, and any other type of damage, causes muscle weakness that interferes with the ability to form words, even if the brain knows how to say the right words.

Damage to the cerebellum can be present at birth or occur later in life. It is linked to the onset of scanning speech for the following reasons:

Multiple sclerosis and speech problems

Multiple sclerosis interferes with speech by damaging the nerves that control the muscles needed for normal speech. Problems such as speech scanning and other dysarthrias result and make communication difficult.

Speech scanning is just one of the speech problems associated with MS. Speech problems in MS are generally classified as forms of dysarthria or dysphonia. Symptoms include:

  • Speech disorders
  • nasal speech
  • Extremely low or high volume
  • Harsh voice quality
  • Deformed joint
  • Damaged height control
  • Abnormal accentuation of sentences or intonation
  • Sub-normal breath support and control

A common problem

Speech problems are a common problem for people with MS. Up to 40% of people with MS have a speech disorder related to the disease. Speech sweeping and other types of dysarthria are considered the most common forms.


Although there is no cure for speech scanning, there are ways to manage symptoms and improve communication. People with speech scanning may benefit from one or more of the following approaches:

  • Speech therapy to learn how to compensate for the problem
  • Exercises to strengthen the muscles that control speech
  • Alternative means of speech production, such as a computer card
  • Medicines that relieve MS symptoms such as spasticity, tremors or fatigue
  • Assistive devices that can amplify the voice

Individualized treatment

Treatment for speech digitization may vary from individual to individual. Factors such as the degree of nerve damage mean that each person has different needs. Having other speech problems, such as slurred speech or explosive speech, can make it more difficult to treat speech scanning.


Speech sweeping is a common speech problem. It involves the use of unnecessary pauses between words or syllables. It may also involve shaking of the voice or uneven emphasis of words or phrases.

The problem occurs when the cerebellum is damaged. It can come from lesions, injuries or diseases of the nervous system. It is usually linked to MS.

Speech analysis can be a challenge for those who have it. Being unable to speak clearly can be lonely. Although there is no cure, there are ways to manage the problem and improve speech.

Speech therapy and medications to relieve common symptoms of MS can improve speech control and quality. Additionally, assistive devices and smartphone apps can often replace the need for flawless speech.

A word from Verywell

Living with speech scanning can affect your quality of life. It can be isolating to know that you can’t always communicate clearly. When combined with the other challenges that MS can cause, the onset of speech scanning can seem overwhelming.

It is important to know that you are not alone with this problem. Many people with MS have some type of speech impediment.

Attending speech therapy can help you learn ways to slow down and modify your speech to make it more understandable. A speech therapist can also help you strengthen damaged muscles and recommend technologies that can help others understand you better.

Talk to your health care provider to see if you can benefit from medications to correct MS symptoms that may be making your problem worse.

Don’t be afraid to let others know about your difficulties in speaking clearly. This can prepare your listener for the kinds of issues that may arise.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why does multiple sclerosis cause speech problems?

    Multiple sclerosis can affect the different muscles used to speak. It can also damage the brainstem, the area that connects the spinal cord and the brain. These problems make it difficult to speak normally, even when the brain knows the right words to say.

  • What does the speech scan look like?

    Speech scanning usually involves unnecessary pauses between words or syllables. It can sometimes involve kneading, which can complicate the situation. An example of sweeping speech is, “The yellow (pause) low build (pause) ing is at the horn (pause) ner.”

  • How is speech scanning different from stuttering?

    While both disorders can interfere with normal speech, the two conditions produce different problems. Speech scanning results in unnecessary long pauses between words or syllables. Stuttering causes a sound to repeat or stretch.

By Anna Giorgi

Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer specializing in health and lifestyle topics. His experience includes more than 25 years of writing on health and wellness topics for consumers and healthcare professionals, in addition to having held positions in healthcare communications.


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