Objectives: The aim of the present study was to examine the effect of acquired unilateral peripheral facial palsy on speech, communication and oral functions and to study the relationship between the degree of facial palsy and articulation, saliva control, eating ability and lip force.
Materials and methods: In this descriptive study, 27 patients (15 men and 12 women, mean age 48years) with unilateral peripheral facial palsy were included if they were graded under 70 on the Sunnybrook Facial Grading System. The assessment was carried out in connection with customary visits to the ENT Clinic and comprised lip force, articulation and intelligibility, together with perceived ability to communicate and ability to eat and control saliva conducted through self-response questionnaires.
Results: The patients with unilateral facial palsy had significantly lower lip force, poorer articulation and ability to eat and control saliva compared with reference data in healthy populations. The degree of facial palsy correlated significantly with lip force but not with articulation, intelligibility, perceived communication ability or reported ability to eat and control saliva.
Conclusion: Acquired peripheral facial palsy may affect communication and the ability to eat and control saliva. Physicians should be aware that there is no direct correlation between the degree of facial palsy and the possible effect on communication, eating ability and saliva control. Physicians are therefore recommended to ask specific questions relating to problems with these functions during customary medical visits and offer possible intervention by a speech-language pathologist or a physiotherapist.
Keywords: Articulation disorder; Communication; Deglutition disorder; Facial paralysis; Saliva control; Speech intelligibility.
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