Humans communicate with others either verbally or nonverbally. Verbal communication is often seen as something that when it is polished well, is a good skill to have for a person to be successful in their job or community. In the world of medicine, stuttering can be a condition that affects a person’s way of communicating well in their life. Those with stuttering may wonder if there is even a cure for the condition. We will learn more about stuttering in this article.

Stuttering is a speech disorder in which there are repeated syllables, sounds or words. It may also involve prolongation of sounds and interruption in speech. Stuttering is associated with loss of control of speech that resulted in disfluencies or disruptions. It is important to note that stuttering is exclusively an individual who actually knows what to say but having difficulties in making the speech in a normal flow. Stuttering is more than just making difficulties for a person to communicate with others as it may also affect a person’s opportunity and career progress which eventually affect a person’s quality of life on top of problems in establishing relationships.

It is estimated that more than 80 million people worldwide stutter. This makes up to 1% of the population in a country to have this condition. Stuttering affects people of all ages even though it is often seen in children between the age of 2 and 6. This is because during this age is when language skills are developed.  At some point in their lives, approximately 5 to 10 % of all children experience a stutter lasting for weeks or years. It is found that boys are likely to stutter more than girls by two to three folds when compared to girls. The good news is most children outgrow stuttering with an estimation of 75% of children recover from stuttering.

It is not fully understood why stuttering occurs but in general it is divided into two types. First is developmental stuttering that occurs in young children. Developmental stuttering is believed to occur when the speech and language abilities of the child are unable to meet the child’s verbal demands. It could stem from complex interactions from multiple factors. Second is neurogenic stuttering that occurs after conditions such as head trauma, stroke or any brain injury. In this condition, the brain has difficulty coordinating the many brain regions in speaking function. Most common type of stuttering is developmental stuttering. In the old days, stuttering was believed to be caused from psychogenic factors such as from emotional trauma but nowadays this is considered rare.

Stuttering is more than just the speech problems as it may be accompanied by struggle behaviour such as rapid eye blinks, grimacing, foot stomping or quivering lips. Stuttering can be worse in situations such as talking to a person in authority, reading aloud, giving a speech in front of class and speaking over the phone. when the child feels self-conscious when giving speech or talking. They may end up trying hard to not stutter. Older children may change their behaviour in an attempt to hide their speech difficulties.

Stuttering is diagnosed by speech-language pathologists. There are many factors that need to be weighed in to estimate if the children are likely to continue the stuttering or if possible to outgrow it. Among the factors that will be considered in determining the outcome of the stuttering is the family history of stuttering, stuttering lasting for 6 months or more and if there is presence of other language or speech problems.

The question now is, can stuttering be cured? There is no cure for stuttering. There is no shortcut to improving speech if the person is not on treatment or getting help from a professional. Treatment for stuttering will depend on the person’s age and their conditions in general. Similar to other speech disorders, stuttering requires therapy and practise to manage the condition. For young children, early treatment can mitigate the chances for developing stuttering. It is recommended for a child to be evaluated if the child starts to stutter during the age of 3 to 6 months, showing struggle behaviours with stuttering or already has a family member with stuttering or associated communications disorder. Treatment involves teaching parents on what can be done to support their child to produce fluent speech.

For teens and adults who stutter, therapies provide help to minimise stuttering as they speak such as learning to speak slowly, regulate breathing or gradually progressing to longer words and complex sentences. Therapies also help patients to cope with anxiety that may be exerted in certain speech situations. Psychological therapies are also provided to cope with negative feelings resulting from stuttering. Some people may use electronic devices fitted into the ear similar to hearing aids to control fluency. This device is typically only for a short period of time and can be difficult to be used in some situations.