By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Stammering, or stuttering, is highly likely to affect you or someone you know. In fact, over three million people in the United States stutter, according to The Stuttering Foundation, and about 68 million people globally. You may not even notice many of the people who suffer from this common speech problem. Sufferers make a great effort to avoid certain words or phrases, and often may avoid social situations altogether. Stammering can have a huge impact on a person's life, causing embarrassment, fear, anxiety and shame.
Who Suffers From Stammering and Stuttering?
Stammering hit the headlines after The King's Speech, a $230 million-earning movie about King George VI, scooped four Oscars at 2011's Academy Awards. Colin Firth, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his role, played the king through his battle with stammering and his efforts to broadcast hope and inspiration to British people during World War II.
King George VI is not the only famous person to suffer from stammering and stuttering. James Earl Jones is famous for his voice but has also suffered a stammer. Actresses Nicole Kidman, Emily Blunt and Marilyn Monroe had a problem with stuttering and stammering, as did actors Bruce Willis and Sam Neill. Other sufferers include singer Carly Simon, golfer Tiger Woods and the writers Lewis Carroll and Jorge Luis Borges.
According to The Stuttering Foundation, five to eight percent of pre-school children will experience a stuttering stage lasting six months or longer. Around 75 percent of these cases of stammering in pre-school children will resolve without treatment. If they don't resolve naturally, most stammers will be removed with treatment at this stage. Around one percent of older children develop a persistent stammer. According to the UK's National Health Service, stammering and stuttering is more likely to persist in males than females, although no one is sure why.
What is Stammering or Stuttering?
Stammering is repeating sounds or syllables (su-su-su-sunny), prolonging sounds (sssssssssssssssssssunny), pausing for a long time between words and using a lot of 'um', 'ah' filler words. The condition usually occurs at the beginning of speech and it varies in severity. Certain situations are worse for the stutterer, like speaking on the telephone, reading aloud, giving presentations or talking to someone in authority. People who suffer from stammering may develop associated involuntary physical movements such as eye blinking or clenching teeth.
What are the Causes of Stammering and Stuttering?
What causes stammering? Unfortunately the causes are still largely uncertain. Many experts believe certain genes may predispose a child to stammering and stuttering and the National Institute on Deafness and other Communicative Disorders is searching for genetic markers associated with this condition.
Stammering most commonly starts in childhood and is called developmental stammering. But stuttering also affects adults. Developmental stammering can continue into adulthood or acquired or late-onset stammering may occur as a result of severe head injury, drugs or neurological disease.
There is no evidence that parents cause stuttering in their children, or that stuttering is a result of emotional trauma or psychological issues.
Magnetic resonance imaging has studied the brains of adults with a persistent stammer and found low levels of activity in the left temporal lobe, involved in processing sound and speech, along with abnormally high levels of activity in the right hemisphere of the brain. Low levels in the left temporal lobe may indicate an impaired feedback system, and high levels of activity in the right side of the brain may imply a person has interference from this area when they are talking. A part of the brain responsible for processing emotions such as fear and aggression - basal ganglia - shows unusual levels of activity in people who stutter.
It's not clear if these brain signals are a result or a cause of stuttering. For now, approaches to stammering and stuttering focus on speech and language therapy and the use of anti-stammering devices. We've tracked down the available remedies to help a child or adult who stutters.
Top 10 Natural Remedies for Stammering and Stuttering